El Valle

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  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 8.58°N
  • 80.17°W

  • 1185 m
    3887 ft

  • 346030
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

  • Volcano
    Number

The Global Volcanism Program has no activity reports for El Valle.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Weekly Reports available for El Valle.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Bulletin Reports available for El Valle.

El Valle volcano, 80 km SW of Panama City, is a broad stratovolcano cut by a large compound Pleistocene caldera. The 6-km-wide El Valle de Antón caldera was formed about 56,000 years ago in association with eruption of the dacitic El Hato pyroclastic flows. The caldera has steep, 200-300 m high walls overlooking a flat floor underlain by deposits of a former caldera lake and currently occupied by the town of El Valle. Cerro Pajita, Cerro Gaital, and Cerro Caracoral form a dacitic lava dome complex that was constructed along an E-W-trending lineament within the caldera and forms the 1185 m high point of the volcano. Major phreatomagmatic plinian eruptions produced when magma interacted with caldera-lake water as recently as about 34,600 years ago generated pyroclastic flows that reached the Pacific coast, 25 km to the south. Phreatic eruptions have occurred since then (the most recent dated eruption took place about 13,000 years ago), and activity may have continued into the Holocene (IRHE, 1987). A geothermal exploration program is currently underway to evaluate the energy potential of the caldera.

The Global Volcanism Program is not aware of any Holocene eruptions from El Valle. If this volcano has had large eruptions (VEI >= 4) prior to 10,000 years ago, information might be found on the El Valle page in the LaMEVE (Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions) database, a part of the Volcano Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project (VOGRIPA).

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.


Craters

Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Mar, Río Crater
Mata Ahogado Crater
Mesa, La Pleistocene caldera
Valle de Antón, El Pleistocene caldera

Domes

Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Caracoral, Cerro Dome 1040 m
Gaital, Cerro Dome 1185 m
Pajita, Cerro Dome
Pilón, Cerro Dome 1045 m
Silla, Cerro la Dome
The unassuming profile of the broad irregular ridge on the horizon rising to the NE above the Pacific coastal plain is El Valle volcano, one of the youngest in Panama. El Valle de Antón caldera truncates the volcanic complex and is drained by the Río Antón through a breach in the caldera rim at left center. Post-caldera lava domes can be seen on the center horizon. Late-Pleistocene plinian eruptions from El Valle have produced pyroclastic flows that reached the coast. Tertiary volcanic centers surround the caldera complex.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
A dissected pyroclastic-flow apron extends to the SE from El Valle caldera. Pyroclastic flows from phreatomagmatic eruptions about 50,000 to 34,000 years ago traveled more than 25 km to the Pacific coast of Panamá and their deposits blanket the southern and eastern flanks of the volcano. Tertiary volcanic centers at the right form dissected peaks beyond the eastern flanks of the caldera.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
El Valle de Antón caldera (left) is drained by the Río Antón through a notch in its SW caldera rim (right). A late-Pleistocene lake occupying the caldera floor persisted until it drained sometime during the Holocene. Cerro Cara Iguana (upper left) on the caldera rim is capped by El Hato pyroclastic-flow deposits related to formation of the caldera about 1.1-1.3 million years ago. A well-preserved crater just out of view outside the SW caldera rim at the right was the inferred source of the India Dormida ignimbrite, erupted about 220,000 years ago.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
The town of El Valle occupies the flat floor of El Valle de Antón caldera. This view from La India Dormida on the west caldera rim looks across the 6-km-wide caldera. A lake once covered the caldera floor, and large plinian phreatomagmatic eruptions took place during the latest Pleistocene from vents within the caldera. At the extreme left is Cerro Caracoral, the easternmost of three lava domes constructed along the northern caldera margin. The latest plinian eruptions originated from Mata Ahogado, east of the caldera rim at the left center.

Photo by Paul Kimberly, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
The SE wall of El Valle de Antón caldera rises up to 300 m above the flat caldera floor. The caldera was formed during major explosive eruptions about 1.1-1.3 million years ago. Post-caldera phreatomagmatic and phreatic eruptions related to a former lake filling the caldera floor have continued until the latest Pleistocene. More than 90 m of lake sediments were deposited on the caldera floor prior to draining of the lake through a breach in the SW caldera rim. The peak at the right center is Cerro la Silla.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
The post-caldera lava domes Cerro Pajita, Cerro Gaital, and Cerro Caracoral (seen left to right from La India Dormida on the west caldera rim) were formed along an E-W-trending lineament about 900,000 years ago. The easternmost dacitic dome (Cerro Caracoral) also contains andesitic rocks. Gabbroic xenoliths are common in the central dome, Cerro Gaital. The Río Mar pyroclastic flows were produced about 40,000-50,000 years ago from a vent on the caldera floor between the Gaital and Pajita domes.

Photo by Paul Kimberly, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
This drill rig on the floor of El Valle de Antón caldera is part of a major geothermal exploration program at El Valle volcano. In the background to the north is Cerro Gaital, the highest of three post-caldera lava domes constructed along the northern caldera rim.

Photo by Paul Kimberly, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
La India Dormida ("The Sleeping Indian") is a portion of the western rim of El Valle de Antón caldera that forms a distinctive profile. A popular hiking trail leads to the saddle (left) at the foot of La India Dormida and then to its head, which rises 300 m above the flat caldera floor. The caldera wall exposes deposits of Tertiary Iguana pyroclastic flows that are capped by the Tertiary Piedra andesitic lava flow.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
These headlands along the Pacific coast south of El Valle volcano consist of pyroclastic-flow deposits from late-Pleistocene eruptions. Perhaps the largest of these was the Río Mar eruption about 40,000-50,000 years ago that originated from a vent between Cerro Gaital and Cerro Pajita lava domes. The latest plinian eruption about 34,000 years ago produced pyroclastic flows that reached as far as 25 km from the volcano and extensively blanketed its southern and eastern flanks with their deposits.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
Sea cliffs along the southern coast of Panamá west of Panama City expose pyroclastic-flow deposits from El Valle volcano. The largest of these post-caldera explosive eruptions took place about 40,000-50,000 years ago and is named from the Río Mar, where its deposits are well exposed. The latest plinian eruption about 34,000 years ago originated from the Mata Ahogado collapse caldera east of El Valle de Antón caldera.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
Three compound lava domes were constructed along the northern margin of the youngest caldera of El Valle volcano, 80 km SW of Panama City. Cerro Pajita (left), Cerro Gaital (center), and Cerro Caracoral (right) rise above the flat caldera floor in this view from the SW caldera rim. The 6-km-wide El Valle de Antón caldera was formed about 1 million years ago. Post-caldera eruptions have occurred as recently as about 13,000 years ago. A geothermal exploration program is currently underway to evaluate the energy potential of the caldera.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).

The following references have all been used during the compilation of data for this volcano, it is not a comprehensive bibliography. Discussion of another volcano or eruption (sometimes far from the one that is the subject of the manuscript) may produce a citation that is not at all apparent from the title.

Bush M B, Colinvaux P A, 1990. A pollen record of a complete glacial cycle from lowland Panama. J Vegetation Sci, 1: 105-118.

de Boer J Z, Defant M J, Stewart R H, Restrepo J F, Clark L F, Ramirez A H, 1988. Quaternary calc-alkaline volcanism in western Panama: regional variation and implication for the plate tectonic framework. J South Amer Earth Sci, 1: 275-293.

Defant M J, Clark L F, Stewart R H, Drummond M S, de Boer J Z, Maury R C, Bellon H, Jackson T E, Restrepo J F, 1991. Andesite and dacite genesis via contrasting processes; the geology and geochemistry of El Valle Volcano, Panama. Contr Mineral Petr, 106: 309-324.

Diaz F, Ponce F, Reyes E, 2000. Advanced pre-feasibility studies of El Valle de Anton geothermal field. Proc World Geotherm Cong 2000, Kyushu - Tohoku, Japan, May 28-June 10, 2000, p 159-168.

Frullani A, 1987a. Estudio de reconocimiento geotermico nacional area de Valle de Anton. IRHE - BID - OLADE, 74 p.

Hidalgo P J, 2007. Petrology and geochemistry of El Hato silicic ignimbrite, El Valle volcano, Panama. Unpublished MSci thesis, Michigan Tech Univ, 218 p.

IAVCEI, 1973-80. Post-Miocene Volcanoes of the World. IAVCEI Data Sheets, Rome: Internatl Assoc Volc Chemistry Earth's Interior..

Innocenti F, 1986. Estudios petrologicos adicionales de algunas vulcanitas del sistema Baru y Valle de Anton. IRHE - OLADE, unpublished rpt, 22 p and tables.

Innocenti F, 1985a. Estudio de reconocimiento geotermico nacional informe petrografico. IRHE - OLADE, upublished rpt, 34 p and tables.

IRHE, 1987. Final report on the reconnaissance study of geothermal resources in the Republic of Panama. IRHE - OLADE - BID, 72 p.

Merla A, 1995. Integracion de los estudios geocientificos en las zonas geotermicas Valle de Anton y Chitra-Calobre. IRHE - BID, 29 p.

Shevenell L, 1989. Preliminary evaluation of thermal and nonthermal waters at selected sites in Panama, Central America. Los Alamos Nat Lab, LA-11103-MS: 1-27.

Volcano Types

Stratovolcano
Caldera
Lava dome(s)

Tectonic Setting

Subduction zone
Continental crust (> 25 km)

Rock Types

Major
Dacite
Andesite / Basaltic Andesite

Population

Within 5 km
Within 10 km
Within 30 km
Within 100 km
1,544
7,458
131,928
2,108,003

Affiliated Databases

Large Eruptions of El Valle Information about large Quaternary eruptions (VEI >= 4) is cataloged in the Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) database of the Volcano Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project (VOGRIPA).
WOVOdat WOVOdat is a database of volcanic unrest; instrumentally and visually recorded changes in seismicity, ground deformation, gas emission, and other parameters from their normal baselines. It is sponsored by the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) and presently hosted at the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
EarthChem EarthChem develops and maintains databases, software, and services that support the preservation, discovery, access and analysis of geochemical data, and facilitate their integration with the broad array of other available earth science parameters. EarthChem is operated by a joint team of disciplinary scientists, data scientists, data managers and information technology developers who are part of the NSF-funded data facility Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA). IEDA is a collaborative effort of EarthChem and the Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS).
Smithsonian Collections Search the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections database. Go to the "Search Rocks and Ores" tab and use the Volcano Name drop-down to find samples.