Integrated geophysical, geological and remote sensing study of selected basins in the Rio Grande rift

Cindy Lorraine Gillespie, University of Texas at El Paso


Understanding the geometry of the basins associated with the Rio Grande rift helps efforts to understand the overall tectonic history of the region as well as efforts to evaluate natural resources. In this study, an improved understanding of the Albuquerque (central rift area) and Jornada del Muerto and Mesilla (southern rift area) basins has been achieved by re-interpreting and modeling seismic reflection lines integrated with gravity data, well control, and remote sensing images. The Albuquerque basin was reanalyzed using 200 km of published seismic data and new gravity data. Sub-basins suggested by previous studies do exist, but the basin structure is more complex than just two sub-basins. The maximum thickness of basin fill in this basin is 6 km, and the Tijeras transfer zone is not seen as a major structure. While the major tectonic affecting the Albuquerque basin area is the Rio Grande rift, the deep structure of the southern basins is dominated by Laramide folding and thrusting. The 400 km of new seismic data available for this study along with gravity data and well control in the southern basin area were used to verify that although the Jornada del Muerto basin locally has a synclinal geometry, it also contains several rift sub-basins. In the Mesilla basin, the Love Ranch Formation forms piggyback basins on thrust sheets. The new integrated seismic interpretations in the south confirm the presence of the Rio Grande uplift and the accompanying Potrillo basin. These data also identified the presence of subsurface Laramide thrusts and folds, 30 Ma low-angle rift faulting and possibly 10 Ma high angle faults that may cross-cut the older normal faults. These faults could be antithetic to the 30 Ma ones so the debate about two phases of extension is not resolved by these data. Although the data sets available did not allow me to discern specific aquifers, the results of the dissertation provide a better understanding of the complex deep structure of these basins that will be useful in the evaluation of ground water resources.

Subject Area

Geophysics|Geology|Remote sensing

Recommended Citation

Gillespie, Cindy Lorraine, "Integrated geophysical, geological and remote sensing study of selected basins in the Rio Grande rift" (2002). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3080479.