1 April 2010

Amazing natural resources in south-central Utah

Posted by Jessica Ball

Some neat news has come out of the Marysvale Volcanic Field in southwestern Utah (one of my stomping grounds!) about a very recently reactivated hydrothermal system in the Marysvale Canyon. According to an interview with specialist H. McClintock, prospecting in the vicinity of Belknap (five miles north of Marysvale, Utah) has revealed some pretty interesting features that certainly weren’t there when I visited last summer.

“We’ve come across some darn confounding stuff,” says McClintock, who was reached for comments earlier today. “We thought that the hydrothermal alteration in the area had pretty much ended, since the Marysvale field has been inactive for the past 20 million years or so, but we’ve been seeing springs with high levels of hydrogen citrate and saccharose popping up all over the place, not to mention the streams of ethanol. Large drainage sinks have even started to form. We’ve decided to call the two biggest ones Aquavitae and Burgoo, although we’ll have to wait to get the names officially registered.”

When asked about potential environmental concerns of the increased hydrothermal activity, McClintock stated that a number of unusual phenomena have been noted in the local flora and fauna. “Local veterinarians have reported an increase in amelogenesis imperfecta, particularly among bulldogs, and there have been complaints that chickens are laying semi-solidified eggs. In addition, one of my crew found an odd tree that seems to be producing small cylindrical fruit consisting primarily of cellulose acetate and Nicotiana tabacum. Folks are getting a mite concerned.” McClintock went on to mention that there has been a spate of thefts lately, resulting in a dearth of short handled shovels, axes, saws and picks, and – oddly – socks, forcing his crews to wear the same pair of socks for days on end. “Let me tell you, it’s getting pretty ripe around here, although the weather seems to help a bit. Sunny every day, no wind, no snow, no rain – almost paradise. It’s not good for keeping folks on the job, though – I keep finding my guys napping in boxcars all day.”

McClintock is otherwise fairly excited about the potential for new hydrothermal alteration minerals in the area, since older deposits have been found that contain alunite, jarosite, and gypsum (see the reference below for more information – don’t forget to check out the original article!). Gypsum, of course, is essential for building materials like drywall, while alunite is a main source for potash, used in the production of explosives, glass, soap, and soil fertilizers. This discovery also has the potential to repopulate the former mining communities in the area, which have suffered badly since the mines they were built around were abandoned due to lack of production. I’d like to see folks returning to the area, too – it’s really beautiful, and well worth the trip if you’re ever in that part of Utah.

To close, I’ll leave you with another of the photos that was taken along the drive through Marysvale Canyon. The very field area that McClintock is talking about is right in the background there, behind the coconut. (We didn’t leave the coconut there, although I’m sure it would have done well with the lemonade springs and cigarette trees.)


“New prospects in the Marysvale Volcanic Field excite economic geologists”, The BRCM Hobo, April 1 2010.

Rowley, P.D. et al., 2002, Geology and Mineral Resources of the Marysvale Volcanic Field, Southwestern Utah. Field trip guide, GSA Rocky Mountain Section Meeting, Cedar City, Utah, May 6 2002.