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Capulin Cinder Cone, New Mexico

Capulin Cinder Cone

Map, Capulin Cinder Cone, click to enlarge [Map,73K,InlineGIF]
Map, Capulin Cinder Cone

From: Wood and Kienle, 1990, Volcanoes of North America: United States and Canada: Cambridge University Press, 354p., Contribution by: David Gust
The Raton-Clayton volcanic field, in the extreme northeastern corner of New Mexico, is Pliocene to Holocene in age. Approximately 120 basaltic to nephelinitic cinder cones, ranging in age from greater than 1 million to 2,300 years old, are distributed throughout the field, with a concentration of feldspathoidal compositions near the town of Des Moines. Many cones have associated lava flows. Perhaps the most impressive cone is the youngest, which is fortunately protected as Capulin National Monument. The rim of this steep-sided cinder cone is approximately 1.7 kilometers in circumference, and stands 305 meters high, with a crater depth of 125 meters. A variety of andesitic and dacitic volcanic necks and domes also occurs throughout the field; Sierra Grande, a large stratovolcano 15 kilometers in diameter and 600 meters in height, is composed of numerous flows of a distinctive and homogeneous andesite. ... Raton is approximately 125 kilometers east of Taos, New Mexico. U.S. Highway 64 cuts directly through the center of the field and connects the towns of Raton and Clayton.

From: U. S. National Park Service, Capulin Volcano National Monument Website, 1998
Capulin Volcano, a nearly perfectly-shaped cinder cone, stands more than 1,200 feet above the surrounding High Plains of northeastern New Mexico. The volcano is long extinct, and today the forested slopes provide habitat for mule deer, wild turkey, black bear and other wildlife. Abundant displays of wildflowers bloom on the mountain each summer. A 2-mile paved road spiraling to the volcano rim makes Capulin Volcano one of the most accessible volcanoes in the world. Trails leading around the rim and to the bottom of the crater allow a rare opportunity to easily explore a volcano.

Capulin Volcano erupted approximately 60,000 years ago with firework-like "rooster tails" of glowing hot cinders that flew through the air. Lava that flowed from vents located at the volcano's flank covered almost 16 square miles. Although no longer a volcano in action, Capulin Volcano remains a dramatic testament to the volcanic processes that shaped northeastern New Mexico. Capulin Volcano National Monument was established in 1916 to preserve this striking example of a volcanic cinder cone.

From: U. S. National Park Service, Capulin Volcano National Monument Website - Geology Fieldnotes, April 2000
Capulin Mountain is the cone of a volcano that was active only about 62,000 years ago. This cinder cone represents the last stage of a great period of volcanism that had begun about eight million years earlier. Evidence of this activity can be seen in the scores of nearby volcanic hills and peaks. The largest of these is the Sierra Grande, an extinct volcano rising some 2,200 feet above the surrounding plain, about 10 miles to the southeast. To the northwest of Capulin are a number of mesas that are capped with lava, the three largest of which are Barella, Raton, and Johnson mesas.

In the great volcanic area, called the Raton-Clayton volcanic field, volcanism occurred in three main episodes, separated by long periods of inactivity. Capulin Volcano formed during the last period of activity. Its conical form rises more than 1,300 feet above the plains to 8,182 feet above sea level. The mountain consists chiefly of loose cinders, ash, and other rock debris. These materials were spewed out by successive eruptions and fell back upon the vent, piling up to form the conical mound. ...

The eruption began with a northwest-oriented fissure vent that soon came together to form a single central vent. This vent sent cinders high into the air; they piled up around the vent to produce the Capulin cinder cone. During this cinder eruption, the first lava flow oozed through the cinders to flow eastward. After the gas in the magma was depleted, lava flows then oozed out of the mouth on the west side of the cinder cone. These flows flowed at least partly in lava tubes, from the Boca first to the south (second lava flow), then southwest (third lava flow), and finally to the northeast and north (fourth lava flow), covering more than 25 square miles. ...

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01/24/01, Lyn Topinka