USGS Logo Geological Survey Professional Paper 446
Geology of the Guadalupe Mountains, New Mexico




Up to June 30, 1961, 81 holes had been drilled in search of oil and gas within the report area; all but 17 of these holes are in the Delaware basin (table 2). Eight of the Delaware basin wells yielded oil, and four yielded gas of commercial value. Four of the oil wells were still producing early in 1960.

TABLE 2.—Oil and gas test wells drilled in report area before June 30, 1961
[Abd., abandoned, dry hole; OW, oil well; AOW, abandoned oil well; GW, gas well]

Sec. Township
Location Status Well Altitude
Total depth

162122C, SW, SEAbd.Magnolia State "W" 1 4,46411,3121948
222122C, NE, NWAbd.Union Federal 1—224,3255,5791960
232122C, NW, NWAbd.Magnolia Crosby 1—X4,2503,0431949
292122C, SE, NEAbd.Magnolia Golden 14,4783,9701949
12221C, SE, SEAbd.Continental East Texas Hill Unit 14,57310,5961954
52221SW, SE, SEAbd.Continental-Standard of Texas Bass 15,5115,8891952
282221NW, SW, NEAbd.Sinclair Federal-Eddy 1—1935,1975,0001961
322221C, NE, NEAbd.Sinclair Federal-Eddy 1—1955,3604,0001960
322222C, NE, NEAbd.Texas Crude Oil State of New Mexico "A" 1—324,5645,3001961
62322SW, NW, NWAbd.Texas Crude Oil Federal Huapache 1—65,1243,7201961
232322SE, SE, NWAbd.Humble Huapache Unit 24,45512,5821957
352322NW, SW, NWAbd.Humble Huapache Unit 14,42512,6311955
142422C, SW, SWAbd.Humble Huapache Unit 4—15,5027,9501960
172422C, NW, NWAbd.Union White 15,7096,7371955
222422C, SE, NWAbd.Humble Huapache Unit 35,6258,6701959
252422C, NW, NEAbd.British-American Huapache Unit 75,5053,6201961
42426C, SW, NEAbd.Bauerdorf Schrup 13,4051,9701951
142422SE, SW, NEAbd.Humble Huapache Unit 5 5,3523,5051960
102426SE, NE, SEAbd.Street Investment Co. 1 Bradley3,3052,0611949
112426SW, SW, NEAbd.Jos. I. O'Neill, Jr. Federal "D" 13,2912,0141958
112426SE, NE, SWAbd.Shappell Bradley 93,2812,0261949
112426SE, NW, SEOWShappell Bradley 83,2711,9751949
112426SW, NE, SEAbd.Shappell Bradley 63,2752,0001948
112426NE, SW, SEAbd.Shappell Bradley 73,2712,0001949
112426NW, SE, SEOWShappell Bradley 53,2661,9711948
112426SE, SE, SEOWShappell Bradley 23,2601,9681947
122426SW, SW, NWAbd.R. A. T. Wright, Wright 13,2772,0241954
132426NW, NW, NWOWShappell Bradley 13,2601,9691947
132426C, NW, NWAOWCollins Weiler 13,2451,9691937
132426NW, NE, NWAbd.Shappell Bradley 43,2602,0151947
142426SE, SE, NWAbd.Bradley Bradley 13,2752,1141950
142426NE, NE, NEAOWGrisham Chaytor 13,2552,3201937
142426SE, NE, NEAbd.Shappell Bradley 3 3,2531,9781947
172426NE, NE, NEAbd.E.P. Campbell Lee 13,3491,9201958
202426SW, SW, NEAbd.Gulf Federal Estill 2—AD3,39611,4201960
232426C, NE, NWAbd.Crawford Crawford 23,2702,0001952
232426NE, NE, NEAbd.Hargrave Hargrave 13,2662,0321953
232426NE, NE, SEAbd.Hargrave Dean-Smith 13,2602,0051951
242426NW, NW, NWAOWYork & Harper Bradley 13,2631,9861951
242426NW, NW, NWAOWLeda Oil Elliot-Hargrave 13,2601,9781953
242426NW, NW, SWAbd.Moran Crawford & Smith 13,2412,0051938
262426C, NW, SEGWUnion Crawford 1—263,26111,5221957
272426C, NW, SEGWUnion Crawford 2—273,31511,3601960
282426NE, SE, SWAbd.E.P. Campbell Estill 13,3412,1251958
292426C, NE, NEGWGulf Estill 1—AD3,41112,2121960
292426SE, SW, NWAbd.Martin & Lycette Pardue & Guitar 13,4421,8751938
302525C, SW, NEAbd.Gulf Federal Kelly 1—A3,68111,2961961
302525C, SW, SWAbd.John M. Kelly Federal-Esther 13,7051,4321958
342525C, NW, NWAbd.Carper Gates 13,6502,0041949
92526C, SW, SWAbd.Cree Drg. Co. Union-Parke 13,3592,0351958
102526SE, SE, SEAbd.Brock Jennings 13,3792,1411951
102526SE, SE, SEAbd.Roach & Shepard Gates 13,3722,1071948
112526C, NE, NEAbd.Cree Drg. Co. Gulf 13,3652,2151958
112526C, SW, NEAbd.Gulf Jennings 1—E3,3502,1671959
262526C, SW, SWAbd.Cree Oil Co. Ashland 13,3132,1101958
12624NW, NW, NWAbd.G. C. Weaver Smith 33,7308891956
82624NE, NW, NEAbd.John A. Yates Matlock 13,8323,5001956
92624C, NW, NWAbd.Randel Thurman 13,8065951952
92624C, NE, SEAbd.D. S. Harroun Mayes 13,7376121957
102624NW, SW, NWAbd.Smith State-Mayes 13,7256001950
102624C, SE, NEAbd.D. S. Harroun Leeman 13,7156401957
102624NW, NE, SWAbd.Smith State-Leeman 13,7236751950
122624C, SE, NEGWSuperior Federal 1—1343,87810,2371960
142624N, SW, NWAbd.G. C. Weaver Smith 13,8702,5131955
152624C, SW, NWAbd.D. S. Harroun Mayes 13,7747671958
192624C, NW, SEAbd.D. S. Harroun Leeman 2 3,7156181958
222624NW, NW, NWAbd.G. C. Weaver Smith 2 3,7657071955
222624NW, NW, NEAbd.G. C. Weaver Smith 43,8137881956
222624NE, NW, NEAbd.G. C. Weaver Smith 53,8307881956
222624NE, NE, SEAbd.G. C. Weaver Jenson 1 3,9559561956
232624SE, NW, NWAbd.G. C. Weaver Smith 1—233,8699021955
12625SE, SE, NEAbd.W. E. Doolin Milner 1 3,4901,8701957
32625SW, SW, SWAbd.W. E. Doolin Erickson 13,6861,8201957
262625NW, NW, NWAbd.W. E. Doolin McKean 13,6021,4881957
22626C, SE, SEAbd.John M. Kelly State "EP" 13,2872,0571958
52626NE, NE, SEAbd.W. E. Doolin Hodges 13,4821,9351957
72626C, SE, SWAbd.McBride Randel 13,5412,7021951
172626SE, SE, NWAbd.W. E. Doolin Randel 1—X3,4721,8321957
192626SW, SW, SWAbd.W. E. Doolin Price 13,4541,6201957
282626NE, NE, SEAbd.W. E. Doolin Watkins 13,4321,8701957

All the oil wells are in the Black River field and produce 42° gravity API oil (Stipp and others, 1956, p. 73) from fine-grained sandstone and siltstone just beneath the Lamar Limestone Member of the Bell Canyon Formation. This field is apparently on a small anticlinal nose or structural terrace. Production has never exceeded a few barrels per day per well.

The first gas well was the Union Oil Co. of California Crawford 1—26 (sec. 26, T. 24 S., R. 26 E.), about 2 miles south of the Black River field. This well had an initial production capacity of 62,000 Mcf (thousand cubic feet.) of natural gas per day from a depth of 11,060 to 11,074 feet in Lower Pennsylvanian rocks. The other gas wells are the Gulf Oil Corp. Estill 1—AD (sec. 29, T. 24 S., R 26 E.), the Union Oil Co. of California Crawford 2—27 (sec 27, T. 24 S., R. 26 E.), and the Superior Oil Co. Federal 1—134 (sec. 12, T. 26 S., R. 24 E.). These wells, which also produce from Pennsylvanian rocks, had initial production capacities of 46,000, 7,200, and 347 Mcf per day, respectively.

Of the remaining 52 test wells which have been drilled in the Delaware-basin part of the report area, 47 were drilled no deeper than a few feet below the Lamar Limestone Member of the Bell Canyon Formation, and 3 were apparently drilled into the underlying Cherry Canyon Formation. Thus, only 6 wells in this 255-square-mile area have penetrated pre-Permian rocks, and only 9 have been drilled deeper than the shallowest potential producing zone.

In the shelf area outside the Delaware basin, 17 test wells have been drilled in about 730 square miles of area. All of them were dry holes. Three of the holes were drilled to Precambrian rocks, and eight were drilled into pre-Devonian rocks. The greater concentration of exploratory wells is in the Delaware basin; however, the average depth of the wells in the shelf area is about 4,000 feet greater than the average for wells drilled in the basin where the sedimentary rocks are thicker.


On the basis of results of previous drilling in areas to the east, northeast, and southeast, it appears that the best potential production zones in the Delaware basin are in the Bone Spring Limestone, Pennsylvanian rocks, limestone of possible Devonian age above the Fusselman Dolomite, and the El Paso Formation. The best potential structural conditions for accumulation of oil and gas might be found on the southeast projection of the trend of the Huapache monocline (pl. 1) where buried structure similar to the Huapache thrust zone might be present (p. 42). To date (1961), most of the Delaware-basin oil fields produce from near the top of the Bell Canyon Formation. More such fields may be found.

Exploration for oil and gas in the Guadalupe Mountains area has been disappointing. The greatest potential probably lies in the Lower Permian and Pennsylvanian rocks of the Seven Rivers Embayment, adjacent to the Huapache monocline (pl. 1); but as in the Delaware basin, pre-Pennsylvanian rocks offer possibilities throughout the shelf area.


Vast deposits of relatively pure fine-grained gypsum in the Castile Formation underlie an area of more than 100 square miles in the southeastern part of the area. These deposits are at or near the surface and are as much as several hundred feet thick. Probably enough gypsum is present to supply the total world demand for centuries, and much of it is of sufficient purity for industrial purposes. However, the price of gypsum has been so low in relation to transportation costs that up to June 1960 no important attempt had been made to exploit the deposits.

Although most of the vast quantities of gypsum in the area are fine grained, some selenite of fair quality is present; but none of optical quality has yet been found. The best potential area for prospecting is in the Yeso Hills, where selenite occurs along the east-northeast-trending linear features indicated on the geologic map (pl. 1). At least one prospect hole has been dug in this area and selenite is abundant around it.


No high-quality building stone is present in the area, but flaggy dolomite from the Tansill Formation has found local use, notably for the construction of buildings at Carlsbad Caverns for the U.S. National Park Service. Other rocks have been used by local residents for houses and stone walls.


Limestone gravel deposits have been quarried at several places along U.S. Highway 62 for use as road metal. In most places the gravel requires screening, but the supply meets the limited demand.


Concentrated brines rich in sodium and magnesium sulfate are present locally in gypsum immediately overlying unaltered anhydrite in the Castile Formation. In 1906 brine was discovered at a depth of 160 feet in a well drilled for water in sec. 30, T. 25 S., R. 27 E., about 1 mile east of the mapped area. In 1934 brine from a depth of 170 feet from another water test hole drilled in sec. 29, T. 24 S., R. 26 E., was analyzed and found to contain abundant sodium sulfate (Lang, 1941, p. 152). Since then, about 65 test wells have been drilled in the mapped area in search for brine in the Castile Formation. Of these test holes, in at least 32 brine was found at depths ranging from 67 to 165 feet. These wells are in sec. 36, T. 25 S., R. 25 E.; secs. 14, 16, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 30, 32, 35, and 36, T. 25 S., R. 26 E.; and secs. 2 and 3, T. 26 S., R. 26 E. Until 1957, brine was produced commercially by the Ozark-Mahoning Co. from a well near Paxton water well in Cottonwood Draw. The brine was transported for the purpose of separation of the sodium sulfate more than 100 miles by truck to Monahans, Tex. The operation was stopped for an indefinite period in 1957 because of pumping and transportation costs (Robert S. Fulton, written communication, August 1958). Production figures are not known.

Chemical analyses of brines from four wells, as reprinted from Lang (1941, p. 154), are listed in table 3.

TABLE 3.—Chemical analyses of brines from four wells Eddy County, N. Mex.
[Laboratory of the U.S. Geological Survey, Midwest, Wyo. 1, Forehand 2, sec. 25, T. 25 S., R. 26 E.; 2, Mullen 1, sec. 30, T. 25 S., R. 26 E.; 3, Gates-Pardue Guitar 1, sec. 26, T. 25 S., R. 26 E.; 4, D. P. Welch 2, sec. 8, T.26 S., R. 27 E.]

Grams per liter
Magnesium (Mg)41.346.223.539.6
Sodium (Na)143.159.561.132.3
Potassium (K)
Sulfate (SO4)236.7245.5304.1187.2
Chloride (Cl)24.839.724.425.4
Carbonate (CO3).3.7
Bicarbonate (HCO3)
Borate (B4O7)2.910.37.44.0
     Total solids366.7407.5458.0291.4
Specific gravity1.2901.3261.3631.236
1Sodium calculated; other constituents determined.

Lang (1941, p. 156-157) stated that meteoric waters percolating through porous weathered gypsum in the vadose zone in the Castile Formation could acquire all the elements that make up the sodium sulfate brines. He further stated that normal ground-water circulation would tend to remove the brine, but that some brines could become trapped in "inverted closures or pockets" on top of massive unaltered anhydrite of the Castile. The presence of significant amounts of magnesium, potassium, and borate in the brines (table 3) suggests that they are residual brines from solution of the Salado Formation which is now present in the area only as residuum at the top of the Castile Formation. Magnesium, potassium, and borate are very rare in the Castile Formation, but potassium and magnesium minerals, at least, are present in some abundance in the Salado Formation east of the Pecos River. Further more, all the brines known in the area occur in or just below the residuum of the Salado.


The ground-water resources of the Eddy County part of the Guadalupe Mountains area have been described by Hendrickson and Jones (1952), and Hale (1955) has reported on ground-water conditions in the upper part of Black River valley. The following discussion is in part a summary of those reports but includes minor additional comments.

The availability and quality of ground water in the Guadalupe Mountains area vary markedly from place to place, depending on the character and structure of the rocks. For purposes of discussion, the area may be divided into six areas of ground-water availability (fig. 29).

FIGURE 29.—Areas of ground-water availability discussed in text.


No springs or perennial surface streams occur in the Brokeoff Mountains-Dog Canyon area, and attempts to locate a satisfactory ground-water reservoir there have failed. Nearly all the domestic and stock water used in the area is rainwater stored in cisterns and earth tanks, but a minor amount is trucked in from adjacent areas. The scarcity of available ground water probably can be attributed to the great concentration of high-angle fault planes and joints that provide avenues of drainage and to the scarcity of shallow impermeable beds that might support perched water reservoirs. Any drilling for water here will have a better chance for success if the well is located on the basis of careful study of structural and stratigraphic conditions. The ideal location would be a fault-free syncline underlain by shallow impermeable beds. However, little of the area is free of faults, and impermeable beds are thin and scarce north of Martine Ridge. The part of Upper Dog Canyon east of Martine Ridge may approach ideal conditions.


The northern Guadalupe Mountains are also without springs or perennial streams, but several drill holes have tapped water near the contact of the San Andres Limestone and the Yeso Formation at depths between 600 and 1,300 feet. It is unlikely that water in sufficient quantity for watering stock will ever be found at shallow depth in this part of the area. Small quantities of water for domestic use may be present in the alluvium of some of the larger canyons.


No permanent surface streams or springs are in the Seven Rivers Embayment. Potable ground water generally is present in quantities sufficient for domestic and stock-watering uses, but its depth is difficult to predict. Wells drilled near the west edge of the embayment, on or near the San Andres Limestone outcrop, generally do not strike water at depths shallower than 600 to 900 feet, but locally the arroyo gravels may contain small quantities of water at shallow depth. Toward the east, water is obtained from the Grayburg Formation at depths of 75 to 300 feet.


The occurrence of ground water in the Guadalupe Ridge area is erratic, as it is dependent on variable local structural and stratigraphic conditions. Where structural conditions are favorable, water in sufficient quantity and of suitable quality for stock and domestic uses is often present in dolomite and limestone beds that overlie relatively impervious clastic beds in the San Andres Limestone, sandstone tongue of the Cherry Canyon Formation, the Artesia Group, and the Capitan Limestone. Where topographic conditions permit, water from these perched aquifers comes to the surface in nearly 50 seeps and springs, 2 of which maintain short stretches of surface streams. Sitting Bull Spring (sec. 9, T. 24 S., R. 22 E.), the larger of these 2 springs, emerges from a dolomite tongue of the San Andres Limestone which overlies relatively impervious clastic beds of the sandstone tongue of the Cherry Canyon Formation. The flow from the spring irrigates a small apple orchard near the mouth of Sitting Bull Canyon and furnishes drinking water to the U.S. Forest Service Recreation area (fig. 23).

The stream gravels of Dark Canyon, and possibly other canyons, locally contain important quantities of shallow ground water in the Guadalupe Ridge area. Where the limestone bedrock rises near the surface, springs emerge from the overlying alluvium in Dark Canyon in sec. 25, T. 24 S., R. 22 E., and sec. 31, T. 24 S., R. 23 E. Water from these springs is used to irrigate fields near the X-Bar Ranch headquarters.

Drilling for water in the Guadalupe Ridge area has produced numerous dry holes. Where water has been found, its depth ranges from a few feet to several hundred feet. Probably the percentage of successful water wells in the area could be increased greatly if drilling were done in synclinal areas which geologic relations indicate are underlain by relatively impervious siltstone beds that could support perched water.


The Mescal Wash and Black River valley area is underlain by more available ground water than the mountain areas. This ground water comes to the surface in nearly a dozen springs and seeps, the most notable being Blue, Rattlesnake, and Geyser Springs, each of which flows generally in excess of 1,000 gpm (gallons per minute). Blue Spring, the largest spring, has an average flow in excess of 5,000 gpm and furnishes irrigation water to a sizable farming development near Black River Village. The extensive gravel deposits of Mescal Wash, south of Rattlesnake Canyon and west of Black River, probably comprise the most dependable reservoirs of potable ground water in the entire report area. Here, large volumes of water are pumped for irrigation from depths of 100 to 300 feet. North and east of Rattlesnake Canyon and along Black River itself, where the gravel deposits are thin to absent, the occurrence and quality of ground water is much less predictable. In general, the waters here contain more sulfate than those in Mescal Wash and are nearly unpotable. A detailed analysis of the ground-water conditions in the Mescal Wash and Black River valley area was made by Hale (1955).


In the Gypsum Plain, small amounts of highly gypsiferous water, probably from fractures in the Castile Formation, reach the surface at Cottonwood Spring (sec. 35, T. 25 S., R. 25 E.), Ben Slaughter Spring (sec. 7, T. 26 S., R. 26 E.), and Jumping Spring (sec. 17, T. 26 S., R. 26 E.). The surface drainage on the Castile Formation is apparently controlled by an eastward-trending fracture system (Hayes, 1957; Olive, 1957, p. 356-357), and wells drilled here in valley bottoms often tap water at shallow depth. Water from the Castile Formation or from gypsiferous alluvium derived from the Castile Formation generally is suitable for livestock, but a sulfate content of as much as 1,500 to 1,800 ppm (parts per million) is not unusual (Hendrickson and Jones, 1952, p. 163-164). The only ground water known near the east edge of the area is the heavy sulfate brine discussed on pages 56-57.

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Last Updated: 13-Feb-2008