Mountains In Tucson

Five Mountains In Tucson Surround The Metro Area

The Five Ranges Of Mountains In Tucson And How They Got There!

Mountains in Tucson ArizonaThe City of Tucson is situated in a valley circled by mountains. Mountains in Tucson include The Santa Catalina Mountains are north & northwest. The Tucson Mountains are due west. The Tortolita Mountains in the northwest. Rincons to the southeast and the Santa Ritas to the south.

How the mountains in Tucson came to be is a remarkable story and not without argument!

The Tucson mountain range has long been labeled “The Tucson Mountain Chaos.” An explanation of how the Tucson mountains were created materialized in the 1980s.  It may be hard to imagine but it puts logic around how the mountains in Tucson were formed.

70 Million Years Ago

It has been proposed that The Tucson Mountains were actually the top of a giant volcano. The bottom of that volcano actually being the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Seventy million years ago the top of the volcano slid 20 miles west. Then the area created between the Tucson Mountains and Catalina Mountains then collapsed to make up the valley.

As Paul Harvey would say, “And now the rest of the story“. (The story is provided in the Sonorensis [12(1)7-10] by Dave Thayer)

Around 70 million years back a large volcano sat about where the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson are today. That volcano is the source of the mountains in Tucson

30 Million Years Ago

The entire volcano flattened in on itself. That created a round basin also known as a caldera. Then, 30 million years ago, crustal expansion began to occur. This expansion was in response to Plate Tectonics. Forces caused upper bits of crust to slide across bottom bits of crust. That resulted in a detachment fracture.

One of the faults induced the upper area of the caldera to slide 20 miles from the lower part of the caldera. Friends, it didn’t happen over night.

Additional stretching during this period caused a number other faults to occur across the southwest. That includes the Tucson region. The regular faulting resulted in chunks of terrain lowering. Valleys (basins) were created. Surrounding pieces of ground stayed even or rose up. That activity created the mountains around Tucson.

The place where Tucson now sits dropped 10,000′ or even more. That created a valley floor. Over another 20 million years or so, the valley was packed with sediment. Some suggest a minimum of 5000′ of sediment.

The top of the caldera was higher than the valley. Yep, the Tucson Mountains were formed and became one on the five ranges of mountains in Tucson.

Now it really get interesting. The granite base of the volcano was then actually higher on the north side of the valley. That granite base is now the Santa Catalina and Rincon Mountains.

The Conclusion

Making a 70 million year process in to a short story. “The Tucson Mountains” simply slid off the “Santa Catalina Mountains!  For additional information read Tucson geological setting. The mountains surrounding Tucson along with the Gulf of California are the catalyst of the Tucson summer monsoons.

Go to the “Visit Tucson” website for more on the Mountains in Tucson.

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