The Great Desert

Soda Dam Hot Spring


The Soda Dam, along NM state road 4, is a large hot spring deposit, made mostly of calcium carbonate. The springs used to empty out onto the dam over the Jemez River, but most of the water now exits from the roadcut across the road. Courtesy of the NM Department of Transportation. The Soda Dam hot spring waters start at the Valles Caldera, heated by the hot rock and magma beneath. They travel as hot ground water through Pennsylvanian limestones and shales, and rise to the surface along a fault at the Soda Dam. Most of the carbonate rock of the Dam bears traces of algal filaments, and Soda Dam rock has been used in studies of how ancient Martian life might be detected.

Soda Dam

The Soda Dam, from downstream. Typical tourist photo. The whole mound is calcium carbonate deposited over millions of years by the hot springs. Credit.
Crawling into the cave in the Soda Dam. Credit.
Ant Hill

Precambrian gneisses across the road from the Soda Dam. A small fault brings this rock up into contact with the Pennsylvanian limestones and shales. The gneiss is relatively impermeable, so the hot groundwater is forced upwards to the surface. Credit.
The new outlet for the main Soda Dam spring, created circa 1960 during blasting to pave state highway 4. Boo. The hoo-shaped mound has all been deposited since then. Note the white bacterial goo at the vent, and the green and purple downstream and at the cooler edges of the streams. Credit.

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Copyright Allan Treiman, LPI.
Updated 11/21/03.
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