Saturday, 19 May 2012

Rocks named after a creek named after an Australian marsupial

Note that the stratigraphy of this formation has been revised since this blog post. See the this recent post for details.

One of the most widely outcropping rock units of the mesozoic aged Clarence Moreton Basin is the Kangaroo Creek Sandstone named after its type locality at Kangaroo Creek in the Nymboida area. It is also one of the most recognisable stratigraphic units in the basin.

McElroy (1963) showed that the Kangaroo Creek Sandstone consisted mainly of white to cream coloured quartz sand. The texture of the sandstone is saccharoidal, that is, it has a glistening sugar like appearance of the quartz sand grains. This sand glistens more than usual because while buried, fluids in the rock caused extra silica (quartz) to crystallise on the existing sand grains creating new tiny crystal faces that reflect light in a vivid way. The nature of the rock in this formation tends to weather less readily than other units and as a result tends to form prominent topographic features such as hills, cliffs, ridges and the like.

Crossbedding and typical saccharoidal texture in Kangaroo Creek Sandstone

The Kangaroo Creek Sandstone was deposited in a fluvial (river) setting and as a result cross bedding structures are very common in outcrops. Sorting of grains in the unit is very well developed, that is, the grain size is very similar at any particular outcrop. Additionally, the thickness of the beds is very consistent which together indicates that the tectonic setting was relatively unchanged through the period of deposition. Following burial of the sandstone fluids present in the rock caused extra dissolved silica to precipitate out onto the existing sand grains filling in voids and creating the characteristic texture.

The Kangaroo Creek Sandstone is considered by some authors (Wells and O'Brien 1998) to grade into the Woodenbong Beds in the north west of the NSW portion of the basin. However, it is noted that others (Willis 1998) consider the Woodenbong Beds the equivalent to the McLean Sandstone Member of the Walloon Coal Measures (but more about this in future post). The Kangaroo Creek Sandstone underlies the Grafton Formation but the contact with this formation is gradational. According to (Wells and O'Brien 1998) it also sometimes shows a conformable boundary with the underlying Walloon Coal Measures, however, in most areas the boundary is shown by an unconformity. It is easy to tell the difference however, because compositionally any sandstones in the Walloon Coal Measures are composed of feldspar and lithic grains rather than the quartz of the Kangaroo Creek Sandstone.

Outcrop of Kangaroo Creek Sandstone on the Clarence River near Grafton
It is interesting to note that the recrystalisation of quartz in the Kangaroo Creek Sandstone means that this unit is now essentially dry with respect to Ground Water. There is very few spaces left for the water to travel through. for example O'Brien et al (1998) shows that most other sandstones in other basins such as the Great Artesian Basin, is where most ground water is obtained. In fact, in the whole of the Clarence Moreton Basin the only unit to have useful ground water bores is the Grafton Formation which is recharged from rainfall. The Kangaroo Creek Sandstone does have some bores that produce a very little water in the upper most portion of the unit (probably rainwater recharging fractures in these locations (Kwantes 2011), like the overlying Grafton Formation) but it appears that no other bores obtain water from the Kangaroo Creek Sandstone because the formation actually behaves like an aquiclude or aquitard. Water is not obtained from aquifers below the Kangaroo Creek Sandstone because the water quality is generally poor.

It is interesting to note that according to some gas exploration results it is apparent that areas of the Kangaroo Creek Sandstone (assuming this is not mistakenly identified McLean Sandstone) that are directly overlying the Walloon Coal Measures contain substantial areas of conventional natural gas. This is gas that has migrated from the underlying Walloon Coal Measures and been trapped in either pore spaces or fracture zones. I understand that several companies in the area such as Metgasco and Red Sky Energy intend to exploit these reserves.

Pollen spores in drill holes give an age of middle to late Jurassic for the Kangaroo Creek Sandstone (Wells and O'Brien 1998).


*Kwantes, E. 2011. Future Water Strategy: Groundwater Options - Position Paper. Report for Rous Water by Parsons Brinkerhoff.
*McElroy, C.T. 1963 The geology of the Clarence-Moreton Basin. New South Wales Geological Survey, Memoir 9, 172 pp.
*Moran, C., Vink, S. 2010 Assessment of impacts of the proposed coal seam gas operations on surface and groundwater systems in the Murray-Darling Basin. The University of Queensland.
*New South Wales Government. 2010. State of the Catchment Report: Groundwater. Northern Rivers Region. Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water.
*Wells, A.T. , O'Brien, P.E. 1994 Lithostratigraphic framework of the Clarence-Moreton Basin In Wells, A.T. and O'Brien, P.E. (eds.) Geology and Petroleum Potential of the Clarence-Moreton Basin, New South Wales and Queensland. Australian Geological Survey Organisation. Bulletin 241.
*Willis, I.L. 1994 Stratigraphic Implications of Regional Reconnaissance Observations in the Southern Clarence-Morton Basin, New South Wales In Wells, A.T. and O'Brien, P.E. (eds.) Geology and Petroleum Potential of the Clarence-Moreton Basin, New South Wales and Queensland. Australian Geological Survey Organisation. Bulletin 241.


  1. great blog Rod. I'm headed down to Glenreagh for some climbing tomorrow ( and will be taking a closer look at the saccrodial texture and xbeds! thanks

  2. Rod, when I was a kid, I found a fossil of beetle-like creature in some rock, and from what I know now it would be almost certainly from Kangaroo Creek Sandstone. That makes it Mesozoic I assume, so that's kind of cool. I should try and find it again when I'm next up there, since it might need describing