Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Great Dividing Ranges and Stonehenge

Granites occur throughout much of the north coast and New England region. I use the term granite here loosely, in reality the rocks I’m referring to have a range of compositions and ages. The things they have in common are their relatively high quartz content and they are igneous intrusive (plutonic) rocks. They have cooled slowly and therefore have allowed large crystals to form – giving them that typical granite appearance. I’ve covered a few granites in previous blog posts but in this post I’ll cover one New England “granite” called the Wards Mistake Monzogranite. I’ll continue to cover others in future posts.

Stratigraphically the Wards Mistake Monzogranite is part of the Wards Mistake Suite which in turn is part of the Uralla Supersuite. The Wards Mistake Monzogranite outcrops in a relatively extensive area between Glen Innes and Guyra. In places it straddles the Great Dividing Range but mainly occurs just on the eastern side within the upper reaches of many Clarence River tributaries. The unit was formed around 250million years ago, during the Lower Triassic to Lopingian (early Permian period).

The Wards Mistake Monzogranite consists of monzonite (a rock containing moderate quartz with equal parts potassium and sodium-calcium feldspar) with some granodiorite (abundant quartz and calcium-sodium feldspar). It has a typical equigranular black and white speckled appearance which is common of the Uralla Supersuite. It is like the other Uralla Supersuite granites as it is derived from the melting of other igneous rocks - I-Type Granites (Bryant et al 2003). However, it does contain some xenoliths (inclusions of other rock) which are sedimentary. It is possible that when the Wards Mistake Monzogranite was emplaced into the crust it incorporated bits of the surrounding sedimentary rock. This may have affected the chemistry of the magma and may be one of the reasons why there is both monzonite and granodiorite in the unit.

Typical tor outcrops of the Wards Mistake Monzogranite near Glen Innes
Many New England granites contain mineral deposits. Being an I-Type granite usually means a good chance of mineral deposit formation. However, the Wards Mistake Monzonite contains very sparse mineralisation with only a few small areas where there is some alteration zones that have more concentrated ore minerals. These include wolframite (tungsten), molybdenite (molybdenum) and cassiterite (tin) (Brown 1997). Other surrounding granites such as the Kingsgate Granite and Red Range Leucogranite have abundant mineralisation that was historically mined and is still under active mineral exploration permits.

A lovely feature of most New England granites is the interaction with the climate. This produces wonderful looking granite tors. This is a result of onion skin weathering (frost wedging) where water penetrates into the rock and freezes during the cold winters. This repeated action causes large flakes of rock to peel off. Some of these Tors are given their own names. In the Stonehenge area on the New England Highway you can stop and walk among these Tors and see the Balancing Rock which looks like it will topple over at any moment.

The landscape around Stonehenge between Guyra and Glen Innes is my favourite landscape in Australia. The high country agriculture, the cold weather and the geological conditions that form the rolling hills and special tors make it a special place. The picture above is of a portion of the Wards Mistake Monzogranite and partly shows the landscape I’m talking about. The accessibility of the granite is certainly worth a quick stop if you are travelling on the New England highway.


*Barnes, R.G , Willis, I.L. 1989. Preliminary geological plan of the 1:250 000 Grafton-Maclean sheet area - SH 56-6, SH 56-7. New South Wales Geological Survey Report

*Brown, R.E. 1997. Mineral deposits of the Glen Innes 1:100 000 map sheet area. Geological Survey of New South Wales. Quarterly Notes 103 p1-19

*Bryant, C.J. , Chappell, B.W. , Blevin, P.L. 2003. Granites of the southern New England orogeny. In Blevin, P. et al (eds) Magmas to Mineralisation: the Ishihara Symposium Geoscience Australia. Record 14 - extended abstracts.


  1. I just enjoy and marvel at the very different landscape to our lowlands along the river flats. One day maybe we will stop and explore instead of just driving through on our way to Dubbo or beyond.

    1. The lowlands and river flats have their own interesting stories too. Everybody is in a geologically unique area. Getting to know your home landscapes is a great first step. Then comparing when you are travelling is a great way to expand understanding!

      From what I've seen of your photography you capture the landscapes of the places you visit in a wonderful way.

  2. Nice post, Rod. I love learning. Granite is an integral part of the tablelands.

    1. it most certainly is Jim. You are not wrong there. There is a special landscape formed in granite country.