Wednesday, 26 October 2011

A brief geological tour of Evans Head

Half Tide Rocks: Made from Chillingham Volcanics (dark rock)
Evans head is a popular vacation spot. It has some lovely beaches which are interrupted by a proud and attractive headland. During the summer it is impossible to find accommodation in the area and the town is crowded with families enjoying sunshine, boating, fishing, swimming and relaxing. I don't go there for holidays but I'm close enough to enjoy a day or two by the beach as sometimes.
The interesting feature of Evans Head is the obvious rocky headland standing quite proud at the mouth of the Evans River and along a coast line with huge sandy beaches. The reason for this feature is the more erosion resistant rocks that occur here. Click here to link to a basic geological map of the area. The hardest and oldest rock outcropping just south of Evans Head town at the Half Tide Rocks is the Triassic aged Chillingham Volcanics being the earliest part of the Ipswich basin. These rocks can be seen as the darker coloured rock at the two headlands in the photograph above. Here the Chillingham Volcanics are comprised of basalt and andesite (elsewhere in NSW such as at Chillingham the Chillingham Volcanics are mainly rhyolitic in composition) and here at Evans show an uncommon rock called hayloclastite. The formation of hayloclastite in this area was the result of eruption of basalt into a coastal sea. Something you might see in modern day Hawaii or Iceland where lava flows directly into the sea. Unfortunately it is very hard to recognize because of weathering of the rock in this area.

Overlying the Chillingham are the Evans Head Coal Measures. These are located on the southern bank of the Evans River and extend around to the south of the Half Tide Rocks. Despite their name coal is a little hard to find and is only present in occasional thin bands. The Evans Head Coal Measures are therefore mainly comprised of sandstone (a type called arenite with the sand grains mainly composed of quartz sand and occasional small fragments of rock), siltstone, mudstone and some coal. The arenite frequently shows a feature called cross-bedding which is common in rocks that have formed in medium velocity rivers. The Evans Head Coal Measures are equivalent to the Ipswich Coal Measures in southern Queensland and the Redcliff Coal Measures which occurs south of McLean and is exposed on the coast near Brooms Head.

Ripley Road Sandstone with a small conglomerate layer
Ripley Road Sandstone is the youngest exposed rock unit at the headland. This is actually part of the Clarence Moreton Basin which overlies the Ipswich Basin. If you go to the lookout you can see boulders of a pale grey colour. This is the Ripley Road Sandstone. It is mainly comprised of quartz sand lightly cemented together with a grey clay (known as a clay matrix) but occasionally some bands of conglomerate are present such as in the picture opposite.

On the geological map you will notice that the areas around the headland are comprised of different types of sediments these are all very recent which geologically places them at Quaternary (or more specifically Pleistocene to Holocene aged). This pretty much means that these sediments are actively changing and being deposited. Mainly sands in the beach and dune systems and silts and clays around the river estuary. Many of the Holocene aged sediments contain potential acid sulfate soils, which are common in the region but present several environmental management issues when disturbed. In the beach sands there are also commonly found heavy minerals which have from time to time being mined. But more about these heavy minerals some other time.


*McElroy, C.T. 1969. The Clarence-Moreton Basin in New South Wales. In Packham, G.H.(ed) - The geology of New South Wales. Geological Society of Australia. Journal V16.
*Smith, J.V., Miyake, J., Houston, E.C. 1998. Mesozoic age for volcanic rocks at Evans Head, Northeastern New South Wales. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences V45
*Stephenson, A.E. , Burch, G.J. 2004. Preliminary Evaluation of the Petroleum Potential of Australia's Central East Margin. Geoscience Australia. Record 2004/06.


  1. Rod, may I engage in some special pleading? How about a post looking at change over the last 50,000 years - sea levels etc. This would help me set a better context for Aboriginal history.

  2. Hi Jim,
    I could do some looking into some specifics over the last 10 000 years (Holocene). I know I've got some papers hidden away which may have a greater indication of sea level changes in eastern Australia over a broader time period too. It is obvious that the broad river valley systems we see today in the northern rivers have especially been shaped in the last 100 000 years.

    I'll put this research on my to do list. It may be a couple of months but I'll certainly try and put together some things as I find out more.

  3. Thanks, Rod. To encourage you(!), bringing up some of my own material as well.

  4. Hi Rod.

    I'm wondering if you could tell me what is happening here with the geology at the local swimming hole at Evans Head?

    S29° 6.673' E153° 24.660'

    I don't know much about geology but works love to know what type of rock it is and how it formed like this.