Wednesday 25 April 2012

A special volcano on the edge of the Northern Rivers

I have previously mentioned several volcanoes that have existed during the Cenozoic period in and around the Northern Rivers region of the New England. But, it is worth noting that there was once a period of significant volcanism earlier in the Cenozoic which defines the landscape of the Great Dividing Range south of Glen Innes, near the villages of Glencoe (with its excellent pub: The Red Lion Inn) and Ben Lomond. This area is the headwaters of many wild rivers found flowing down the rugged New England escarpment that are tributaries of the Clarence River. On the other side of the divide eventually join the Darling and then Murray River. The Maybole volcano was apparently centred at the modern day and generally unheard of locality, Maybole. It erupted lavas over a large area in every direction including large areas to the west, east and south east.

Maybole lies just on or just outside of the headwaters of the Northern Rivers but none-the-less is worth mentioning because of the extent of volcanic rock that appears to have originated from it. The rocks that have come from the Maybole Volcano are mostly basalt type rocks which were once referred to as the Eastern division of the Central Volcanic Province (Coenraads & Ollier 1992), now referred to as the Maybole Volcanics but still part of the Central Volcanic Province according to Vickery et al (2007). The Maybole Volcanics are comprised of alkali olivine basalt to slightly less silica undersaturated basalt and andesite and reworked volcanic material (epiclastic and volcaniclastic sedimentary rocks) and was erupted around 36-39 million years ago.

Coenraads & Ollier (1992) identified that Maybole was a significant volcano by determining the thickness of basalt that occurred in the region and noticing that at Maybole the thickness was significant at several hundred metres. There are also apparently some dykes and vents that are present. Additionally, they had a close look at drainage patterns and realised that they radiated like the spokes on a bicycle, a classical indication of volcanic geomorphology.

Since Coenraads & Ollier (1992), Vickery et al (2007) has undertaken a major review of the Central Volcanic Province and delineated several constituents of the province. The most significant along this part of the Great Divide is now known as the Maybole Volcanics, obviously directly associated with the Maybole volcano. The age of the Central Volcanic Province including the Maybole Volcanics shows that these rocks are too old to be associated with the Eastern Australian hotspot which formed many of the other major volcanic centres in the region (such as the Focal Peak, Tweed and Ebor Volcanoes). Some time after the end of volcanism from the Maybole Volcano  other volcanoes between about 14-24Ma erupted their lavas over the top of the Maybole Volcanic suite rocks.

Interestingly, it appears that the Maybole Volcanics had affected exactly where the Great Divide was situated because the nature of the existing range was such that the lavas filled the valleys creating thick volcanic piles while the existing hills were only covered with thin layers. This meant redirection of streams and when the rock was eroded the more erodible hills were turned into valleys and the valleys became hills caped with basalt. This is termed an inverted topography. But more about this in another post.

Interestingly, Coenraads & Ollier (1992) have observed that the the great divide has moved over time with some of the old basalt filled valleys showing that they used to flow to the west but with the streams now flowing to the east. It actually appears that the Northern Rivers region is getting bigger!

Red Lion Inn (from Flickr)
PS. Like lots of geologists I like pubs with a good atmosphere and The Red Lion Inn at Glencoe is just such a beautiful place. It is an exceptional location to stop for a meal, especially during the middle of winter while snow is coming down. Alternatively, during autumn while the trees turn bright yellow and red, or during spring while the new leaves are coming out, or even summer! i.e. I recommend it!


*Coenraads, R. R., Ollier, C.D. 1992. Tectonics and Landforms of the New England Region in 1992 Field Conference - New England District. Geological Society of Australia Queensland Division.
*Vickery, N. M., Dawson, M.W., Sivell, W.J., Malloch, K.R., Dunlap, W.J. 2007. Cainozoic igneous rocks in the Bingara to Inverell area, northeastern New South Wales. Geological Survey of New South Wales Quarterly Notes v123.


  1. It has been awhile since I been to the Red Lion - classic pub that you don't find in Australia. I can recommend it in Summer - warm with cool nights - unlike the hot humid coast.
    I have never heard of the Maybole Volcano, interesting post.

    1. Hi Mark,

      The Red Lion certainly is unique. But it fits in wonderfully with the Glen Innes region.

      As far as the Maybole Volcano goes, it has really only been more definitely identified since the 1990s, in particular 2007 was when research was released that really resolved how the basalt of the Glen Innes-Inverell area relate to each other which revealed the extent of the Maybole Volcanics.

  2. This was an amazing piece of work by Nancy. I bumped into her the other day and told her about your blog site. Hopefully she will find the time to see all your fantastic write ups.

    1. Thanks Dylan. I'm glad you seem to enjoy it. As you can probably tell Cenozoic volcanism is my favourite topic (at the moment)

  3. It is a very worthy subject and a healthy obsession.

  4. I love this blog. I am doing a tourism digital map for Glen Innes council and would love a bit more knowledge to include about all the amazing bolders Caroline