Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Synopsis of previous studies
 Macaya National Park
 La Visite National Park
 References cited
 Table 1

Title: Geological setting of Macaya and La Visite national parks, southern peninsula of Haiti
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00065375/00001
 Material Information
Title: Geological setting of Macaya and La Visite national parks, southern peninsula of Haiti
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: MacFadden, Bruce
Publisher: USAID/Haiti
Publication Date: 1986
Subject: Caribbean   ( lcsh )
Spatial Coverage: Haiti -- Hispaniola
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00065375
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
    Title Page
    Table of Contents
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Synopsis of previous studies
        Page 3
    Macaya National Park
        Page 4
            Mecaya formation
                Page 5
            "Demisseau" formation (cretaceous)
                Page 6
            Page 7
            Page 8
            Page 9
            Page 10
        Regional geological interpretation
            Page 11
        Potential research projects
            Page 12
    La Visite National Park
        Page 13
            Demisseau formation
                Page 14
            Neiba formation (eocene)
                Page 15
            Page 15
            Page 16
        Regional geological interpretation
            Page 17
            Page 18
        Potential research projects
            Page 19
        Page 20
    References cited
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
    Table 1
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
Full Text



The National Parks of Haiti


Bruce MacFadden


I2 I







Bruce J. MacFadden, PhD

Florida State Museum

University of Florida

Gainesville, Florida 32611

January 1986

Prepared for USAID/Haiti under

Contract #521-0169-C-00-3083-00


Introduction . . . .... . .. 1

Acknowledgments . . . . .. .. 2

Synopsis of Previous Studies . . . . .. 3

Macaya National Park . . .. . . 4

Stratigraphy . . . . .. 5

Macaya Formation (Cretaceous) . . . 5

"Demisseau" Formation (Cretaceous) . . .. 6

Structure . .. . . . . .. 7

Geomorphology .............. .... 9

Regional Geological Interpretation ........... 11

Potential Research Projects ..... . .... 12

La Visite National Park . . . ..... .. 13

Stratigraphy . . . . . 14

Demisseau Formation (Cretaceous) . . 14

Neiba Formation (Eocene) . . . 15

Structure . . . . . . 15

Geomorphology . . . . . 16

Regional Geological Interpretation .. . . 17

Potential Research Projects . . . 20

Summary ............... . . .. 20

References Cited . . . . . 21

Table 1 .. . ... ....... ........ .. 25

Figures . . . . . . 26


Hispaniola lies on the northern edge of the Caribbean Basin.

This island is bounded to the north by the Atlantic Ocean, to the east

by the Mona Passage and Muertos Trough, to the south by the Caribbean

Sea, including the Venezuelan Basin, Beata Ridge, and Colombian Basin,

and to the west by the Nicaraguan Rise, Cayman Trough, and Windward

passage (Figure 1). Geophysical and oceanographic evidence indicates

that the Caribbean Plate has undergone an exceeding complex geological

history for at least the last 85 million years since the early late

Cretaceous. This complex history must extend farther back in time;

however, no older rocks are preserved on land or in adjacent ocean

basins. A coherent and comprehensive synthesis of the Caribbean plate

remains as a major area of geological research. Therefore, in

addition to oceanographic and geophysical surveys, land-based

geological investigations on the Caribbean islands enhance progress

towards a needed synthesis of this region.

In subsurface exposures in Haiti, which comprise the western one

third of Hispaniola, volcanic and marine sedimentary rocks predominate

and range in age, so far as is known, from early late Cretaceous

(Conaician to Campanian) to Recent. The structurally complex

mountainous areas trending east-west in the Southern Peninsula and the

extensive central massif in the northern part of the country attest to

numerous phases of tectonic activity. Haiti is characterized by

extensive development of karst topography as a result of the extensive

uplifted carbonates and the very humid tropical climate. In the


Southern Peninsula mean annual temperatures are ca. 250 C and rainfall

ranges from ca. 1200-2000 cm/year (Woodring et al., 1924; Van den

Berghe, 1983). This geomorphological regime of processes and

landforms influences the modern biota and, in numerous instances,

provides natural traps for the very diverse Pleistocene fauna, many

species of which are extinct today.

The purpose of this report is: (1) to present the results of

reconnaissance geology of the Macaya and La Visite national parks;

(2) to place the geology of these into a regional framework; and (3)

to identify important research projects for future investigations.

The fieldwork was done in January-February 1984 and January 1985.

During these excursions, two trips were made to Macaya National Park

and one was made to La Visite National Park.


I extend my thanks to Dr. Charles A. Woods who invited me to

participate on this project. I appreciate the assistance of Mr.

Raymond Cleeland, of Oak Park, Illinois, during the 1984 season. Much

of the geological interpretations presented here were influenced to a

great degree by the work and knowledge of Dr. Florentin J.-M. R.

Maurrasse of Florida International University, Miami, and Dr. Gaston

Georges, Director of Geological Studies at the Ministry of Mines and

Energy Resources, Port-au-Prince. I thank Dr. Michael R. Perfit for

helpful discussions on igneous petrology relevant to the geology of

the Southern Peninsula. I am especially appreciative of Rhoda J.

Bryant, who edited the manuscript.



Working as representatives of the U.S. Geological Survey,

Woodring and field associates spent 6 1/2 months in 1920 and 1921

doing mapping and reconnaissance geology by automobile, horseback, and

on foot. During that time the group accomplished an extraordinary

amount of work resulting in a comprehensive geological map and an

exhaustive report that still stands as the classic reference today

(Woodring et al., 1924). Of archival importance, many of their

paleontological collections are presently housed in the Department of

Paleobiology at the U.S. National Museum of Natural History,

Washington, D.C. Of relevance to the present report, the region of

Macaya National Park in the Massif de la Hotte was not studied by

Woodring et al. (1924), and consequently the geology was not

interpreted on their geological map.

Butterlin (e.g., 1954, 1960, 1977) has provided comprehensive

studies of the geology of the Caribbean basin. Much of this field

work was done on Haiti. Butterlin has increased our knowledge of

Haiti over that presented by Woodring et al. (1924) by describing new

formations, detailed structural settings, and placing Hispaniola in a

circum-Caribbean context. Butterlin's work on the geology of Haiti

has subsequently been enhanced by his French colleagues. Of

particular relevance to the present report, the national park regions

are covered in two doctoral theses, i.e., Calmus (1983) for Macaya and

Van den Berghe (1983) for La Visite.


During the last two decades Dr. Florentine J.-M. R. Maurrasse has

carried out extensive field-based geological research in Haiti, as

well as studying marine geophysical, micropaleontological and

stratigraphic data from adjacent parts of the Caribbean Basin and

Atlantic Ocean. His publications on Haitian geology are far too

numerous to mention here; however, Maurrasse (1982, 1983) provides

current syntheses of the state of our knowledge on this subject.

There have been numerous recent publications on the general

evolution of the Caribbean basin; these are integral to an

understanding of the broad-scale geological context of Haiti (e.g.,

Malfait and Dinklemann, 1972; Jordan, 1975; Ladd, 1976; Burke and Fox,

1977; Burke et al., 1978; Perfit and Heezen, 1978; Mattson, 1979;

Sykes et al., 1982). As mentioned above, the surficial carbonate

exposures, high rainfall, and high temperature have resulted in

widespread development of tropical karst geomorphology and hydrology

in the circum-Caribbean region. Whereas karst has been studied in

areas such as Florida, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the Yucatan (e.g.,

Jennings, 1971; Sweeting 1973), surprisingly little has been published

on this subject from Hispaniola.


Macaya National Park is located at latitude 18021' N and

longitude 74001' W in the Department de Sud, Arrondissement de Jeremie

(Figure 1). It is part of the Massif de La Hotte; two prominent

physiographic features within this park include Pic Macaya (elevation

2347 m) and the headwaters of the Grand Ravine du Sud.


Field reconnaissance was done during a total of about 2 1/2 weeks

in 1984 and 1985. At that time, the northern and northeastern parts

of the park were inaccessible. Therefore the results presented here

are based on numerous traverses made in the southern and western park

areas. As is characteristic of reconnaissance in heavily vegetated

tropical regions, for certain traverses, particularly in the areas of

higher elevation (above the line of deforestation), the geology had to

be interpreted from widely scattered and discontinuous outcrops.

Table 1 lists topographic and air photo coverage for the national

parks and relevant adjacent areas.


So far as can be determined, two named formations are represented

in the surficial exposures of Macaya National Park.

Macaya Formation.-- Virtually the entire park and adjacent areas

consist of outcrops of limestones referred here to the Macaya

Formation. Butterlin (1954) named this unit from exposures to the

east of this region with the type locality (Maurrasse 1983, p. 24)

as the: "Road between Les Cayes and Jeremie, in the valley of Riviere

Glace, at 100 meters northeast of the point where the river crosses

the road." Maurrasse (1983) previously described the Macaya Formation

as predominantly a massive limestone with abundant calcite veins. It

can vary in color from white, yellowish gray to purplish or chocolate

brown. Butterlin (1954) estimates that the Macaya is at least 2000 m

thick. Based on planktonic foraminifera, the age of the Macaya


Formation is certainly late Cretaceous and probably ranges from the

Santonian to Maastrichtian. Calmus (1983b) provides a very detailed

description and analysis of the Macaya Formation in this and adjacent


In the Park, the Macaya Formation is very similar to previous

descriptions above; it is five-grained and characteristically very

light gray (5yR 8) but other colors (e.g., grayish brown, 5YR 3/2) are

also encountered. In the Grand Ravine du Sud at an elevation of 1050

m, the calcite veins within the Macaya Formation are broken, pulled

apart, ("boudinage") and folded (Figure 2). These small-scale

features indicate post-depositional local deformation. This may be

related to a contact metamorphic zone observed by Calmus (1983) for

the Macaya Formation in Ravine de Cahon. No macroinvertebrate fossils

were found during the reconnaissance. Cordier (1984, pers. comm.)

stated that, although exceeding rare, some macrofossils (probably

mollusks) were observed in the walls of caves in the park, which

probably consist of the Macaya Formation.

"Demisseau Formation."-- Maurasse et al. (1979) named this

formation for a deep-water deposit consisting principally of basaltic

composition volcanics, turbidites, limestones, cherts, and siliceous

sandstones as exposed near Kenskoff. In the area adjacent to Macaya

National Park, in situ basalts crop out at an elevation of 1150 m in

the stream course of the Grand Ravine du Sud (Figure 2). This

consists of fine-grained basalt which weathers to a very rotten

rust-colored exposure. There are other scattered and isolated

exposures of basalt observed along the southern slope of the park at


an elevation of about 1400-1600 m. However, these may be


Maurrasse (1979) named the Demisseau Formation for exposures in

the region of Massif de La Selle. With regard to the superpositional

relations of this formation in the Massif de La Hotte, Maurrasse

(1982, fig. 11, p. 24) indicates that the Demisseau Formation

underlies (and hence is older than) the Macaya Formation. However, if

indeed the basalts that crop out in the Grand Ravine de Sud and

adjacent areas can be considered the Demisseau, then it is possible

(as is also asserted by Calmus, 1983b) that this unit is younger than

the Macaya Formation. The evidence for this alternate interpretation

is that, in the few areas where the "Demisseau" basalts and the Macaya

limestones are seen in contact, the latter formation is either

deformed or exhibits local contact metamorphism (Calmus 1983b; this



As mentioned above, the interpretation of the structural geology

of the Park and adjacent region is hampered by extensive weathering of

outcrops and, particularly in the higher elevation forested areas, the

dense vegetative cover. In areas where dips could be observed, these

were shallow (usually 100 or less to the south in the southern part of

the Park). Second-order warping results in undulating dips between

north and south. Numerous medium-scale faults were observed in the

extensive exposures in the Grand Ravine du Sud at elevations of about


950-1150m. These faults could be traced for hundreds of meters along

the roughly E-W trending ravine. Throughout the park region,

extensive parallel fracture systems trending ca. N-S were observed in

the Macaya Formation.

In the southern half of the Park, a N-S traverse from Les

Plantons to the Grand Ravine passes through structural features

characteristic of the region. The heavily karstified Les Plantons is

formed by shallow folded and/or dipping Paleogene and Cretaceous

(Macaya Fm.) outcrops. The steep slopes to the north of Les Plantons,

extending up to principal E-W trending ridge crest (including Pic

Formon), are probably formed by a major fault zone (see further

discussion below). The top of the ridge crest (above about 1800 m

elevation) consists of karstified Macaya limestone. The north slope

of the southern E-W trending ridge (with Pic Formon), extending down

to the Grand Ravine du Sud, consists of the principal axis of the main

transcurrent fault zone, which is extensively developed on the

Southern Peninsula of Haiti. Based on outcrops in the faulted zones

just north of Les Plantons, the lower elevation saddle connecting Pic

Formon and Pic Macaya probably consists of structurally deformed,

brecciated country rock (principally the Macaya Formation), which,

because of its fracturing, is more prone to groundwater solution and


Because of the vegetative cover, there are several possible

interpretations for the regional structure. Butterlin (1954)

interpreted the area of the present park as an E-W trending anticline

that was breeched by erosion to form the Grand Ravine. He interpreted


the bedrock of the southern and western portions of the Pic Macaya,

Pic Formon, and adjacent slopes down to Les Plantons to be

Cretaceous. He also suggested a fault in the region of Morne

Cavalier-Les Plantons that brings a wedge of early Tertiary limestones

in contact with the Cretaceous unit. Calmus (1983) interprets the

principal E-W trending structure, which resulted in the Grand Ravine,

as a major left-lateral fault. As mentioned above, this is part of

the extensive E-W trending fault system that is developed throughout

the western portion of the Southern Peninsula of Haiti. In other

areas (e.g., in and around Port-au-Prince) outcrops of this fault zone

are characterized by brecciated fragments of the surrounding country

rock (Maurrasse and Pierre-Louis, 1983). I am indebted to Dr. Gaston

Georges, who interpreted numerous exposures of breccias along the

southern margin of the Park as evidence of this fault zone (Figure

3). Within this zone, medium size breccia clasts (on the order of 102

mm in diameter) of limestone predominate, although locally, highly

weathered basaltic composition clasts are found. In addition, it is

possible that large (on the order of 105 mm) megabreccia limestone

blocks, which at first glance seem in situ, may be incorporated within

this zone. Together with lateral motion along the E-W trending fault

system, very steep, youthful slopes suggest active vertical uplift in

this region (Figure 4).


Among the most spectacular geological features of the Macaya

National Park area is the extensive development of karst topography.


This regime is best developed in areas of low relief such as Les

Plantons south of the Park (Figure 5) and east of Morne Cavalier and

along the ridges between about 1800 m and 2000 m elevation east of Pic

Formon and between Pic Formon and Pic Macaya. In these areas of karst

development the topographic highs represent residual cones ca. 25-50 m

in diameter, with shallow slopes usually of 100 or less (Figure 5).

The topographic lows are principally doline collapses or sinkholes.

Frequently, dry valleys are formed by successive, linear collapse

structures. Steep-sided solution pipes are also frequently

encountered. Along with sink holes, these structures form natural

animal traps. Some of the richest collecting (and least disturbed by

human intervention) for vertebrate fossils in Haiti come from these

natural traps. As with many karst areas, at higher elevations, few

streams are actively flowing throughout the year. Much of the

atmospheric water quickly enters the subsurface hydrologic cycle via

the extensive joint system and larger scale solution features (flowing

into caverns). This water resurfaces at lower elevations as natural

springs. Adjacent to the park, numerous springs exiting the

subsurface hydrologic cycle at elevations between ca. 1100 m and 1500

m provide a constant water source for the Grand Ravine du Sud.

On a small scale (102-103 mm order of magnitude) there is

extensive sculpturing of the Macaya Formation resulting in pinnacles,

ridges (flutes), and troughs (bevels). The residual soils are

characteristically highly oxidized, reddish laterites that are common

in humid tropical environments.


Regional Geological Interpretation

Regardless of the superpositional relations of the Macaya and

Demisseau formations, they both imply similar deep ocean origins

within the ancient Caribbean. In this region paleontological data

indicate a late Cretaceous age for the Macaya Formation, possibly

extending between the latest Santonian-Conaician through Maastrichtian

stages, or about 80 to 70 mya. Several authors (e.g., Mattson, 1979;

Maurrasse 1983) suggest that during this time the western portion of

what is now the peninsula of Haiti was a eugeosynclinal back-arc basin

complex south of an E-W trending subduction zone, and it was probably

detached (to the west) from northern Haiti.

Early Tertiary carbonates surrounding the Macaya Formation

outside the survey area indicate uplift and shallowing of the western

portion of the Southern Peninsula. During the middle to late Tertiary

(Miocene) a major tectonic feature developed in the left-lateral fault

complex, which is found throughout much of the Southern Peninsula. In

this region the Tertiary has also been characterized by continued

uplift. These lateral and vertical tectonic features have continued

into the Holocene (Mattson, 1979; Calmus, 1983a, 1983b; Maurrasse

1983). The results of active vertical tectonics seem particularly

striking in the Grand Ravine du Sud where there are high-angle slopes

(Figure 4), talus deposits, and frequent occurrences of large-scale

mass wasting (landslides). The late Tertiary and Quaternary has been

characterized by the formation of karst landforms and lateritic soils.


Potential Research Projects

The work of Maurrasse (summarized in 1983) and Calmus (1983a,b)

provide an excellent body of base-line information that can be drawn

upon in other studies. The following are merely a few examples of

potential studies in Macaya National Park:

1) Petrography and Isotope Dating of the "Demisseau"

Formation. This could provide a better understanding of the

superpositon of the Macaya and "Demisseau" formations as well as

the origin of "Demisseau."

2) Paleomagnetism of the Macaya Formation. This may result

in a determination of a late Cretaceous pole position (and hence

paleolatitude) for the Macaya Formation that would be of

fundamental importance in understanding the early origins of the

Southern Peninsula.

3) Macropaleontology of the Macaya Formation. During his

field work Cordier (pers. comm.) located several probable fossil

molluscs in the Macaya Formation. If an intensive collection of

these were made, they may provide additional biochronological

data along with what is already known from micropaleontology

(e.g., Calmus 1983b).

4) Karst Topography. Despite the significant knowledge of

the processes and land forms associated with karstification

elsewhere in the Caribbean (e.g., Sweeting, 1973), those

developed on Haiti are poorly known. There is much room for a

study of this nature in Macaya National Park.


5) Hydrology. The region in and around Macaya National Park

is at or near the drainage headwaters for much of the western

portion of the Southern Peninsula. It is therefore of critical

importance to understand the regional hydrologic parameters as

well as the impact that continued deforestation and increased

erosion will have on the ground-water cycle.


La Visite National Park is located at latitude 18020'30" N and

longitude 72020' W in the Department de l'Ouest, Arrondisement de

Jacmel (Figure 1). It lies within the principal E-W trending

elongated high elevation ridge and peak system in the east portion of

the Southern Peninsula, Massif de La Selle. This physiographic region

extends into the adjacent Dominican Republic where it is called Sierra

de Baoruco (Figure 1). Within La Visite, elevations range from the

park boundary at ca. 1600-1200 m to the highest point of 2282 m along

the La Selle escarpment between Morne La Visite and Morne Bois Pin

(Figure 8). The main surface drainage within the park is from the

Riviere Blanche, which flows to the south and west. During January

1985, 1 1/2 weeks were spent doing the reconnaissance geology of La

Visite National Park. In contrast to the limited accessibility at

Macaya, all quadrants were traversed during the work of La Visite.

Relevant topographic and air photo coverage is presented in Table 1.



So far as could be determined, two rock units crop out in and

around La Visite National Park. Virtually the entire park consists of

limestone. Depending upon the exact park boundaries along the north

face of the La Selle Escarpment (Figure 6), the older igneous rocks of

the Demisseau Formation, which variously crop out between ca. 1500 m

and 1600 m, are either just within or just outside La Visite National

Park. Nevertheless, a description of this rock unit is included here

because of its significance for regional geological interpretations.

Demisseau Formation.-- The prominent central valley that lies

between Kenscoff and the Massif de La Selle (Figure 6) consists of

this rock unit. Maurrasse (1979) described this formation from near

the hamlet of Demisseau, just to the northeast of La Visite National

Park. The Demisseau Formation is an interbedded sequence of

Predominantly olivine thbleiite basaltic composition rocks, as well as

deep-water limestones, and some plastic deposits (including

turbidites). Within the region just north of the park, there are

extensive outcrops of pillow lavas (basalts), indicating an extrusive,

submarine igneous origin for portions of the Demisseau Formation

(Figure 7). The Demisseau Formation, particularly for the igneous

component, weathers to a rotten, iron-stained outcrop which is

characteristic of ultramatic rocks in tropical regions. Van den

Berghe (1983) obtained a date of 85 + 5 myr for the Demisseau, which

would indicate a probable Conaician-Campanian age (early late



Neiba Formation.-- Middle to late Eocene limestones have been

known in the region of Massif de la Selle since Woodring et al.

(1924); however, few authors have referred these rocks to a named

formation. In a comprehensive study of the Massif de La Selle region,

Van den Berghe (1983) refers these same middle-late Eocene limestones

to the Neiba Formation, which takes its name from rocks exposed in the

Sierra de Baoruco in the Dominican Republic.

In La Visite National Park the Neida Formation is principally a

massive biomicrite. Based on the present field work, its predominant

lithology is very pale orange (10YR 8/2), although other local

variations can occur; weathering can make it a very light (N7) to

medium (N5) gray. Micropaleontological investigations indicate large

foraminifera (many of which have close affinities to those of the late

Eocene Crystal River Formation of Florida, see Woodring et al., 1924;

Van den Berghe, 1983). Nannofossils indicate an age of zone NP17, or

Bartonian stage, ca. 40-42 my (time scale of LaBrecque, Hsu, et al.,

1983); the paleoenvironment of the Neida Formation was probably an

external platform (Van den Berghe, 1983). In the uppermost part of

the limestone sequence, at about 2000 m elevation (along the E-W crest

between Morne La Visite and the Pic Cabaio regions), a rich, shelly

marine fauna was encountered during our work, including corals,

pelecypods, and gastropods.


To the south of the La Selle Escarpment, the Eocene limestones

form a dip slope, or cuesta, that controls the topography (lower


Neiba Formation.-- Middle to late Eocene limestones have been

known in the region of Massif de la Selle since Woodring et al.

(1924); however, few authors have referred these rocks to a named

formation. In a comprehensive study of the Massif de La Selle region,

Van den Berghe (1983) refers these same middle-late Eocene limestones

to the Neiba Formation, which takes its name from rocks exposed in the

Sierra de Baoruco in the Dominican Republic.

In La Visite National Park the Neida Formation is principally a

massive biomicrite. Based on the present field work, its predominant

lithology is very pale orange (10YR 8/2), although other local

variations can occur; weathering can make it a very light (N7) to

medium (N5) gray. Micropaleontological investigations indicate large

foraminifera (many of which have close affinities to those of the late

Eocene Crystal River Formation of Florida, see Woodring et al., 1924;

Van den Berghe, 1983). Nannofossils indicate an age of zone NP17, or

Bartonian stage, ca. 40-42 my (time scale of LaBrecque, Hsu, et al.,

1983); the paleoenvironment of the Neida Formation was probably an

external platform (Van den Berghe, 1983). In the uppermost part of

the limestone sequence, at about 2000 m elevation (along the E-W crest

between Morne La Visite and the Pic Cabaio regions), a rich, shelly

marine fauna was encountered during our work, including corals,

pelecypods, and gastropods.


To the south of the La Selle Escarpment, the Eocene limestones

form a dip slope, or cuesta, that controls the topography (lower


elevations from N to S). This dip slope does not appear to be

significantly deformed, although some faults were observed during

field reconnaissance. In the southern part of La Visite, the Neiba

Formation crops out down to the park boundary at about 1600 m. In the

northern part of the park, it forms the very steep slopes on the

northern side of the escarpment. In this area the Demisseau Formation

crops out at elevations between 1500 m and 1600 m and lower, forming

the highly eroded central valley between Massif de La Selle and

Kenscoff. Butterlin (1954, 1977) indicated that, beneath the late

Eocene limestones, the La Selle escarpment is formed by folded

Paleocene or Eocene sediments which overlie the Cretaceous volcanic

rocks of the Demisseau Formation (Figure 6). My field work around

Morne La Visite did not reveal any folded/overturned carbonate rocks

along the north slope of the Massif de La Selle. However, a large

fault was encountered in this same region trending along the axis of

the escarpment (Figure 8). Faults of similar magnitude are probably

represented between Morne La Visite and Pic Cabaio. These

observations seem to confirm that the escarpment is formed by a major

structural feature, the La Selle fault (see Maurrasse, 1983), rather

than merely an eroded valley and more resistant cuesta.


Within and on the limestone substrate, extensive karst topography

has developed. The solution features include many dolines, sinks, and

vertical-walled pipes (Figure 9). The residual cones form low hills


with shallow slopes (ca 10-200 or less). A complex system of

underground caverns is developed, some of which extend for at least 5

km (Paryski, pers. comm.). The caverns have solution features, such

as stalagtites and stalagmites, formed of dripstone. There are many

examples of dry valley collapses. On a smaller scale, the surficial

limestone outcrops weather to form small, rounded residual rocks.

These can be extensively pitted or small troughs, and crests can form

(Figure 10). As is characteristic of karst regions, much of the

atmospheric water enters the hydrologic cycle by vertical movement

into the subsurface through joints and solution features. However,

the headwaters and tributaries of the Riviere Blanche also

significantly drain this area.

Regional Geological Interpretation

The Demisseau Formation includes the oldest-known rocks in the

eastern portion of the Southern Peninsula of Haiti. Van den Berghe

(1983) published a radiometric date of 85 + 5 my which correlates to

Conaician or possible Campanian age. The combination of utramafic,

tholeiitic basalts, cherts, and radiolarian limestones suggests an

ophiolitic ocean-floor complex. Maurrasse (1979, 1982, 1983)

indicates that the lithologies of the plastic and carbonate sediments

are very similar to those recovered during DSDP drilling in the

eastern Caribbean Sea. Kent and Maurrasse (1980) investigated the

paleomagnetism of the basalts of the Demisseau Formation in this part

of the Southern Peninsula. Although it was unfortunate that no


primary natural remanence was detected, the magnetic properties of

these rocks are similar to crustal basalts recovered during the DSDP

cruises in the Caribbean basin. It therefore seems plausible that the

Demisseau Formation represents late Cretaceous sea floor. The

reconstructions by Mattson (1979) and Maurrasse (1982) indicate a

plate boundary running roughly E-W across present-day northern

Hispaniola with the North American plate being subducted. Therefore

the uplift of Demisseau sea floor could have resulted from obduction

of the Caribbean plate. It also should be noted that these and other

(e.g., Sykes et al., 1982) paleogeographic reconstructions place the

Southern Peninsula separate and to the rest of present-day Hispaniola.

During the early Tertiary, the central highlands of Hispaniola

had become emergent (e.g., paleogeographic reconstructions of Khdoley

and Meyerhoff, 1971; Maurrasse, 1983).

Based on the paleontology and sedimentology, the Neida Formation

was deposited in a shelf environment (Van den Berghe, 1983). The

intraformational changes from predominately macrofossils below to

shelly faunas above may suggest a shoaling during the middle to late

Eocene. In the Massif de La Selle region, several depositional

hiatuses in the Oligocene and Miocene could suggest subsequent

emergence coupled with eustatic changes (Van den Berghe, 1983). The

late Neogene is characterized by further emergence as well as the

latest possible timing of development of the principal E-W trending

fault systems (e.g., the La Selle Fault) during the suturing of the

Northern and Southern peninsulas and formation of the horst and

grabens of the central valley. The Quaternary has been a time of


continued uplift and lateral movement along active faults as well as

solution weathering, subaerial erosion, and extensive development of

karst landforms (Maurrasse and Peirre Louis, 1982; Maurrasse 1983).

Potential Research Projects

1) Late Eocene Paleontology. Despite the extensive amount

of work on the micropaleontology of Haiti (see references in

Maurrasse, 1983) little has been done with macro-invertebrate

fossils. The shell bed at ca. 2000 m on the crest of Massif de

La Selle would be a valuable project to interpret the exact

biostratigraphy and paleoecology of the Neiba Formation.

2) Karst Topography. Because of its relatively flat

terrain on the southern dip slope of the park, there are many

examples of karst features developed. A systematic study of the

processes and genesis of these features would lead to a better

understanding of tropical karst as developed in Haiti.

3). Hydrology. The southern dip slope of the park provides

a large watershed for both the Riviere Blanche and subsurface

drainage. This drainage, much of which starts in the park,

impacts a large amount of area and population extending to the

south coast. As with much of Haiti, the pace of human

deforestation continues, which undoubtedly results in increased

rates of erosion. Given the extreme importance of the

hydrological cycle, a detailed study of this subject in La Visite

National Park should be assigned a very high priority.



Rocks exposed in the Macaya and La Visite national parks span

some 85 million years from the late Cretaceous to the Recent. The

older rocks consist of deep-ocean basalts and limestones deposited in

a probable back-arc basin (also eugeosynclinal) setting to the south

of an active subduction zone. Uplift of these rocks probably occurred

via obduction at the Caribbean-North American plate boundaries.

The early Tertiary of Haiti has been characterized by uplift and

consequent deposition of relating shallow marine carbonates

surrounding an emergent central land mass. This was also a time when

the northern part of the island and the Southern Peninsula of Haiti

were separated and moving towards one another as a result of plate

tectonics (probable sea-flow spreading from the Cayman trough, sensu

Sykes et al., 1982). These two land-masses became sutured by the late

Miocene, ca. 7-10 mya. Since the Miocene, the Southern Peninsula has

been characterized by the development of large-scale E-W trending

left-lateral strike slip faults resulting in prominent physiographic

features such as the Grand Ravine du Sud.

The Quaternary has been a time of continued uplift (e.g., Dodge

et al., 1983), and the formation of Karst topography and lateritic

soils. This geomorphological regime has created natural traps for

animals and significantly influenced the resulting biota. The marked

faunal differences between the northern and southern parts of Haiti

(and Hispaniola in general) undoubtedly resulted from the historical

paleogeographic reconstruction described above.


The Macaya and LaVisite parks are of extreme economic and

cultural importance. They include the headwaters of several large

drainage areas which impact on a sizeable population in surrounding

areas. Conservation of the resident biotas (and most notably, the

curtailment of deforestation) is critical to preservation of the

natural hydrological cycle.


Butterlin, J. 1954. La geologic de la Republique d' Haiti et ses

rapports avec celle des regions voisines: Publ. comm. 150e

anniversaire de 1'Independence d' Haiti, Port-au-Prince, 446 p.

Butterlin, J. 1960. Geologie general et regional de la Republique

d'Haiti: Mem. Inst. des Hautes Etudes de 1'Amerique Latine,

Paris, VI, 194 p.

Burke, K. and P. J. Fox. 1977. Caribbean Problems: A report on a

workshop held to help identify important geological problems

related to the evolution of the Caribbean. Held at State Univ.

New York, Albany, 20-23 April 1977, 44 p.

Burke, R., P. J. Fox, and A. M. C. Sengor. 1978. Buoyant ocean floor

and the evolution of the Caribbean. Jour. Geophys. Research.


Calmus, T. 1983a. Decrochement senestre sud-haitien: analyses et

consequences paleogeographiques dans la region de Camp-Perrin

(Massif de Macaya, presqu' ile du Sud d'Haiti). Ann. Soc. Geol.

Nord, Lille, p. 309-315.


Calmus, T. 1983b. Contribution a 1'etude geologique du Massif de Macaya

(Sud-ouest d'Haiti, Grandes Antilles), sa place dans l'evolution

de l'orogene Nord-Caraibe. These Docteur de 3e cycle, L'Univ.

Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris VI, 163 plus xxxvii pp. and plates.

Dodge, R. E., R. G. Fairbridge, L. K. Benninger, and F. Maurrasse.

1983. Pleistocene sea levels from raised coral reefs of Haiti.

Science 219:1423-1425.

Jennings, J. N. 1971. Karst. Cambridge and London, M.I.T. Press,

252 p.

Jordan, T. H. 1975. The present-day motions of the Caribbean plate.

Jour. Geophys. Research. 80:4433-4440.

Kent, D. V. and F. J.-M. R. Maurrasse. 1982. Paleomagnetic results

from the Dumisseau Formation of Haiti: In: F.J.-M.R. Maurrasse,

ed. Transactions ler Colloque sur la geologic d'Haiti,

Port-au-Prince, 27-29 March 1980. p. 236-244.

Khudoley, K. M. and A.A. Meyerhoff. 1971. Paleogeography and Geological

History of Greater Antilles. Geol. Soc. Amer. Mem. 129: 199 p.

LaBrecque, J.L., K.J. Hsu, and co-workers. 1983. DSDP 73:

Contributions to Paleogene stratigraphy in nomenclature,

chronology and sedimentation rates. Palaeograph., palaeoclimat.,

palaeoecol. 42:91-125.

Ladd, J. W. 1976. Relative motion of South America with respect to

North America and Caribbean tectonics. Bull. Geol. Soc. Amer.


Malfait, B. T. and M. J. Dinkleman. 1972. Circum-Caribbean tectonic and

igneous activity and the evolution of the Caribbean plate. Bull.

Geol. Soc. Amer. 83:251-272.


Mattson, P. H. 1979. Subduction, bouyant breaking, flipping, and

strike-slip faulting in the northern Caribbean. Jour. Geology.


Maurrasse, F. J.-M. R. 1979. Cenozoic radiolarian paleobiogeography:

Implications concerning plate tectonics and climatic cycles:

Palaeogeography, palaeoclimotol., palaeoecology. 26:253-289.

Maurrasse, F. J.-M. R. 1982. New data on the stratigraphy of the

southern peninsula of Haiti. In F. J.-M. R. Maurrasse, ed.

Transaction ler Colloque sur la geologic d'Haiti, Port-au-Prince,

27-29 March 1980. p. 189-198.

Maurrasse, F. J.-M. R. 1983. Survey of the geology of Haiti Guide to

field excursions in Haiti, March 3-8, 1982. Miami Geological

Soc. 103 pp.

Maurrasse, F. J.-M. R. and F. Pierre Louis. 1982. Relation entire les

grandes zones de faille de la region Sud d'Haiti et la production

de sable de construction dit "Sable de Laboule" In F. J.-M. R.

Maurrasse, ed. Transactions ler Colloque sur la geologic d'Haiti,

Port-au-Prince, 27-29 March 1980. p. 126-133.

Perfit, M. R. and B. C. Heezen. 1978. The geology and evolution of the

Cayman Trench. Bull. Geol. Soc. Amer. 89:1155-1174.

Sweeting, M. M. 1973. Karst landforms. New York, Columbia Univ.

Press. 362 pp.

Sykes, L. R., W. R. McCann, and A.L. Kafka. 1982. Motion of Caribbean

Plate during last 7 million years and implications for earlier

Cenozoic movements.


Van den Berghe, B. 1983. Evolution sedimentaire et structural depuis

le Paleocene du secteur "Massif de la Selle" (Haiti)-"Baoruco"

(Republique Dominicaine)-"Nord de la Ride de Beata" dans

L'Orogene Nord Caraibe (Hispaniola-Grandes Autilles). These

Docteur de 3e cycle, L'Univ. Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris VI, 186


Woodring, W. P., J. S. Brown and W. S. Burbank. 1924. Geology of the

Republic of Haiti. Port-au-Prince, Republic of Haiti, Dept.

Public Works. 631 pp. plus 2 maps.


Table 1. Topographic and Air Photo Coverage of the National Parks and
Adjacent Areas of Importance, Republic of Haiti.1

Topographic Maps Air Photos(l:40,000 Scale)

Macaya National Park

(All 1:50,000 Scale)

NW Portion, Pic Macaya,
Sheet 5371 II Northern Portion of Park and Environs:
NE Portion, Beaumont,
Sheet 5471 III Photos no. 1272, 1274, 1276, 1278, 1280
SE Portion, Camp Perrin,
Sheet 5470 IV Southern Portion of Park and Environs:
SW Portion, Les Coteaux,
Sheet 5370 I Photos no. 1262, 1264, 1266, 1057, 1059

La Visite National Park

(All 1:25000 Scale)

NW Portion, Pic Cabaio,
Sheet 5771 III SE Northern Portion of Park and Environs:
NE Portion, Inviter,
Sheet 5771 II SW Photos no. 479, 481
SE Portion, Sequin,
Sheet 5770 I NW Southern Portion of Park and Environs:
SW Portion, Macary,
Sheet 5770 IV NE Photos no. 471, 469, 467

1 All maps and air photos can be purchased (subject to availability) at the
Geodetic and Cartographic Institute, Rue J. Janvier, Port-au-Prince. Air
photos require a 1-day processing period from the time they are ordered to
the time they are ready.

0 50 100 KM
0 30 60 MILES

200 .0

910"" PLATEAU '.



740 720 70 680

Figure 1. Geographic location of Hispaniola, Macaya and La Visite

National Parks, and surrounding regions.

Figure 2. Sketch of folding and "boudinage" of calcite views in

Macaya Formation, elevation 1050 m, Grand Ravine du Sud.

Figure 3. Outcrop of breccia just south of park boundary at ca.

1300-1400 m. This and similar outcrops may represent the

broken and transported E-W trending fault zone that is

extensively developed in the Southern Peninsula.

Figure 4. Relatively youthful, steep-sided slopes in Grand Ravine du

Sud that suggest active uplift. View looking generally NE

from ridge E of Pic Formon in Macaya National Park.

Figure 5. Residual weathering cones formed by Karst processes, on Les

Plantons to the SE of Macaya National Park. Massif de la

Hotte is in the background below cloud cover.

Figure 6. View of La Selle Escarpment looking roughly to the east.

The cliffs are formed by the Neida Formation and the valley

to the north by the Demisseau Formation.

Figure 7. Pillow structures in basaltic composition rocks of

Demisseau Formation; located at ca. 1600 m on road to

Kenscoff just at NW park boundary (to the W of Morne La


Figure 8. View of west side of Morne La Visite taken from the west.

Note contact between Neiba (NB) and Demisseau (DM)

Formations, which probably represents a fault plane or zone.

Figure 9. Residual cone and doline collapse features in La Visite

National Park.


Figure 10. Small-scale weathering features of Neiba limestones, La
Visite National Park. A. Residual outcrops. B. Troughs

and crests.

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs