Scenes from  the Quebrada de Humahuaca, 
Jujuy Province, Argentina

All photos 
Jim Reynolds

Rapid alluvial fan sedimentation  is a constant problem in the Quebrada de Humahuaca in the Cordillera Oriental of Jujuy Province. The major road and railroad to Bolivia are situated in the valley. Both are subject to burial from  flash floods emanating from side canyons. The railroad no longer services this area.

Bad things happen when debris flows come to visit. This house and the adjacent railroad station buildings near Purmamarca were filled with a debris flow during an event in the early 1980's. The buildings were abandoned but the railroad was excavated. Nature eventually won out. By the late 1980's the constant maintenance required to clear the debris flows caused the railroad to shut down too.

Buried roadbeds, railroad tracks, and bridges are an almost annual problem in the Quebrada de Humahuaca.

This photo, taken in 1994, shows that the bridge had become an impediment to sediment flow. A new bridge was being constructed just upstream. By the time we visited this site in August 2000, the bridge was partly buried and no longer usable. The new bridge alleviates the problem-- for now. 

This photo was taken in July 2000. The bridge in the photo above is now abandoned and is seen behind the buried railroad bridge in the foreground. Both bridges will serve as sediment dams insuring that the new bridge, from which this photo was taken, will soon meet the same fate.

I returned to this site in July 2001 and was surprised at the changes that took place in the intervening year (roll mouse over image). The provincial government removed both of the bridges seen in the earlier foto and excavated the built-up gravel to a point upstream of the new bridge on which I was standing. This should insure that useful life of the new bridge is longer than its two predecessors.

The Cerro de Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors) overlooks the indigenous village of Purmamarca in the Quebrada de Humahuaca. These K-T strata stand in stark contrast to the surrounding mountains composed of the Upper Proterozoic-Lower Cambrian Puncoviscana Formation. An excellent open air market is found around the town's central plaza.


Varigated strata of the K-T Yacoraite Limestone exposed at Maimara. The strata were deposited in the northern arm of the Salta Rift Basin known as the Tres Cruces sub-basin.

This often-photographed vista shows numerous mausoleums in the local cemetery scattered on a hillside just outside of Maimara.

Another scenic shot of the eastern wall of the Quebrada de Humahuaca between Maimara and Tilcara.

Smaller alluvial fans from the ranges on both sides of the Quebrada de Humahuaca contribute material to the valley fill. The K-T Yacoraite Limestone constitutes the varigated strata. The limestone was deposited in the Salta Rift Basin--an aulocogen developed during opening of the South Atlantic Ocean. These exposures are exposed near the town of Maimara.

High on the Puna jujeña are numerous evaporite basins. This one is Salina Grande. Salt is actively mined from this and other salt flats. Borax is the primary resource recovered from these basins.


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Last updated October 3, 2005