Geology

Sumak Kawsay In Situ is located in the foothills of the Andes, where the lowland Amazon basin merges with lush mountains. The region is still very geologically active, and hosts a fascinating composition of rocks, caves, and cliffs. The upper Anzu is dominated by a limestone karst topography. This distinctive landscape is characterized by a process called dissolution, in which the highly soluble bedrock is dissolved by groundwater.

 Limestone, a sedimentary rock made up of calcium carbonate, is one type of soluble rock that produces karst topography. Through this process of dissolution many caves and sinkholes are produced. In fact, only a couple kilometers from SKIS there is a river, the Río Seco (Dry River), which drains out entirely into underground passages and caverns.

The upper Río Anzu region perfectly exemplifies these geological processes and formations. In the Anzu gorge of the Ecominga Foundation's Río Anzu reserve, you can step out onto large boulders littering the banks of the river, and look up to see layers of dripping, stratified cliff faces receding back into the lush forest of the opposite slope. Peering upstream, you’ll see the clear water of the Anzu cascading over ledges and rushing alongside smooth limestone bluffs where ground water spills out of holes in the porous rock.

Turning your focus to the stones beneath your feet, you’ll likely notice an assortment of crustacean fossils, the remnants of marine animals from a shallow ocean that covered this area millions of years ago.

Following a tributary creek back into the jungle and upstream, you may eventually find its source emerging from a cave at the base of a cliff. Venturing into the cave you might enter a large room, where 50,000 year old stalagmites and stalactites form a cathedral home for sleeping bats and blind crustaceans.

In addition to the activity of the Mera plateau, there are snow capped volcanoes visible from SKIS. Sangay, a volcano standing 5,300 meters tall, is the most active volcano in Ecuador, and can be see on a clear day from the main building at SKIS. Altares, also visible from SKIS, is slightly taller than Sangay, and maybe even more magnificent!

The geology of the Anzu intimately interacts with the surrounding environment, forming one of the most unique ecosystems in the world. Furthermore, the geological story of the area is quite interesting. The upper Amazon basin, specifically a geological zone called the Mera plateau, is actually rising! The region experiences a rate of uplift around 2.8cm a year. This and other processes have lead to the formation of the world’s largest tropical alluvial megafan.

Sangay Volcano, photographed from SKIS

Tungurahua is a stratovolcano located outside of Baños, and it has erupted off and on since 1999- the spewing magma and fuming ash visible from SKIS during these events. Needless to say, if you’re interested in geology, you might have trouble leaving Sumak at the end of your visit!

 Have questions about the geology at Sumak Kawsay In Situ? Contact us and our Geologist, MAtt Bentley, will answer you best he can!