Earth Fissures in Arizona

The Arizona Geological Survey has been busy mapping the many earth fissures in Arizona. Most earth fissures occur in the corridor between Tucson and Phoenix, and from Phoenix west along interstate 10 (see map below).

Earth fissures develop from soil compaction associated with extensive pumping of groundwater. The fissures range in width from a few inches to tens of feet. Length of the fissures ranges from hundreds of feet to miles.

These fissures pose danger to cattle, wildlife, and unwary humans. The presence or possibility of a fissure-prone area also has implications for municipal planners, developers, highways, and railroads. And, because they tend to develop perpendicular to surface drainage, they can capture runoff and develop into large gullies.

The gateway to the Survey’s many maps and reports is the Earth Fissure Viewer, an interactive map that allows you to zoom in on areas and get detailed maps. Maps, reports, and photos are also available at the Survey’s Earth Fissure Center.




  1. Every time I read about the fissures around Eloy I am reminded of the legendary lost city of Ubar, which is mentioned in the Koran. A filmmaker turned archaeologist, Nicolas Clapp, documented his quest to find the city in his book, The Road to Ubar. Legend has it that Ubar was a great and wealthy city that catastrophically disappeared, as had been prophesied, as God’s judgment on the immoral behavior of its people.

    Using modern tools including NASA satellites, archaeological experts and the scientific method, Clapp tracked down the ancient city to a location in Oman. He determined that the city was a major stopping point with a large well on the frankincense trail. He concluded that city suddenly collapsed into the earth because the residents had overdrawn the water table.

  2. Just north of Picacho Peak one of the fissures crosses I-19…you will notice the drop in the road as you cross it….every few years they have to fix the pavement.

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