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Caliche - Terminology

gtmtx's picture

Here in Texas, we use the the term "caliche" often to refer to a stone/clay mix for driveways in rural areas, however, I was wondering if that term is used in other parts of the country or is more regionally based.  I am originally from the Northeast (Upstate NY) and never recall hearing that term, but there is plenty of clay/stone soil here in Texas where as less so, at least in the part I am from.  I have also seen the term "road" base used to describe a similar product here in Texas.  Thanks.

I forget but... (post #207311, reply #1 of 8)

Seems like in geology it refers to some soil types with limestone deposits of recent origin or some such thing.

I do think your regional definition is indeed regional, like the highly technical term "blue gravel" used hereabouts.

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I encountered it in Mexico (post #207311, reply #2 of 8)

I encountered it in Mexico some years back, and there it referred to a "soil" that resembled finely crushed (maybe 1-2" screen) limestone with the "fines".  Aside from it's lack (in the area where I was) of large aggregate, it would make an excellent "road base" or whatever -- it compacts well and seemed to have plenty of fractured surface (for reasons I don't understand).

In any event, digging through the stuff required a pickaxe -- A shovel tip would penetrate maybe an inch.

I've never encountered anything similar in Kentucky or Minnesota, and I doubt that it's common outside of the Southwest.


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

In soil taxonomy, caliche is an aridisol, meaning (post #207311, reply #3 of 8)

that it forms in arid or semi-arid regions (hence, you won't find it in most parts of US).  I believe that it forms when calcium carbonate cements together gravel and soil particles into what is basically a sedimentary rock.

Geologist.... (post #207311, reply #4 of 8)

...here.  Caliche in soil science terms means a limy evaporative deposit formed in the soil profile by the evaporation of mineral rich groundwater, which leaves behind it's load of minerals, similar to lime scale in pipes.  It only occurs in arid regions where evaporation exceeds rainfall, such as the SW US and parts of Mexico.  It can be many feet thick.

In construction terms, at least here in central TX, caliche is more of a catch-all term for any lime rich base used in road and pad building, such as true caliche or decomposed limestone.  The best material usually has some clay content and angular rock fragments, as someone mentioned.

 

Thanks for posting the follow additional info, which I was too (post #207311, reply #5 of 8)

lazy to look up.  It's amazing the breadth of knowledge that you see on this forum.

Had it in Tucson (post #207311, reply #6 of 8)

When I lived in AZ it was a common term. Yup, a pain to dig through.


There are 10 kinds of people in this world; those who understand binary and those who do not.


Thanks for the feedback, (post #207311, reply #7 of 8)

Thanks for the feedback, pretty much what I thought.  I was looking for "stone dust" here in Houston and when I asked a few supply yards they looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language.  There are certainly regional terms.

I think "stone dust" is a (post #207311, reply #8 of 8)

I think "stone dust" is a pretty common term -- EXCEPT in that part of the country, where caliche serves the same purpose and can often be dug from your back yard.


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville