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Rock and Block Tour - Day Nine - Marble Falls to Cedar Park

Another day in Austin and a chance to dig deeper into the geology of the Llano uplift. Austin itself is surrounded by limestone sequences deposited in the late Mesozoic when the entire region was submerged under the Western Interior Seaway, an ocean that extended from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico. But west of Austin, beginning about Marble Falls, the limestone gives way to a massive granite batholith that intruded up through the Packsaddle Schist in the middle Precambrian era, about one billion years ago. The granite isn’t just older than the limestone, by about 800 million years, but harder and heavier as well.


We drove through Marble Falls on Farm to Market Road 1431, almost to the town of Granite Shoals. Although there is no marble in Marble Falls, there is definitely granite in Granite Shoals. In fact, there is granite in Marble Falls, and we stopped in to the Cold Spring Granite Marble Falls quarry. Coldspring, with corporate headquarters in Cold Spring Minnesota, is the largest dimension stone company in the United States. They have quarrying operations in fourteen states.

Carol Stiles met us in the showroom full of counter tops from as far away as Brazil. She listened patiently as we explained our idea of building green blocks in Texas. “Not many people ask about green” she admitted, although Coldspring corporate has a plan for waste reduction at their quarries. Carol pulled Cotton Joe up from the plant to take us on a tour. Cotton grabbed Ralph to join us.

Down by the quarry the scale was astounding. Exposed granite walls in the quarry fifty feet high, twenty-ton granite blocks scattered around like peanut shells on a barroom floor. I felt like I was in ancient Egypt. Back up to the “slab shop”: Multiple 16 foot wire saws at work under 60 foot gantry cranes. Blocks and slabs everywhere. I can’t believe there are this many kitchen countertops in the entire world, let alone the Dallas - Houston - Austin triangle.

We left Marble Falls with a bucket full of granite dust and headed back east, into the limestone and a final stop at Texas Quarries, Cedar Park plant. Texas Quarries produced the facing stone for Opus One Winery in Yountville, California, just north of the Watershed Materials factory in Napa.

Dustin Nash, sales manager, was one of the first people we’d met who seemed to "get" the idea of using quarry waste rock to make structural blocks. Maybe it was because Texas Quarries is already in the block business through its partnership with Acme Brick and Featherlite Block; or possibly it was just great luck at the end of the rock tour.

We leave Austin tomorrow, and start on the road west and back to California. We’ll miss that late afternoon sun lighting up the hills, canyons, and exposed strata that was always out there on the horizon.