Evanescent-wave cavity ring-down spectroscopy has been applied to a planar fused-silica surface covered with crystal violet (CV+) cations to characterize the silanol groups indirectly. A radiation-polarization dependence of the adsorption isotherm of CV+ at the CH3CN/silica interface is measured and fit to a two-site Langmuir equation to determine the relative populations of two different types of isolated silanol groups. CV+ binding at type I sites yields a free energy of adsorption of -29.9 +/- 0.2 kJ/mol and a saturation surface density of (7.4 +/- 0.5) x 10(12) cm(-2), whereas the values of -17.9 +/- 0.4 kJ/mol and (3.1 +/- 0.4) x 10(13) cm(-2) are obtained for the type II sites. The CV+ cations, each with a planar area of approximately 120 A2, seem to be aligned randomly while lying over the SiO- type I sites, thereby suggesting that this type of site may be surrounded by a large empty surface area (>480 A2). In contrast, the CV+ cations on a type II sites are restricted with an average angle of approximately 40 degrees tilted off the surface normal, suggesting that the CV+ cations on these sites are grouped closely together. The average tilt angle increases with increasing concentration of crystal violet so that CV+ cations may be separated from each other to minimize the repulsion of nearby CV+ and SiOH sites.