Jun 272017
 
OF-16-02 Geologic Map of the Watkins Quadrangle, Arapahoe and Adams Counties, Colorado

We’ve just uploaded the next of our free STATEMAP quadrangle map products to our online store: the Geologic Map of the Watkins Quadrangle, Arapahoe and Adams Counties, Colorado. The STATEMAP series in general provides a detailed description of the geology, mineral and ground-water resource potential, and the geologic hazards of an area. Digital PDF/ZIP download.

Location of the Watkins Quadrangle, Arapahoe and Adams Counties, Colorado.

Location of the Watkins Quadrangle, Arapahoe and Adams Counties, Colorado.

Matt Morgan, Senior Research Geologist and CGS Deputy Director, along with Senior Engineering Geologist (Emeritus) Jon White generated this map with special input from Richard Madole (surficial geology) and Shannon Mahan (OSL analysis), both of the USGS. This free release from the CGS includes two PDF plates (with a geologic map, cross-section with correlation, oblique 3D view, and legend) along with the corresponding GIS data package that allows for digital viewing, all in a single ZIP file.

This mapping project was funded jointly by the U.S. Geological Survey through the STATEMAP component of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, which is authorized by the National Geologic Mapping Act of 1997, and also by the CGS using the Colorado Department of Natural Resources Severance Tax Operational Funds. The CGS matching funds come from the severance paid on the production of natural gas, oil, coal, and metals. Geologic maps produced through the STATEMAP program are multi-purpose information sources useful for land-use planning, geotechnical engineering, geologic-hazard assessment, mineral-resource development, and ground-water exploration.

This particular 7.5-minute, 1:24,000 quadrangle is situated within the Denver Basin, a Laramide-age structural basin that is an important resource for water along with oil & gas. Growth of the Denver Metro area is occurring in the northern half of the quadrangle which is crossed by Interstate 70 and is minutes from Denver International Airport. Dips within the quadrangle typically range from 3° to 7° to the N-NE which reflects the regional structural dip of the basin. Bedrock units consist of the lower part of the Dawson Arkose and the Denver Formation. The widespread Dawson Arkose is white to tan in color and composed of cross-bedded arkoses, pebbly arkoses and arkosic pebble conglomerates with sparse claystone and siltstone beds. The arkoses were shed off the uplifting Front Range into the subsiding Denver Basin during the latter phases of the Laramide Orogeny. Cobble-rich conglomeratic lenses were recognized in the lower part of the Dawson Arkose and represent localized flooding events in a typically quiet fluvial environment. The Denver Formation is finer grained, more clay rich, and yellower in color than the overlying Dawson Arkose and is part of a low-energy alluvial plain environment also related to the Laramide. The units are separated by a basin-wide, yet occasionally discontinuous variegated paleosol that is a regional unconformity and an important time-stratigraphic marker at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary.

Surficial deposits consist of middle Pleistocene to Holocene flood-plain and terrace-forming alluviums and Holocene sand deposits of predominantly eolian origin. The sand deposits are composed of disaggregated sediments derived from the weathering and subsequent mobilization of the underlying Dawson Arkose. New Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) ages, collected during this project, indicate that these eolian deposits were first active during the lowermost Holocene. High-level gravel deposits of Neogene-early Quaternary age cap isolated buttes in the southern half of the quadrangle. These gravels consist of cobbles and boulders of granite, quartzite, sandstone and tuffaceous igneous rocks and were likely derived from the erosion of the late Eocene Castle Rock Conglomerate.

Citation: Morgan, Matthew L., and Jonathan L. White. “OF-16-02 Geologic Map of the Watkins Quadrangle, Arapahoe and Adams Counties, Colorado” Geologic. Open File Reports. Golden, CO: Colorado Geological Survey, 2016.
May 152017
 

Can you name the features of the endless Rocky Mountain skyline as seen from the Front Range? Where are they actually located? The OF-16-03 Colorado Rocky Mountain Front Profiles poster is the key to finding out. Similar profiles created in the past featured approximate or artistic interpretations of the many summits. This poster accurately locates the elevation points as they exist in geographic space.

The CGS is proud to present this unique perspective of the dramatic Front Range of Colorado as a large 54×28 in (137×71 cm) poster offset-printed on premium glossy stock. The author and designer of this special edition poster, Larry Scott, is a long-time member of the CGS staff. A talented illustrator, he handles the design work on our maps, books, pamphlets, posters, and other print material. This special project is the realization of his long-standing interest in Colorado topography.

The elevation profiles are drafted horizon lines of the heights of the Continental Divide eastward towards the High Plains. Each mesa, hogback, hill, mountain top, and points in between were plotted by intersecting its specific elevation with its latitude. The relative viewing elevation is about 9,500 ft (2900 m), the halfway point of the vertical scale. This allows one to see what cannot typically be seen from ground-level along the Front Range. If you’ve ever flown into/out of Denver International Airport — altitude 5430 ft (1655 m) — and are sitting on the west side of the plane, this is what you might see a few minutes after taking off or before landing. From this vantage, many of the great mountain ranges of central Colorado to come into view; the Sangre de Cristo, the Sawatch, the Mosquito, and others up to and occasionally beyond the Continental Divide.

Below the three profiles are 32 selected highlights of notable geographic, historic, and geologic locations as indicated via numbered circles. Many of these cite special locations for viewing the various peaks and summits. For example, on a clear day in Denver — something that happens around 300+ days a year — a perfect place to see the mountain horizon is from City Park on the west steps of the Museum of Nature and Science. At an elevation of 5,500 ft (1675 m), this panoramic vista includes much of the Front Range with the downtown Denver skyline in the foreground.


From the Explanation:

Each profile is a one-degree section beginning in the south at 37° 42′, the central section at 38° 42’, and the northern section at 39° 42’. As the south-north extent of Colorado lies between 37° and 41° latitude, these profiles represent three-quarters of the Colorado Rocky Mountain Front Range. This refers the region of mountains that descend to the plains from the Pikes Peak massif in the south, north to the Wyoming border and inclusive of all summits east to the Continental Divide. South of Pikes Peak, the mountains begin to trend southwesterly all the way to Cañon City where the Arkansas River cuts through the Royal Gorge and flows out onto the piedmont. South of Cañon City, the Wet Mountains form a barrier that drops to the plains along Interstate-25 (I-25). Further south, though not shown, the mountains lay more to the west in a broad stretch, dramatically reappearing in the form of the Spanish Peaks, which extend eastward from the spine of the southernmost Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado, the Culebra Range. To the north, beyond Rocky Mountain National Park, the mountains descend steadily to the Cache la Poudre River, marking the terminus of the Northern Section.

An excerpt:

Clear Creek Canyon — Long before there was an I-70 to access the high country there were only Native American foot trails along Clear Creek. In 1858, after trace amounts of gold were discovered in Cherry Creek south of Denver, gold seekers soon began looking in the mountains. Early in January 1859, George Jackson found gold at “Jacksons Bar”, where Chicago Creek joins Clear Creek in present-day Idaho Springs. The “gold rush” was on and the canyon became the gateway to the mining camps, most notably those in the Central City area via North Clear Creek. The Colorado Central Railroad (1871-1939) occupied the canyon in those days, later becoming the roadbed for US-6. The road was not completed in the canyon until 1952 due to political infighting and the time needed to complete six tunnels in the narrow spots. Rockfall remains a constant threat along the Canyon, with a notably large event closing the road in the summer of 2005 for almost three months—the longest full-road closure in state history.


Citation: Scott, Lawrence. OF-16-03 Colorado Rocky Mountain Front Profiles. Profile. Open File Report. Golden, CO: Colorado Geological Survey, May 2017.
Apr 122017
 

We just uploaded the most recent of our STATEMAP mapping products to our online store: the Geologic Map of the Longmont Quadrangle, Boulder and Weld Counties, Colorado. The STATEMAP series in general provides a detailed description of the geology, mineral and ground-water resource potential, and the geologic hazards of an area. This particular 7.5-minute, 1:24,000 quadrangle is located immediately east of the Front Range uplift of Colorado and includes most of the town of Longmont within its borders. The geologic map plates were created via traditional field mapping, structural measurements, photographs, and field notes acquired by the investigators. Richard F. Madole, Scientist Emeritus at the USGS was the lead geologist for the project. This free release from the CGS includes two plates (with a geologic map, cross-section with correlation, oblique 3D view, legend, and description) along with the corresponding GIS data package that allows for digital viewing, all in a single zip file.

From the map history:

The Longmont quadrangle is in the northern part of the Colorado Piedmont, which is a section of the Great Plains that is bounded on the west by the Front Range and on the east by the High Plains section of the Great Plains. It is distinguished primarily by the fact that it has been stripped of the Miocene fluvial rocks (Arikaree and Ogallala Formations) that cover most of the High Plains. Headward erosion of the South Platte and Arkansas Rivers and their tributaries caused most of the stripping. Like much of the Colorado Piedmont, the Longmont quadrangle is an area of low hills and plains underlain by Upper Cretaceous (100–66 Ma) sedimentary rocks. Most of these rocks consist of fine-grained sediment (clay, silt, and fine sand) that accumulated in a broad seaway (Western Interior Seaway). This seaway connected the areas of the present-day Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico and extended from Minnesota and western Iowa on the east to central Utah on the west.

Even before urbanization, Upper Cretaceous bedrock was exposed in only a few places in the Longmont quadrangle because loess of late Pleistocene age (126 ka to 11.7 ka) blankets about 85 percent of the area. Deposition of most loess is attributed to northwesterly winds, which during the last glaciation (between about 40 ka and 12 ka) were stronger than they are today, blowing across extensive areas upwind from the Longmont quadrangle that are underlain by siltstone, mudstone, and shale. Thus, eolian sediment covers almost all bedrock and surficial deposits (loose, uncemented sediment as opposed to rock) that were at the surface prior to the end of the last glaciation. The floors of the major streams in the Longmont quadrangle also bear the imprint of Pleistocene glaciations. The gravel deposits that are mined in several places along St. Vrain and Boulder Creeks consist mostly of granitic and gneissic rocks that were derived from the Front Range and transported to the piedmont during glaciation. The headwaters of the St. Vrain, Lefthand, and Boulder Creeks were glaciated repeatedly during Pleistocene time. The principal glaciers in these areas were 10–12 miles (16-20 km) long and as much as 600–1150 ft (2-350 m) thick.

This mapping project was funded jointly by the U.S. Geological Survey through the STATEMAP component of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, which is authorized by the National Geologic Mapping Act of 1997, and also by the CGS using the Colorado Department of Natural Resources Severance Tax Operational Funds. The CGS matching funds come from the severance paid on the production of natural gas, oil, coal, and metals. Geologic maps produced through the STATEMAP program are intended as multi-purpose maps useful for land-use planning, geotechnical engineering, geologic-hazard assessment, mineral-resource development, and ground-water exploration.

Citation: Madole, Richard F. Geologic Map of the Longmont Quadrangle, Boulder and Weld Counties, Colorado. Geology. Open File Reports. Golden, CO: Colorado Geological Survey, April 2017.
Mar 142017
 

We just found out about this year’s Cumbres & Toltec Geology Train adventure in southwest Colorado/northwest New Mexico — 18 June 2017. It’s a special opportunity to enjoy some of that Rio Grande Rift, Brazos Uplift, Tusas Mountains, San Luis Basin, and San Juan Sag scenery.

Our very own Peter Barkmann, geologist extraordinaire and veteran Geology Train guide, will be on board for an informative and energized day in the high country.

On June 18th, a special train will depart to traverse spectacular geology along the 64 miles of Cumbres & Toltec track. But simply experiencing the incredible overviews of the Rio Grande Rift, the eruptive evidence of the San Juan Volcanic field, the Precambrian core of the Tusas Mountains, recent glacial deposits, and snapshots of the Jurassic, will not be enough. This special train will stop at many outcrops and rail cuts along the right of way, to mingle, marvel and collect photographs, samples and experiences only accessible on the train route.

ALL ABOARD!

Feb 242017
 

One of the many fascinating videos from our geo-friends up the road at University of Colorado-Boulder.

The Interactive Geology Project was formed in 2002 by professor Paul Weimer and colleagues with the goal of producing short 3D animations about the geologic evolution of key US national parks. The first major project focused on the geology of the Colorado National Monument and is still on display in the park’s visitor center. Over time our focus shifted from national parks to animating Colorado’s geologic history, with a key goal of developing a series of 5-10 minute vignettes covering each geologic time period.

The current group of animators joined the project in the summer of 2011. In 2013 we began a major collaboration with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to explore new ways of using 3D technology in earth science education. We work with top subject-area experts to ensure our animations are as scientifically accurate and up-to-date as possible.

Our projects are on display in museums, parks, and other venues across Colorado, the Western US, and Canada. All of our work is also available to the general public free of charge on our website and our Vimeo page.

Feb 142017
 

Uranium is a widespread and ubiquitous element. It has a crustal abundance of 2.8 parts per million, slightly more than tin. Primary deposits of uranium tend to concentrate in granitic or alkalic volcanic rocks, hydrothermal veins, marine black shales, and early Precambrian age placer deposits. Secondary (or epigenetic) deposits of uranium are formed later than the surrounding rocks that host the mineral deposit. Uranium is soluble in oxidizing aqueous solutions, especially the U+6 valence state, and can be redistributed from primary source rocks into porous sedimentary rocks and structures by groundwater and form secondary (epigenetic) uranium mineral deposits.

Epigenetic deposits of uranium in sedimentary rocks form the bulk of uranium deposits in Colorado. These include the many mines of the Uravan, Cochetopa, Maybe, and Rifle districts, and other scattered places including the Front Range and Denver Basin. Primary uranium deposits in Colorado occur in hydrothermal veins, especially in the Front Range. Continue reading »

Jan 312017
 

A collaboration between the CGS and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS) has resulted in a new stratigraphic chart for the state of Colorado. This beautifully (offset-)printed 42″ x 39″ color chart was designed from the ground up to illustrate the Proterozoic to Holocene stratigraphy that spans the state’s many sedimentary basins. A collaborative effort led by Robert Raynolds and James Hagadorn, the chart builds upon the work of dozens of colleagues and updates Richard Pearl’s seminal 1974 stratigraphy chart. The chart leverages the community’s stratigraphic work in both the subsurface and outcrop, and depicts new geochronologic constraints for many units. To facilitate comparison of strata to external forcing factors, the chart employs a linear timescale. Each unit’s dominant depositional environment is depicted as are major mountain building events, erosional events, and regional unconformities. Printed on heavy-duty 100# coated cover stock, these rolled posters may be purchased from the CGS online bookstore. They will make a fine gift for geoscientists, rockhounds, or anyone interested in how Colorado’s magnificent landscapes came to be.



From the chart itself:

Colorado’s stratigraphy is dominated by gaps. The distribution of strata reflects the tectonic and climatic evolution of each of the region’s eleven basin areas, depicted in the map below. To foster comparison of these patterns, we have organized the stratigraphy using a linear timescale and illustrated where orogenic uplift has led to removal of strata or nondeposition. Not all orogenic features are illustrated on the chart. For example, some orogenies caused sediment ponding and accumulation in intermontane basins, such as during the Laramide in northwestern Colorado. In the past ~10 Ma, regional uplift has raised Colorado and has allowed the modern landscapes to be created due to erosion. The chart’s color scheme for stratigraphic units gives a sense of dominant lithologies and depositional environments across basins. Updates to this chart, as well as additional stratigraphic resources, such as stratigraphic and structural cross-sections, may be found at http://coloradostratigraphy.org. To learn more about the unit names on this chart, resources are available at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Geolex site. This chart scaffolds on the work of Richard H. Pearl’s 1977 compilation (Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists, Special Publication 2). With the exception of the Carboniferous and Permian periods, this data has been re-cast against the International Commission on Stratigraphy’s chronostratigraphic chart v. 2015/01, updated at http://stratigraphy.org.


Citation: Raynolds, R. G., and James W. Hagadorn. “MS-53 Colorado Stratigraphy Chart.” Stratigraphic. Map Series 53. Denver, CO: Colorado Geological Survey and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, January 2017.