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.
Feb 062017
 

With all the precipitation in the Rockies this year (we’re at +153% normal snowpack at the moment), we thought we would re-release a publication that highlights at least one important aspect of Colorado snowfall — that is, the significant danger of avalanches. The Snowy Torrents: Avalanche Accidents in the United States 1980-86, compiled and written by Nick Logan and Dale Atkins and illustrated with Larry Scott’s fine pencil drawings, was first published in 1996. We still have a few hard-copies available and, because of that, yes, we do charge for the PDF download. However, Larry went back and re-made the PDF from the original publication file, producing a file that is far better than the rather poor digital scan we had offered previously.

The volume details 146 oft-times harrowing stories surrounding avalanches, the lives they claim, survivors and witnesses, along with assessments as to what happened, why it happened, and what could have been done to prevent loss of life and/or property. The authors are never judgmental, and their clear-eyed accounts contain a wealth of wisdom that will add to the knowledge-base of any winter backcountry enthusiast.


Citation: Logan, Nick, and Dale Atkins. SP-39 The Snowy Torrents: Avalanche Accidents in the United States, 1980–86. Special Publications 39. Denver, CO: Colorado Geological Survey, Department of Natural Resources, 1996.
Feb 012017
 

By Jill Carlson

On March 23, 2003, a large avalanche occurred about one mile west of the Town of Silver Plume. The avalanche brought trees, rock, soil and snow to the valley floor, knocked down overhead utility lines, blocked the I-70 frontage road, damaged the town’s water treatment plant (WTP), and dammed Clear Creek. The dam was breached using explosives before the plant’s electric pump motors were flooded. With damage to the WTP’s chlorine contact tank and building, Silver Plume residents had to boil their tap water for over a month.

The avalanche occurred three days after near-record snowfall. It was triggered by additional snow loading in the starting zone caused by a change in wind direction, and began in a known avalanche path above timberline on Pendleton Mountain. Its unusually large volume and velocity caused it to unexpectedly reach the valley floor, along a path not previously identified as an avalanche chute. Rick Gaubatz, the Town’s water commissioner, counted 110 rings in a spruce tree that was found in the avalanche debris at the damaged WTP, indicating that an avalanche of similar magnitude had not occurred in the immediate area in at least 110 years.

Avalanche debris in the runout zone taken by Xcel Energy from a helicopter on the morning after the avalanche occurred, 24 March, 2003.

Avalanche debris in the runout zone taken by Xcel Energy from a helicopter on the morning after the avalanche occurred, 24 March 2003.

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.
Jan 122017
 

At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Century, some of the first settlers of the plateau region of western Colorado along the Colorado River, and the Uncompahgre and Paonia river basins, looked to fruit crops for their livelihood. The semi-arid but moderate climate was well suited for fruit orchards once irrigation canal systems could be constructed.

But serious problems occurred when certain lands were first broken out for agriculture and wetted by irrigation. They sank, so much in places (up to four feet!) that irrigation-canal flow directions were reversed, ponding occurred, and whole orchards, newly planted with fruit trees imported by rail and wagon at considerable expense, were lost. While not understood, fruit growers and agriculturists began to recognize the hazards of sinking ground. Horticulturists with the Colorado Agricultural College and Experimental Station (the predecessor of Colorado State University) made one of the first references to collapsible soil in their 1910 publication, Fruit-Growing in Arid Regions: An Account of Approved Fruit-Growing Practices in the Inter-Mountain Country of Western United States (pdf download). They warned about sinking ground and in their chapter, Preparation of Land for Planting, made one of the first recommendations for mitigation of the hazard. They stated that when breaking out new land for fruit orchards, the fields should be flood irrigated for a suitable time to induce soil collapse, before final grading of the orchard field, irrigation channels excavation, and planting the fruit tree seedlings. Continue reading »

Jan 112017
 

Regarding the Colorado Geological Survey (an article appearing in the Mining Reporter, March 1907):

We note that one of our contemporaries, in recently commenting on the University bill creating a State Geological Survey of Colorado — the bill reported favorably on by the joint Senate and House mining committee — voices in no uncertain language its regret at the “truly pitiable outcome of the effort to establish a Geological Survey of Colorado.” In a lengthy and well-written editorial, criticism is made of the proposed advisory board, particularly of the placing thereon of the presidents of the State University and the State Agricultural College; also, having the survey located at Boulder instead of Denver; of the naming as state geologist, the professor of geology of the State University, who may be a good teacher, but who, like the majority, may or may not be an effective executive; and lastly, of the paltry appropriation of $5,000 annually for this important work in a state productive of $50,000,000 and more yearly.

Exception is also taken to the naming of state institution teachers as assistants to the State Geologist, who ought to have the assistance of men less academic and having a knowledge of the exploitation of ore deposits and of the search for them.

This editorial expression, coming from a former Coloradoan, is worthy of consideration. It is in accord, in large part, with our own views, as our readers know. In addition to the criticisms made by our contemporary, we would like to emphasize another objectionable feature in this favorably reported bill, viz., the naming of any one as state geologist who is not to devote his entire time to the survey work. — from the Mining Reporter, vol. LV, March 28, 1907, no. 13, Denver, Colorado.

We’re happy to say that our current efforts to provide professional geologic information to the residents of Colorado far exceed the original scope of responsibilities and possibilities of the Territorial Geologist. But like those old-time miners, walking the mountains of this beautiful state, we also share a real passion for what we are doing.

You can find an in-depth history of the Survey and its 1872-legislated precursor, the office of Territorial Geologist, in IS-27 History of The Colorado Geological Survey (1872-1988), a free PDF download at our bookstore.


Citation: Rold, J. W., and S. D. Schwochow. IS-27 History of The Colorado Geological Survey (1872-1988). Information Series, IS-27. Denver, CO: Colorado Geological Survey, Department of Natural Resources, 1989.