Colorado Geology

From the low-lying eastern plains, to the central peaks soaring more than 14,000 feet above sea level, to the western red-rock canyons: the colorful landscape of Colorado embodies some of the most varied, spectacular, and well-displayed geology in the nation. The evolution of the rocks, climate, life, and structures that formed during the Colorado’s 2.7 billion year geologic history offers marvelous insights into the global science of geology. This diverse region provides not only rich mineral and energy resources, but also presents geological hazards that deserve great respect.

Explore and enjoy this section about Colorado’s magnificent geology.

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Following are a few quotes from earlier geologists. If you would like to have a wonderful primer on Colorado’s colorful geology, order a printed copy of Messages in Stone: Colorado’s Colorful Geology a perennial favorite of locals and visitors alike.


On all the broad extent of these United States, certainly no region can be found which presents more facts of interest, more opportunities for investigation, and greater possibilities, than the State of Colorado.

— Samuel F. Emmons, geologist on the King Survey of the 40th Parallel from California to Colorado from 1867 to 1872; Director of the Rocky Mountain Division of the United States Geological Survey; and the first president of the Colorado Scientific Society, from his inaugural address.


I do not know of any portion of the West where there is so much variety displayed in the geology as within a space of ten miles square around Colorado City (today’s Colorado Springs). Nearly all the elements of geological study revealed in the Rocky Mountains are shown on a unique scale in this locality.

— F. V. Hayden, geological expedition leader to the Colorado region between 1869 to 1876, from the first expedition report.


The geology of Colorado is written in the rocks. From this great book are here presented a few translations of a few paragraphs. The scenery of Colorado is a gallery incomparable. Words lack form and light – the essence and soul of scenery. At best they can but call attention to the elements associated in the picture. They cannot convey the beauty and harmony of the assemblage.

— The first director (1908-26) of the Colorado Geological Survey, Russell D. George, in the preface to his 1927 book, Geology and Natural Resources of Colorado.


Pictured right, from top to bottom:

Red Rocks Park on the west side of Denver. Red strata of the Pennsylvanian/Permian Fountain formation rest on Precambrian metamorphic rocks.

Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks in Unaweep Canyon.

Mesozoic age sedimentary rocks along the Dolores River.

Echo Park and Steamboat Rock in Dinosaur National Monument near the confluence of the Yampa and Green Rivers.

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"Red Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks in Unaweep Canyon. Mesozoic age sedimentary rocks along the Dolores River.  Echo Park and Steamboat Rock in Dinosaur National Monument near the confluence of the Yampa and Green Rivers.