MI-29 Geology of Boulder, Colorado, U.S.A.


“A report of geologic influences on the location, development, and future of the Boulder metropolitan area,” this publication is a reprint of an article in the Bulletin of the Association of Engineering Geologists Vol. 24, no. 3 (August 1987), pps. 293–330. Digital PDF download. MI-29D

From the Abstract:

Boulder, Colorado is situated in one of the most scenic areas along the Front Range of the Southern Rocky Mountains. The city is located on the western edge of the Denver Basin and is surrounded by the economic mineral deposits that first brought development to the area: gold and silver to the west, coal, oil and gas to the south, east and north. Sand and gravel deposits have been identified and a county wide master plan has been developed for their extraction. In spite of the city’s and county’s far-sighted and informed leadership, some problems relating to geologic and hydrologic processes have occurred. Marshall Landfill, a solid waste disposal facility, has so seriously contaminated surface and ground water with hazardous waste that it is on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund Cleanup list. The first phase of remedial action taken at this site cost nearly a half million dollars.

Much of the city is built within flood plains and significant property damage is expected in the event of a 100-yr or larger flood. Expansive and collapsible soils cause a significant amount of property damage each year although design solutions are well known and effective if constructed properly. Numerous landslides and debris flows have occurred within the city causing damage and are likely to cause more damage in the future. South of the city there are numerous abandoned underground coal mines. Subsidence over these mines has become a problem as housing development moves into the area. Boulder is addressing these geologic and hydrogeologic hazards through city, county, and state programs aimed at identifying and quantifying the hazard and implementing governmental regulation designed to discourage irresponsible land use.