Laramide structure of the central Sangre de Cristo Mountains (Culebra Range) is interpreted as a system of west-dipping, basement-involved thrusts and reverse faults. The Culebra thrust is the dominant structure in the central part of the range; it dips 30 -55?? west and brings Precambrian metamorphic base-ment rocks over unmetamorphosed Paleozoic rocks. East of the Culebra thrust, thrusts and reverse faults break the basement and overlying cover rocks into north-trending fault blocks; these boundary faults probably dip 40-60?? westward. The orientation of fault slickensides indicates oblique (northeast) slip on the Culebra thrust and dip-slip (ranging from eastward to northward) movement on adjacent faults. In sedimentary cover rocks, east-vergent anticlines overlie and merge with thrusts and reverse faults; these anticlines are interpreted as fault-propagation folds. Minor east-dipping thrusts and reverse faults (backthrusts) occur in both the hanging walls and footwalls of thrusts. The easternmost faults and folds of the Culebra Range form a continuous structural boundary between the Laramide Sangre de Cristo highland and the Raton Basin. Boundary structures consist of west-dipping frontal thrusts flanked on the basinward side by poorly exposed, east-dipping backthrusts. The backthrusts are interpreted to overlie structural wedges that have been emplaced above blind thrusts in the basin margin. West-dipping frontal thrusts and blind thrusts are interpreted to involve basement, but backthrusts are rooted in basin-margin cover rocks. At shallow structural levels where erosion has not exposed a frontal thrust, the structural boundary of the basin is represented by an anticline or monocline. Based on both regional and local stratigraphic evidence, Laramide deformation in the Culebra Range and accompanying synorogenic sedimentation in the western Raton Basin probably took place from latest Cretaceous through early Eocene time. The earliest evidence of uplift and erosion of a highland is the appearance of abundant feldspar in the Late Cretaceous Vermejo Formation. Above the Vermejo, unconformities overlain by conglomerate indicate continued thrusting and erosion of highlands from late Cretaceous (Raton) through Eocene (Cuchara) time. Eocene alluvial-fan conglomerates in the Cuchara Formation may represent erosion of the Culebra thrust block. Deposition in the Raton Basin probably shifted north from New Mexico to southern Colorado from Paleocene to Eocene time as movement on individual thrusts depressed adjacent segments of the basin.
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Laramide structure of the central Sangre de Cristo Mountains and adjacent Raton Basin, southern Colorado