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The early Pleistocene Rocky Flats alluvial fan formed at the mouth of unglaciated Coal Creek Canyon along the eastern flank of the Colorado Front Range. The fan consists of boulder, cobble, and pebble gravel deposited on an erosional surface cut on tilted Mesozoic sedimentary strata. A north-trending hogback of steeply dipping Cretaceous Laramie Formation and Fox Hills Sandstone is exposed through the gravel across the central portion of the fan. Elevations on the gravel-bedrock contact were used in a GIS to reconstruct the bedrock surface at the base of the gravel, providing a glimpse of the geomorphology of the early Pleistocene Colorado Piedmont. The reconstructed erosional bedrock surface portrays a landscape carved by a series of easterly flowing streams that eroded headward to the resistant hogback units, creating a bedrock step up to 37 m high. East-trending ridges on the bedrock surface are remnants of drainage divides between the Pleistocene streams. Water gaps in the bedrock step allowed the streams access to the upper surface of the step. This entire surface, except the hogback, was covered by gravel about 1.35 to 1.5 Ma ago. Subsequent erosion of the alluvial fan has been by headward (westward) erosion of easterly flowing streams incising into the eastern portion of the fan. Because the gravel is more resistant than the underlying bedrock, modern streams are established over the Pleistocene drainage divides, where the gravel was thinnest. Thicker gravel in the Pleistocene paleovalleys now caps modern drainage divides, producing an inverted topography.
Additional Publication Details
Bedrock erosion surface beneath the rocky flats alluvial fan, Jefferson and Boulder counties, Colorado