Evolution of the Creede Caldera and its relation to mineralization in the Creede mining district, Colorado

GSA Special Papers

, , and



At 25 Ma a major epithermal silver and base metal deposit formed in rhyolitic welded tuff near Creede, Colorado. Nearly 24000 metric tons of silver, appreciable lead, and small amounts of zinc, copper, and gold, have been produced from large, crustified veins under Bachelor and Bulldog Mountains north and northwest of Creede. Prior geologic, hydrologic, and stable-isotope studies showed that ore deposition was associated with the mixing and boiling of waters from diverse sources and suggester that a critical part of the ore-forming fluid may have originated within the ancient lake and sediments of the lacustrine Creede Formation that filled the Creede caldera. Two drill holes that sampled the heretofore hidden lower half of the Creede Formation are the focus of this book. The Creede caldera formed at 26.9 Ma within a high constructional plateau of silicic ashflows that covered and were sporadically interlayed with, intermediate lavas and lahars from large stratovolcanoes. The Creede caldera lake had an inflow evaporation balance that did not permit rapid filling to create a brim-full deep lake. Thus salts were evaporatively concentrated; but, with the exception of possible gypsum, no evaporite minerals preserved. Cool springs deposited travertine as mounds and contributed to limestone interlaminations within the sediment. The lake bottom was anoxic, and bacterial reduction of sulfate led to extreme sulfur isotopic fractionation in diagenetic pyrite. The caldera gradually resurged, converting the initial equant lake into an arcuate moat. Resurgent doming, alluvial fans, lacustrine sediments, ashfalls, and lava domes displaced water, lifted the lake so that it overlapped what later became the southern edge of the mineralized are, and eventually filled the basin. At 25.1 Ma an unseen pluton intruded beneath the northen part of the Creede district and created a convecting olume that drew in brine from the Creede caldera fill, meteotic water from highlands to the north, and possibly a fluid carrying radiogenic lead. These waters mixed and boiled as they approached the surface and moved southward, deposited a zoned epithermal deposit a few hundred meters below the paleosurface, and finally discharged into the top of the Creede Formation. The sulfide in the ores was the igneous derivation, but the sulfate was a mixture of biogenic sulfur from the Creede Formation, oxidized igneous sulfide, and thermochemically reduced and partially oxygen exchanged sulfate. The studies of the Creede caldera provide key observational and conceptual elements for the generalized model of the Creede ore deposit. The relation of the Creed ore deposit to a brine reservoir has broad significance because other brine accumulations (as in the Great Basin, the Green River Basin, or the playas of the Altiplano offer similar setting and exploration opportunities.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Evolution of the Creede Caldera and its relation to mineralization in the Creede mining district, Colorado
Series title:
GSA Special Papers
Year Published:
Geological Society of America
Contributing office(s):
Denver Federal Center
26 p.
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
GSA Special Papers
First page:
Last page:
United States