New 1:24,000-scale geologic mapping in the Colorado National Monument Quadrangle and adjacent areas, in support of the USGS Western Colorado I-70 Corridor Cooperative Geologic Mapping Project, provides new interpretations of and data for the stratigraphy, structure, geologic hazards in the area from the Colorado River in Grand Valley onto the Uncompahgre Plateau. The plateau drops abruptly along northwest-trending structures toward the northeast 800 m to the Redlands area and the Colorado River in Grand Valley. In addition to common alluvial and colluvial deposits, surficial deposits include Holocene and late Pleistocene charcoal-bearing valley-fill deposits, late to middle Pleistocene river-gravel terrace deposits, Holocene to middle Pleistocene younger, intermediate, and old fan-alluvium deposits, late to middle Pleistocene local gravel deposits, Holocene to late Pleistocene rock-fall deposits, Holocene to middle Pleistocene young and old landslide deposits, Holocene to late Pleistocene sheetwash deposits and eolian deposits, and Holocene Cienga-type deposits. Only the lowest part of the Upper Cretaceous Mancos Shale is exposed in the map area near the Colorado River. The Upper and Lower? Cretaceous Dakota Formation and the Lower Cretaceous Burro Canyon Formation form resistant dipslopes in the Grand Valley and a prominent ridge on the plateau. Less resistant strata of the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation consisting of the Brushy Basin, Salt Wash, and Tidwell Members form slopes on the plateau and low areas below the mountain front of the plateau. The Middle Jurassic Wanakah Formation nomenclature replaces the previously used Summerville Formation. Because an upper part of the Middle Jurassic Entrada Formation is not obviously correlated with strata found elsewhere, it is therefore not formally named; however, the lower rounded cliff former Slickrock Member is clearly present. The Lower Jurassic silica-cemented Kayenta Formation forms the cap rock for the Lower Jurassic carbonate-cemented Wingate Sandstone, which forms the impressive cliffs of the monument. The Upper Triassic Chinle Formation was deposited on the eroded and weathered Middle Proterozoic meta-igneous gneiss, pegmatite dikes, and migmatitic gneiss. Structurally the area is deceptively challenging. Nearly flat-lying strata on the plateau are folded by northwest-trending fault-propagation folds into at least two S-shaped folds along the mountain front of the plateau. Strata under Grand Valley dip at about 6 degrees to the northeast. In the absence of local evidence, the uplifted plateau is attributed to Laramide deformation by dated analogous structures elsewhere in the Colorado Plateau. The major exposed fault records high-angle reverse relationships in the basement rocks but dissipates strain as a triangular zone of distributed microfractures and cataclastic flow into overlying Mesozoic strata that absorb the fault strain, leaving only folds. Evidence for younger, probably late Pliocene or early Pleistocene, uplift does exist at the antecedent Unaweep Canyon south and east of the map area. To what degree this younger deformation affected the map area is unknown. Several geologic hazards affect the area. Middle and late Pleistocene landslides involving the smectite-bearing Brushy Basin Member of the Morrison Formation are extensive on the plateau and common in the Redlands below the plateau. Expansive clay in the Brushy Basin and other strata create foundation stability problems for roads and homes. Flash floods create a serious hazard to people on foot in narrow canyons in the monument and to homes close to water courses downstream from narrow restrictions close to the monument boundary.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Geologic map of Colorado National Monument and adjacent areas, Mesa County, Colorado