A 2010 Colorado River symposium, held in Flagstaff, Arizona, involved 70 participants who engaged in intense debate about the origin and evolution of the Colorado River system. This symposium, built upon two previous decadal scientific meetings, focused on forging scientific consensus, where possible, while articulating continued controversies regarding the Cenozoic evolution of the Colorado River System and the landscapes of the Colorado Plateau-Rocky Mountain region that it drains. New developments involved hypotheses that Neogene mantle flow is driving plateau tilting and differential uplift and new and controversial hypotheses for the pre-6 Ma presence and evolution of ancestral rivers that may be important in the history and birth of the present Colorado River. There is a consensus that plateau tilt and uplift models must be tested with multidisciplinary studies involving differential incision studies and additional geochronology and thermochronology to determine the relative importance of tectonic and geomorphic forces that shape the spectacular landscapes of the Colorado Plateau, Arizona and region. In addition to the scientific goals, the meeting participants emphasized the iconic status of Grand Canyon for geosciences and the importance of good communication between the research community, the geoscience education/interpretation community, the public, and the media. Building on a century-long tradition, this region still provides a globally important natural laboratory for studies of the interactions of erosion and tectonism in shaping the landscape of elevated plateaus.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
CRevolution 2—Origin and evolution of the Colorado River system, workshop abstracts
U.S. Geological Survey
Western Region Geology and Geophysics Field Science Center-Flagstaff