Geologic appraisal of Paradox basin salt deposits for water emplacement

Open-File Report 73-114




Thick salt deposits of Middle Pennsylvanian age are present in an area of 12,000 square miles in the Paradox basin of southeast Utah and southwest Colorado. The deposits are in the Paradox Member of the Hermosa Formation. The greatest thickness of this evaporite sequence is in a troughlike depression adjacent to the Uncompahgre uplift on the northeast side of the basin.

The salt deposits consist of a cyclical sequence of thick halite units separated by thin units of black shale, dolomite, and anhydrite. Many halite units are several hundred feet thick and locally contain economically valuable potash deposits.

Over much of the Paradox basin the salt deposits occur at depths of more than 5,000 feet. Only in a series of salt anticlines located along the northeastern side of the basin do the salt deposits rise to relatively shallow depths. The salt anticlines can be divided geographically and structurally into five major systems. Each system consists of a long undulating welt of thickened salt over which younger rocks are arched in anticlinal form. Locally there are areas along the axes of the anticlines where the Paradox Member was never covered by younger sediments. This allowed large-scale migration of Paradox strata toward and up through these holes in the sediment cover forming diapiric anticlines.

The central or salt-bearing cores of the anticlines range in thickness from about 2,500 to 14,000 feet. Structure in the central core of the salt anticlines is the result of both regional-compression and flowage of the Paradox Member into the anticlines from adjacent synclines. Structure in the central cores of the salt anticlines ranges from relatively undeformed beds to complexly folded and faulted masses, in which stratigraphic continuity is undemonstrable.

The presence of thick cap rock .over many of the salt anticlines is evidence of removal of large volumes of halite by groundwater. Available geologic and hydrologic information suggests that this is a relatively slow process and that any waste-storage or disposal sites in these structures should remain dry for hundreds of thousands of years.

Trace to commercial quantities of oil and gas are found in all of the black shale-dolomite-anhydrite interbeds of the Paradox Member. These hydrocarbons constitute a definite hazard in the construction and operation of underground waste-storage or disposal facilities. However, many individual halite beds are of. sufficient thickness that a protective seal of halite can be left between the openings and the gassy beds.

A total of 12 different localities were considered to be potential waste-storage or disposal sites in the Paradox basin. Two Sharer dome and Salt Valley anticline, were considered to have the most favorable characteristics.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Geologic appraisal of Paradox basin salt deposits for water emplacement
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Denver, CO
Contributing office(s):
Utah Water Science Center
Report: v, 75 p.; Plate: 25.44 in. x 14.85 in.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Paradox Basin