This report is a discussion and summary of Jurassic and older rocks in the Southern Ute Indian Reservation and adjacent areas, southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico, and is based on analysis of geophysical logs and observations of outcrops. The Reservation, which is located in the northern San Juan Basin, has been the site of deposition of sediments for much of the Phanerozoic. Geologic times represented on the Reservation are the Precambrian, Cambrian, Devonian, Mississippian, Pennsylvanian, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Tertiary, and Quaternary. Rocks of Ordovician and Silurian age have not been reported in this region.
Thicknesses of pre-Cretaceous sedimentary rocks range from about 750 feet (229 meters) on the Archuleta arch, east of the Reservation, to more than 8,300 feet (2,530 meters) just northwest of the Reservation. About 5,500 feet (1,676 meters) of pre-Cretaceous sedimentary rocks occur in the central part of the Reservation, near Ignacio. At Ignacio the top of the Jurassic lies at a depth of 7,600 feet (2,316 meters) below the surface, which is composed of Tertiary rocks. As much as 2,500 feet (762 meters) of Tertiary rocks occur in the area. More than 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) of Cretaceous and younger rocks, and 15,600 feet (4,755 meters) of all Phanerozoic sedimentary rocks occur in the vicinity of the Reservation.
In the early Paleozoic the area that includes the Southern Ute Reservation was on the stable western shelf of the craton. During this time sediments that compose the following shallow-marine clastic and carbonate rocks were deposited: the Upper Cambrian Ignacio Quartzite (0-150 feet; 0-46 meters), Upper Devonian Elbert Formation (50-200 feet; 15-61 meters), Upper Devonian Ouray Limestone (10-75 feet; 3-23 meters), and Mississippian Leadville Limestone (0-250 feet; 0-76 meters).
Mixed carbonate and clastic deposition, which was punctuated by a unique episode of deposition of evaporite sediments, continued through the Pennsylvanian after a significant episode of erosion at the end of the Mississippian. Pennsylvanian rocks on the Reservation are the Molas Formation (20-100 feet; 6-30 meters) and Hermosa Group (400-2,800 feet; 122-853 meters), which consists of the Pinkerton Trail Formation (40-120 feet; 12-36 meters), Paradox Formation and equivalent rocks (200-1,800 feet; 61-549 meters), and Honaker Trail Formation (200-1,300 feet; 61-396 meters). A unit that is transitional between the Pennsylvanian and Permian is the Rico Formation, which is about 200 feet (61 meters) thick across most of the Reservation area.
The close of the Paleozoic Era was marked by a great influx of arkosic clastic sediments from uplifted highlands to the north of the Reservation area during the Permian. Near the paleomountain front the Cutler Formation (presently as thick as 8,000 feet; 2,438 meters) formed as a result of deposition of arkosic sediments; however, the original thickness of the Cutler is unknown due to an unconformity at its top. In the area of the Reservation the Cutler has group status and has been divided into several formations: the Halgaito Formation (350-800 feet; 107-244 meters), Cedar Mesa Sandstone and equivalent rocks (150-350 feet; 46-107 meters), Organ Rock Formation (500-900 feet; 152-274 meters), and De Chelly Sandstone (0-100 feet; 0-30 meters). The sediments of these formations were deposited in a variety of environments, including eolian, mud-flat, and fluvial systems.
Following an episode of erosion in the Early and Middle(?) Triassic, deposition in the area of the Southern Ute Reservation continued during the Mesozoic. Sediments of the Upper Triassic Dolores and correlative Chinle Formations were deposited in fluvial, lacustrine, and minor eolian environments. On the Reservation the Dolores is 500-1,200 feet (152-366 meters) thick. Lower Jurassic eolian and fluvial deposits may have been present in much of the Reservation area but have been removed
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Geologic framework of pre-Cretaceous rocks in the Southern Ute Indian Reservation and adjacent areas, southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico
p. A1-A56, 1 plate in pocket
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Geology and mineral resources of the Southern Ute Indian Reservation