Stratigraphy of Slick Rock district and vicinity, San Miguel and Dolores Counties, Colorado

Professional Paper 576-A

Prepared on behalf of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
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The Slick Rock district covers about 570 square miles in western San Miguel and Dolores Counties, in southwestern Colorado. It is at the south edge of the salt-anticline region of southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah and of the Uravan mineral belt.

Deposition of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks in the district and vicinity was principally controlled by development of the Paradox Basin, and of Mesozoic rocks by development of a depositional basin farther west. The Paleozoic rocks generally are thickest at the northeast side of the Paradox Basin in a northwest- trending trough which seems to be a wide graben in Precambrian igneous and metamorphic basement rocks; Mesozoic rocks generally thicken westward and southwestward from the district.

Sedimentary rocks rest on a Precambrian basement consisting of a variety of rocks, including granite and amphibolite. The surface of the Precambrian rocks is irregular and generally more than 2,000 feet below sea level and 7,000-11,000 feet below the ground surface. In the northern part of the district the Precambrian surface plunges abruptly northeastward into the trough occupying the northeast side of the Paradox Basin, and in the southern part it sags in a narrow northeasterly oriented trough. Deepening of both troughs, or crustal deformation in their vicinity, influenced sedimentation during much of late Paleozoic and Mesozoic time.

The maximum total thickness of sedimentary rocks underlying the district is 13,000 feet, and prior to extensive erosion in the late Tertiary and the Quaternary it may have been as much as about 18,000 feet. The lower 5,000 feet or more of the sequence of sedimentary rocks consists of arenaceous strata of early Paleozoic age overlain by dominantly marine carbonate rocks and evaporite beds interbedded with lesser amounts of clastic sediments of late Paleozoic age. Overlying these rocks is about 4,500 feet of terrestrial clastic sediments, dominantly sandstone with lesser amounts of shale, mudstone, siltstone, and conglomerate, of late Paleozoic and Mesozoic age. Above these rocks is as much as 2,300 feet of marine shale of late Mesozoic age. Perhaps about 5,000 feet of clastic sedimentary rocks, dominantly sandstone and in part shale, of late Mesozoic and early Cenozoic age, overlay the older rocks of the district prior to late Cenozoic erosion...

Outside the Slick Rock district the Mancos Shale is overlain by dominantly terrestrial sandstone, mudstone, and coaly beds of the Mesaverde Group of Late Cretaceous age, and younger units such as the Wasatch and Green River Formations of Tertiary age, which once may have extended across the district. These units, totaling possibly 5,000 feet in thickness, were removed by erosion following middle Tertiary uplift of the Colorado Plateau.

Igneous rocks of Tertiary age crop out in only one small area in the district, but they are intruded extensively in the Mancos Shale east of the district, and, as shown by deep oil test wells, appear to be intruded widely in the Paradox Member of the Hermosa Formation in the southern part of the district and southeast of the district. Andesite porphyry occurs in a dike on Glade Mountain, microgranogabbro and microgranodiorite occur in thin sills east of the district, and rocks of similar composition form thick sills in the subsurface. All are similar chemically to igneous rocks in the San Juan Mountains southeast of the district and probably were the result of a specific igneous episode. They were intruded most likely during the Miocene.

Surficial deposits of Quaternary age include glacial till, terrace gravels, alluvial fans, landslide debris, loess, other soil, alluvium, colluvium, and talus. On Glade Mountain, glacial till of probable early Pleistocene age merges westward with terrace gravels that are correlative with terrace gravels which lie on an old weathered surface of Mancos Shale farther west on the rim of the Dolores River Canyon.

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Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Stratigraphy of Slick Rock district and vicinity, San Miguel and Dolores Counties, Colorado
Series title:
Professional Paper
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Government Printing Office
Report:v, p. A1-A108; Plates: 41 x 55.75 inches or less
United States
San Miguel County, Dolores County
Other Geospatial:
Slick Rock district