Thursday, March 9, 2017

From the Road: Bedding and Talus in the Roan Cliffs of Colorado

Getting back to my October-November road trip (last seen here), I stopped to get some fuel in Parachute, CO, on what was Day 7 of the trip, and I ended up taking a few photos (surprise!), partly thinking that the cliffs show good examples of bedding, and also because I was becoming fascinated by the exceptional talus slopes coming off the cliffs. The first photo is a cliff at a round nose sticking out from Mt. Callahan. The second photo is of a cliff at the southern end of a nose known as Allen Point, a long skinny ridge running about 1.5 miles south of a broader, arcuate area also called Allen Point.
When I investigated this area after my trip was over, I was surprised to find that these cliffs are part of the Roan Cliffs: while still enroute, I thought I was driving along the Book Cliffs. The Roan Cliffs are the cliffs that break south off of the broad Roan Plateau, a large plateau area that extends from Rifle, CO, to at least somewhere north of Grand Junction, possibly bounded on the west by Roan Creek. The Roan Cliffs, however, at least as shown here, encircle a broader area extending westward from Rifle, CO, to the mountains just east of the Wasatch in Utah.

The Roan Cliffs are capped by the Eocene Uintah Formation (which we may or may not see in these photos), and slopes below the uppermost cap are composed of the Eocene Green River Formation. Some of the lower, reddish slopes in the area are underlain by the Paleocene to Eocene Wasatch Formation. You can read a little more about the geology of the area in this USGS Bulletin.

The Roan Cliffs stratigraphically overlie the Book Cliffs, which we'll see later. I'm not sure how I mistook the cliffs of the Uintah Formation and upper Green River Formation for cliffs of the Cretaceous Mesaverde Group, or slopes of the Green River Formation for the usually easy-to-spot Cretaceous Mancos Shale. I can only plead that geology at 70+ mph isn't always spot-on.

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