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Laramide deformation of the northern Colorado Plateau; complex patterns from simple controls


, : Laramide deformation of the northern Colorado Plateau; complex patterns from simple controls. Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America 32(7): 43

Structurally the northern Colorado Plateau is dominated by a series of broad, highly asymmetric anticlines: the Circle Cliffs, Miners Mountain, the San Rafael Swell, the Monument, and the Uncompahgre. Each has a long, gently dipping backlimb and a steep. Presumably fault-cored forelimb. In map view they are irregularly distributed with widely varying sizes, shapes, and orientations. Mapping of strain patterns associated with the monoclinal limbs of each of these uplifts suggests that the principal shortening direction also varies markedly between uplifts. In Permian through Jurassic rocks, outcrop-scale structures, including joints, veins, stylolites, echelon vein arrays, and deformation bands, show shortening directions that are consistent within each uplift but that are not consistent between different uplifts. Some uplifts appear to have formed in response to NE-SW-directed contraction while others appear to have resulted from NW-SE-directed contraction. This is broadly similar to the conclusions of previous workers and raises the possibility that the principal stresses rotated during deformation, creating first one group of uplifts, then the other. Preliminary forward modeling of this system suggests that in fact all the uplifts may have formed at the same time within the context of a single principal stress state. Assuming that each of the monoclines is cored by a pre-existing fault, physical analog models show that all of the deformation may be achieved by a regional NE-SW-directed contraction. Furthermore, such models also successfully (and unexpectedly) reproduce the secondary pattern of broad arches and basins seen on the northern Colorado Plateau. Given this and the attractive simplicity of the idea, it is suggested here that the complex and irregular pattern of uplifts within the study area may simply be a consequence of deformation on variously-oriented pre-existing faults within a consistent overall stress field. This in turn simplifies the requirements for tectonic models of Laramide deformation within the region.

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