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Distribution of large boulders on the deposit of the West Salt Creek rock avalanche, western Colorado

July 14, 2023

On May 25, 2014, a 54.5-million cubic meter rock avalanche in the West Salt Creek valley, Mesa County, Colorado, traveled 4.6 kilometers, leaving a deposit that covers about 2.2 square kilometers. To check the particle-size distribution of the deposit for information about the high mobility of the avalanche, we estimated boulder distribution density for the entire deposit by counting 1-meter (m) or larger diameter boulders of sedimentary rock derived from the Green River Formation that are visible in high-resolution imagery collected from the area in July 2014. Basalt boulders were excluded from the count because field observations indicated that they generally stayed intact as the avalanche moved downslope, whereas sedimentary boulders showed evidence of fragmentation during downslope movement. Variable clarity, contrast, and resolution of the imagery precluded mapping smaller boulders. Experimentation with 5-, 10-, and 20-m resolution grids indicated that a 20-m resolution grid showed the spatial pattern of boulder density across the deposit at a scale that allowed statistically meaningful variations to be determined. In addition to counting the boulders in each 20×20-m grid cell, six categories of successively increasing boulder distribution density were created to help visualize variations in the distribution of 1 meter or larger boulders across the avalanche deposit. Analysis indicates that boulder distribution density gradually decreases with increasing distance from the avalanche source.

Publication Year 2023
Title Distribution of large boulders on the deposit of the West Salt Creek rock avalanche, western Colorado
DOI 10.3133/dr1178
Authors Adrian C. Lewis, Rex L. Baum, Jeffrey A. Coe
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Data Report
Series Number 1178
Index ID dr1178
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geologic Hazards Science Center