Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Late cenozoic uplift of the southwestern colorado plateau and adjacent lower colorado river region

January 1, 1979

Rocks deposited near sea level under marine, estuarine, and lacustrine conditions, and located along the course of the lower Colorado River from the mouth of the Grand Canyon as far as the Mexican border, have been displaced to present positions as high as 880 m a.s.l. and as low as 1600 m b.s.l. The rocks include the marine and estuarine Bouse Formation and the lacustrine or marine Hualapai Limestone Member of the Muddy Creek Formation. A profile joining spot elevations that represent the highest erosional remnants of these rocks preserved at any one locality gives an approximation (in most cases a minimum value) for the uplift or downdropping of the region relative to sea level since about 5.5 m.y. ago, the K/Ar age of the most widespread and critical unit. The profile shows that most of the lower Colorado region has risen at least 550 m through broad and rather uniform upwarping and at an average rate of about 100 m/m.y. In addition to these 550 m, the nearby Colorado Plateau has risen by discrete movement along Wheeler fault, which is parallel to and about 8 km west of the plateau's edge, to a total uplift of at least 880 m, at a rate that may be as high as 160 m/m.y. Before warping and faulting, the top of the plateau was about 1100 m above the fill of adjacent basins; the top of this fill probably was at or a little below sea level. p]The profile shows two major south-facing rises in slope. The bigger one, near Yuma, occurs where the profile intersects the northwest-trending San Andreas-Salton trough system of faults; it is interpreted as rifting resulting from transcurrent movement along the faults. At the Mexican border, the base of the Bouse Formation is 1600 m b.s.l., which corresponds to a rate of subsidence since the beginning of Bouse time that may be as high as 290 m/.m.y. The top of the Bouse is at 1000 m b.s.l., corresponding to a rate of subsidence of about 180 m/m.y. In this area, the "older marine sedimentary rocks" of Olmsted et al., (1973) occur as much as 2100 m b.s.l. These rocks are evidence for marine invasion and deformation that predate the Bouse Formation. p]The second rise in slope occurs at the intersection with a regional northwest-trending lineament that separates widely different geologic terranes and is associated with extensive Miocene volcanism. This lineament may represent an old transform fault similar in geologic function to the present San Andreas system. ?? 1979.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1979
Title Late cenozoic uplift of the southwestern colorado plateau and adjacent lower colorado river region
Authors I. Lucchitta
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Tectonophysics
Series Number
Index ID 70012207
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization