The study area is located along Vermillion Creek, 1-3 mi (1.6–5 km) east of Irish Canyon, in northwestern Colorado. The exposed stratigraphic section consists of steeply dipping to vertical Upper Cretaceous Almond Formation, Ericson Sandstone, and Mancos Shale along the toe of the Sparks Ranch thrust fault, and of lesser dipping older Mesozoic and Paleozoic formations in distant parts of the thrust plate. In most places, the Almond Formation is in contact across the thrust fault with the Eocene Wasatch and Green River Formations, and all of these formations are unconformably overlain by the Oligocene Bishop Conglomerate and the Miocene Browns Park Formation. The structural development of the area has involved three major events: (1) Late Cretaceous uplift of the Uinta Mountains; (2) Paleocene and Eocene thrust movements of the Sparks Ranch fault; and (3) late Tertiary normal faulting associated with a collapse of the eastern Uinta Motmtains. Oil-saturated sandstones are present in outcrops of 10 Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Tertiary formations adjacent to several of the late Tertiary normal faults. Oil is escaping to the surface along these faults, probably from a large, deep-seated reservoir located below the Sparks Ranch thrust fault.

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