New seismic and gravity data across the hydrocarbon-producing Divide Creek and Wolf Creek anticlines in the southern Piceance basin reveal contrasting styles of deformation within two widely separated time frames. Seismic data indicate that prebasin Paleozoic deformation resulted in block faulting of the Precambrian crystalline basement rocks and overlying Cambrian through Middle Pennsylvanian strata. Movement along these block faults throughout much of Pennsylvanian time, during northeast-southwest crustal extension, likely influenced distribution of the Middle Pennsylvanian (Desmoinesian) evaporite-rich facies. Younger rocks, including the thick succession of Cenozoic basin strata, then buried the Paleozoic structures.
Tectonic reconfiguration of the basin’s eastern margin occurred during late Laramide northeast-southwest compression, when a basement-involved thrust block, whose surface expression is the Grand Hogback monocline, moved into the Piceance basin. A decollement developed in front of the thrust block within the mechanically weak Desmoinesian evaporites and splayed out basinward as small-scale imbricate thrusts in the Upper Cretaceous Mancos Shale. The Divide Creek anticline formed above these splays as thrusting locally overthickened the shale and repeated the sandstone units between it and the evaporites. The Wolf Creek anticline to the east, however, is due to both depositional and tectonic thickening of the evaporite section along the decollement. Gravity data confirm that excess material of relatively low density exists beneath the Wolf Creek structure, whereas material of relatively higher density (overthickened shale) is found beneath the Divide Creek anticline.
Thrust-related basin margins and intrabasin folds structurally analogous to the Divide Creek and Wolf Creek anticlines may be more common than presently recognized in the Rocky Mountain foreland. One well-documented example is the Pinedale anticline in the northern Green River basin, Wyoming, which, like the Divide Creek anticline, developed above a zone of splay faults from a decollement in front of a large thrust block.