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Abstract

The Middle Pennsylvania!) Minturn Formation and the Pennsylvanian-Permian Sangre de Cristo Formation of the northern Sangre de Cristo Range form a thick progradational sequence of coarse clastic sediments. These sediments were deposited along the western margin of the central Colorado trough during uplift of the late Paleozoic Uncompahgre highland, a major structural and topographic feature of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains.

The Minturn is composed mostly of sandstone and shale deposited by fan deltas that prograded into the central Colorado trough. The Minturn of the northern Sangre de Cristo Range is divisible into a turbidite-bearing facies, a limestone-bearing facies, and a redbed facies. The turbidite-bearing facies is interpreted as deposits of fan deltas that prograded onto the sea bottom below wave base. The limestone-bearing facies is interpreted as deposits of fan deltas that prograded onto a shallow sea bottom above wave base. In this facies, sandstones containing deltaic foresets overlie thin shallow marine limestones and are considered diagnostic of that facies. Both facies contain thick intervals of sandstone and shale interpreted as deltaic and alluvial deposits. Where it onlaps the Uncompahgre highland, the lower part of the Minturn Formation contains quartzose and arkosic redbeds of probable alluvial origin.

The continental Sangre de Cristo Formation conformably overlies the Minturn Formation basinward, but it unconformably overlies the Minturn and Precambrian basement near the Uncompahgre highland. The Sangre de Cristo contains two facies. A sandstone facies consists of fining-upward cycles of red conglomeratic sandstone and siltstone interpreted as braided stream deposits on distal parts of alluvial fans. A conglomerate facies (Crestone Conglomerate Member) consists of poorly sorted conglomerates interpreted as debris flow and mudflow deposits and sorted conglomerate and sandstone interpreted as streamflow and sheetflow deposits on proximal parts of alluvial fans.

The fan deltas and alluvial fans that deposited the Minturn and Sangre de Cristo formations probably developed in response to faulting and uplift of the Uncompahgre highland. The highland rose at least three times from Middle Pennsylvanian to Early Permian time. Later, during the Laramide orogeny, the faulted boundary between the highland and the central Colorado trough was destroyed by thrusting. The boundary faults were not strike-slip, as shown by the distribution of clasts in conglomerates directly downstream from identical Precambrian rocks that represent part of the highland.

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