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Abstract

The Colorado Plateau differs greatly from its neighboring physiographic provinces, the Rocky Mountains on the north and east, and the Basin and Range Province on the west and south. The Colorado Plateau is a huge (about 384,000 km2), roughly circular region of many high plateaus and isolated mountains that encompasses large parts of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. The plateau derives its name from the Colorado River, which drains at least 90 percent of its area (Fig. 1).

The distinguishing features of the Colorado Plateau are: its considerable altitude, nearly all above 1,500 m; its nearhorizontal bedrock (steeply inclined beds are limited to the few great monoclines and the borders of certain uplifts); and its strong stepped landscapes, consisting of many cliff-like escarpments separated by wide, gentle slopes (the result of differential erosion of the generally flat-lying rocks).

The plateau consists of six sections (Fenneman, 1931). Different bedrock stratigraphy and structure have profoundly affected the physiography and geomorphology of each section (Fig. 1).

The northern section of the Colorado Plateau consists of the Uinta basin, a broad structural basin bounded on the north by the Uinta Mountains and on the south by the San Rafael swell (Figs. 1 and 2). The east-flowing Duchesne River and the west-flowing White River drain the basin, and both join the south-flowing Green River near Ouray, Utah. The Green River has cut Desolation Canyon where the river flows across the southern rim of the.

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