Abstract

New cosmogenic burial and published dates of Colorado and Green river terraces are used to infer variable incision rates along the rivers in the past 10 Ma. A knickpoint at Lees Ferry separates the lower and upper Colorado River basins. We obtained an isochron cosmogenic burial date of 1.5 ± 0.13 Ma on a 190-m-high strath terrace near Bullfrog Basin, Utah (upstream of Lees Ferry). This age yields an average incision rate of 126 +12/–10 m/Ma above the knickpoint and is three times older than a cosmogenic surface age on the same terrace, suggesting that surface dates inferred by exposure dating may be minimum ages. Incision rates below Lees Ferry are faster, ∼170 m/Ma–230 m/Ma, suggesting upstream knickpoint migration over the past several million years. A terrace at Hite (above Lees Ferry) yields an isochron burial age of 0.29 ± 0.17 Ma, and a rate of ∼300–900 m/Ma, corroborating incision acceleration in Glen Canyon. Within the upper basin, isochron cosmogenic burial dates of 1.48 ± 0.12 Ma on a 60 m terrace near the Green River in Desolation Canyon, Utah, and 1.2 ± 0.3 Ma on a 120 m terrace upstream of Flaming Gorge, Wyoming, give incision rates of 41± 3 m/Ma and 100 +33/–20 m/Ma, respectively. In contrast, incision rates along the upper Colorado River are 150 m/Ma over 0.64 and 10 Ma time frames. Higher incision rates, gradient, and discharge along the upper Colorado River relative to the Green River are consistent with differential rock uplift of the Colorado Rockies relative to the Colorado Plateau.

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