Pennsylvanian–Permian synorogenic deposits (Minturn and Sangre de Cristo Formations) of the Central Colorado trough record an interplay of deformation and sedimentation in an Ancestral Rocky Mountains basin. The Central Colorado trough was a north-trending basin bordered by basement-involved highlands of the Uncompahgre uplift on the west and the Ancestral Front Range and Apishapa uplift on the east. Stratigraphic data show that the Central Colorado trough was an asymmetric basin in which coarse-grained sediments were deposited adjacent to the Sand Creek–Crestone thrust fault system of the Uncompahgre uplift. These deposits pinch out eastward against the Apishapa uplift along the eastern margin of the basin. Lithofacies analysis shows that the Central Colorado trough was filled by fan-delta, fluvial-delta, and turbidite deposits of the Middle Pennsylvanian Minturn Formation and by alluvial-fan, braided-stream, and meandering-stream deposits of the Upper Pennsylvanian–Permian Sangre de Cristo Formation.
Geologic mapping has identified three syndepositional structures in the strata of the Central Colorado trough that indicate Pennsylvanian–Permian shortening: (1) the Gibson Peak growth syncline in the footwall of the Crestone thrust fault, which formed by syndepositional rotation of the Crestone Conglomerate Member of the Sangre de Cristo Formation during thrust displacement; (2) the Sand Creek thrust fault, which cuts the lower part of the Crestone Conglomerate Member but is covered by younger deposits of the Crestone Conglomerate Member; and (3) an intraformational angular unconformity in the Sangre de Cristo Formation that separates folded strata from overlying less deformed strata. All three structures indicate general east-west shortening during deposition.
We interpret the Central Colorado trough as a flexural basin on the basis of syndepositional thrust-related structures, basin asymmetry, and lithofacies distribution. Displacement on the east-verging Sand Creek–Crestone thrust fault system appears to have controlled uplift of the central part of the Uncompahgre uplift and also subsidence in the adjacent basin. The Apishapa uplift, located along the eastern margin of the basin, is interpreted as a possible flexural forebulge related to crustal loading of thrust sheets along the western margin of the Central Colorado trough. Geologic mapping, subsurface data, and identification of syndepositional structures has also led to a better understanding of post-Paleozoic deformation of Pennsylvanian–Permian strata of the Central Colorado trough and the structural evolution of the present Sangre de Cristo Mountains.