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Colorado River Area: Dotsero to Grand Junction

(U.S.G.S. Bulletin 707, 1922)

Dotsero Area

After passing milepost 342 (See sheet 4) and a small cut a few hundred yards beyond the railroad track reaches the bank of Colorado River, which it follows to the western border of Colorado. This part of the country is noted for its cattle and horses, and the siding of Dotsero is maintained largely for their shipment. There are no red rocks in the valley of Colorado River just below the mouth of Eagle River, but the rocks there exposed are about as hard as the soft red and green shale and sandstone above. At first the traveler may not be able to identify any of the dull-gray and slate-colored rocks below Eagle River with those he has seen farther upstream, but a comparison of the section and of the order of the formations may show him that these beds are the same as the heavy cliff-making sandstone and shale which he saw just below Minturn. It might be supposed that the same formation should show the same composition and hardness wherever it is exposed, but as these formations consisted originally of sand, clay, and limy materials that were deposited in some body of standing water, either a lake or the sea, it is apparent that the character of the formation at any place must depend largely upon the kind of material there swept into the body of water by the streams, and as the land near by was probably composed of various kinds of rocks, which furnished various kinds of material, it does not seem strange that at one locality a formation. may consist largely of sandstone and at another of shale. Changes from sandstone or shale to limestone are more rare, but such changes are observed in many parts of the country. The soft materials, including some coal beds that are exposed below Eagle River, belong to the Weber formation, which is in the lower part of the upper Carboniferous rocks.

The rocks rise gently westward, and at milepost 345 the massive layers of the Leadville limestone rise from river level. This point marks the beginning of one of the most noted canyons on the line of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, the canyon of Colorado River that stretches in unbroken beauty and grandeur from this point to Glenwood Springs, a distance of 15 miles. (See Pls. LVII B, LVIII, and LIX.) - This great canyon was trenched by the river in an immense upfold of bard beds, which include all the sedimentary rocks that the railroad has crossed in the canyons above, and into the underlying granite, to a total depth of 800 to 1,000 feet. The first appearance of the Leadville limestone, noted above, near milepost 345, is marked by a warm sulphur spring, very similar to the warm springs which gush from the same formation at Glenwood Springs and give that place its reputation. Why the water should be warm at both these places is a question that can not yet be answered, for neither spring has any apparent connection with a fault that would permit the hot waters to rise from great depths, or with old volcanic flows or vents in which circulating water would come into contact with rocks that still retain some of the heat they had when they were ejected from the earth's interior. However, there may be some underground connection with one or the other of these features which is not apparent at the surface but which would account for the temperature of the waters carried in this limestone.

The limestone rises toward the west at an angle of about 15 degrees, and within a distance of half a mile the underlying quartzite appears at the level of the track. As the river cuts deeper and deeper into the rising rocks the canyon becomes more and more rugged, and the short bends give rise to many towers and pinnacles upon the projecting points. As the rocks continue to rise in the direction in which the train is going, lower and lower rocks come into view. Next below the upper quartzite, which is about 100 feet thick, lie shale and thinbedded sandstone, about 40 feet thick, and upon these lies white quartzite, about 270 feet thick. So far the section in this canyon is almost identical with that seen in the deeper canyons up Eagle River, but here there is still another member, which seems not to be present farther east. This member is a coarse quartzite whose chief characteristics are its rich pink or maroon color and the remarkable regularity in the thickness of its various beds, as well as the evenness of the bedding planes which separate them. These characteristics are well shown in Plate LVII, B. The full thickness of this quartzite can not be seen here, for within a short distance the beds, dip sharply in the other direction and the quartzite disappears below water level. Farther down the river, however, where the quartzite rests on the granite, its thickness is about 80 feet. The highest point on this arch in the rocks is reached about half a mile beyond milepost 346. Beyond this point the beds dip rather steeply downstream until the Leadville limestone is at track level on the left, and then the whole series is broken by a great f ault, which, as shown on the map, crosses the railroad at milepost 347.

Beyond the fault the land on both sides of the river is comparatively low and smooth, and then the Leadville limestone rises again from track level. Where it is seen by the roadside it is much broken, having evidently been greatly disturbed and crushed. The rise, of the formations downstream is gradual but steady, so that near milepost 349 all the sedimentary rocks are again above water level and the granite makes its appearance. Plate LVIII is reproduced from a photograph taken at this point, looking downstream. The first tunnel near milepost 350 is cut in the massive granite, which continues to rise higher and higher in the canyon as the train proceeds.

The part of the canyon in which the base of the, quartzite is only a few score or few hundred feet above water level is its most interesting and picturesque part, which is all too soon passed by the trains. The canyon walls are nearly vertical, and the cliffs formed of the quartzite stand up like immense architectural structures and prese nt great variety of form and color. The joints, which cut the rocks in at least two directions, give rise to smooth vertical faces of rock and to buttresses and minarets almost without number. The canyon here is narrow and tortuous, and many magnificent vistas can be had of the swiftly flowing river and the dark walls, which even at midday seem to envelop the deeper parts with a somber haze.

Shoshone Area

From this apparently interminable narrow labyrinth the traveler at length emerges into a more open part of the canyon, where he may well be surprised to find dwelling houses and the station of Shoshone. (See sheet 5). Here is the intake of the great hydroelectric plant of the Colorado Power Co., whose transmission lines the traveler may have seen near Leadville and near Idaho Springs, west of Denver. The river is dammed at the small railroad tunnel just below Shoshone, and the water is carried through a tunnel cut in the solid rock to the power plant, which is 31 miles farther down the canyon. The traveler may not realize the quantity of water carried in this tunnel, but if he is making his journey in summer he is soon aware that practically all the water of the river has disappeared into the open mouth of the tunnel.

The general attitude of the rock beds in this canyon and the adjacent plateaus on the north and south is shown in the following figure, which represents them as they would appear in a deep trench cut across the canyon at Shoshone. The beds dip to the south, and the Leadville limestone forms the surface of much of the plateau on the north, but the limestones and sandstones on the south are covered by a, great sheet of basalt, which is not visible from the train but which completely conceals the underlying rocks. A few miles north of the river there is a break (fault) by which the beds on the north are raised higher than those on the south.

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Below Shoshone the canyon is cut so deep in the granite core of the great anticline that the sedimentary beds which overlie the granite can be seen only here and there. The traveler may get occasional glimpses of the rim of the canyon and may be surprised to see that the country into which the river has cut this deep gash is level or only gently rolling. This region may be regarded as the southern part of the White River Plateau, and the picturesque scenery of the narrow canyon is due simply to the fact that the plateau here is composed of hard rocks, which wear back slowly into moderate and subdued forms. If, however, the crust of the earth remains stationary for a long timethousands, perhaps millions, of years-even these hard rocks will be worn into a broad, valley, bounded by the moderate slopes of low hills. No rocks are hard enough to resist erosion for all time, and it is evident here that Nature has had abundant time at her disposal, and there is no reason to suppose that she will have less in the future or that the future will be greatly different from the past.

The walls of the canyon are rough and rocky, affording excellent feeding ground for mountain sheep when the surface of the plateau is deeply covered with snow. Bands of 40 or 50 sheep are said to be frequently seen in protected places, quietly feeding on the grass and shrubs that grow in the crevices of the rocks and also on the narrow benches on the precipitous slopes. Plate LVII, A  shows the leader of such a band standing guard at the edge of the cliff.

A short distance beyond milepost 353 is the hydroelectric plant of the Central Colorado Power Co., with its great penstock through which the water is dropped 175 feet to the turbine wheels beneath, and also the spillway for the excess water to escape. Beyond the plant may be seen the transmission line, strung on high steel towers, spanning gulches, and finally scaling the south wall of the canyon. The line takes a short cut for the valley of Roaring Fork, up which it is carried to and across the Continental Divide at Hagerman Pass.

So far the geologic structure of the great upfold (anticline) is comparatively simple, having been broken at one point only. The highest point in the fold, the axis, is passed near milepost 354, and, beyond that point the quartzite rapidly approaches railroad level, but it is broken by so many faults that few travelers can trace the formations and understand the manner in which they appear and disappear. By the aid of the map, however, those who are interested in geologic structure may obtain a fairly good idea of what has happened here and of the shape in which the rocks were left.

All the formations are regular as far as milepost 355, near Grizzly siding, where the quartzite has been abruptly dropped from a height of at least 350 feet above the railroad to water level. This change in the position of the rocks is the result of a fault, which trends slightly west of north, probably cutting the high bluff on the west side of Grizzly Creek, which here enters the river from the north. Beyond this fault the beds rise gradually until the white quartzite, which is at water level at Grizzly, is above the railroad and the canyon is rough and rugged, as shown in Plate LIX. Half a mile beyond milepost 3.56 about 50 feet of the pink quartzite has made its appearance. At this point the granite on the opposite side of the river rises to a height of at least 300 feet. This discrepancy marks another fault, which does not cross the railroad but trends nearly east and west directly along the. stream. The rocks on the
south side of this fault have dropped about 300 feet, or those on the north have been lifted a similar distance.

Beyond the point where the railroad approaches the fault most closely the rocks descend, and within a short distance most of the quartzite has disappeared; but the road here enters Noname Park, and it is almost impossible from the moving train to determine the structure. However, a little farther along the Leadville limestone also dips steeply toward the south and is broken by a fault that runs nearly parallel with the one just described. This fault lies near the south wall of the park. The Leadville limestone is dropped on the north side of the fault and may be seen topping the cliffs on the south. The stream cuts into the upraised block of strata on the south of this fault, and its south bank is followed by the railroad through many cuts in the quartzite and finally in the underlying granite. About half a mile beyond milepost 358, at a sharp bend of the stream around a narrow point that projects from the south, at least 50 feet of granite is exposed, and the massive layers of the Leadville limestone lie like plates on the hillside across the river. As the Leadville limestone never rests normally on the granite it follows that the fault must lie in the river and has caused the formation of Noname Park.

Glenwood Springs Area

This fault is the last of the series; and, as the train swings around the sharp bend toward the tunnel, the traveler may see the beds descending rather steeply downstream. Here the stream turns once more and cuts back toward the fault in a sharp curve, but the railroad pierces the rocky point, and when the train emerges from the inky blackness of the tunnel the traveler finds himself passing through the rock formations for the last time. The quartzites disappear first below the stream, and finally the massive ledges of the Leadville limestone; and then the train enters the open valley formed by the erosion of the upper Carboniferous rocks and approaches Glenwood Springs.

Here, on the right, is a grove of cottonwood trees, which surround the bathing pool of hot sulphur water that has made this a famous health and pleasure resort, and one may catch glimpses of the towers of the Hotel Colorado, which stands somewhat higher on the mountain slope and overlooks the lower part of the valley.

Springs are also abundant in the river and beside the railroad track just above the station. Glenwood Springs (see Pl. LX) is at the junction of Roaring Fork with Colorado River. Roaring Fork flows in a broad valley that it has eroded in the soft Carboniferous shale-a valley so broad that it seems like the principal valley. The town is noted for its shade trees and its homes and for its accommodations for the travelers who are attracted here by the reputation of the springs. An added attraction is the famous "Hanging Lake" which lies high up the slopes of the canyon of Colorado River, about 12 miles from the town. Glenwood Springs might also be called a coal-mining center, for although no coal is mined at or near the town it furnishes an outlet for a great coal field that lies to the south and west. A branch of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad turns to the south at Glenwood Springs and connects with the coal-mining. towns of Sunshine and Spring Gulch. Forty miles south of Glenwood Springs and connected with it by rail are the famous Yule marble quarries, which are now sending their output to all the large cities of the East. A notable example of the fine buildings constructed of Colorado Yule marble is the new Lincoln Memorial at Washington. At the town of Marble, near these quarries, there is said to be the largest marble mill in this country.

At a point a short distance west of the station at Glenwood Springs the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad crosses Colorado River, and here the mouth of Roaring Fork may be seen on the left. The Ouray (Leadville) limestone, from which the hot sulphur springs issue, may be seen extending to the right for about a mile to a point where it passes into the hills and is lost to view. It is succeeded by the soft shale and sandstone of the Weber formation. The Denver & Rio Grande Western follows the right bank of the river.

When the train has passed through the railroad yards and is making a rather sharp curve around an eastward bend of the river, the traveler may see Mount Sopris away off to the south (left), framed by the canyon walls of Roaring Fork. Mount Sopris is one of the high mountains in this part of Colorado, and it is one of the most beautiful, because it is a single mass that towers far above the surrounding country.

The mountain side across the river has been gashed by rain and frost, exposing the brick-red Triassic sandstone and shale. The same red beds may be seen on the north side of the river, but before the train reaches them it must cross the maroon, white, and green beds of the Maroon formation. These beds may be seen in the, low hills on the north (right) and also in places along the river, where they have been exposed in the excavation made for the road. The brickred sandstones are the most resistant beds in this part of the series, and the point where the river cuts across them is therefore marked by a canyon which, although not so rugged nor so narrow as other canyons along Colorado River, has a richness and brightness of color that is excelled by few. The base of the Triassic beds is crossed near milepost 364, and the river here cuts nearly through the formation before it turns to the right and follows de strike of the rocks for several miles. At the sharp bend mentioned above the top of the formation is not clearly marked. Usually this formation contains rocks of no other color than brick-red, but a short distance beyond the river there is a band of white sandstone nearly 100 feet thick and then about 300 feet more, of a brick-red color. As the brick-red color is generally regarded as the distinguishing feature of this formation the line separating it from the overlying Gunnison shale is drawn provisionally at the uppermost bed that has the characteristic color.

On the river bank opposite milepost 365, which is about half a mile beyond the sharp bend mentioned above, is the tipple of the South Canon Coal Co. The coal is not mined at this place, for the rocks here are the red sandstone and the Gunnison formation, neither one of which contains coal. The mine is about 1 1/2 miles up South Canyon, in the Mesaverde formation, the great coal-bearing formation of western Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. In the old geologic reports this formation was called "Laramie," a formation at the extreme top of the Cretaceous system, but it is now known to be very much older than the Laramie and has been named the Mesaverde formation, from the Mesa Verde (may'sa vair'day, Spanish for "green table"), in the extreme southwest corner of the State-a mesa that has now been set aside as a national park on account of its ruined cliff dwellings. The coal is brought from the mine in tram cars.

For about 2 miles below the coal tipple the river follows in a gen. eral way the outcrops of the formations, the alternating red and white beds on the mountain side on the left and the beds of solid red color on the right. The beds of sandstone dip steeply to the west, and they stand above the railroad on the right in great slabs 20 or 30 feet high. The surface of these slabs is covered with ripple marks identical with those now being formed in shallow water along the coast, which indicates that the red sand forming these rocks was washed into some shallow basin where it was distinctly rippled by each passing wave. These ripples may have been made millions of years ago, yet they are as perfect as if they had been made but yesterday.

A little below the exposure of ripple-marked sandstone the top of the brightred sandstone (Triassic) is well shown in a hill across the river.

Near milepost 367 the valley opens and is irrigated, and the deep red of the sandstone is relieved by the bright green of alfalfa, sugar beets, and apple orchards, which are irrigated by water taken from the creek that comes in from the right. Below this point the river turns more toward the west, and it soon cuts through the red sandstone that has bordered the valley most of the way from Glenwood Springs.

As all the beds here dip toward the southwest the river cuts through a formation from bottom to top and then passes into the overlying formation. The top of the Triassic system is crossed at milepost 369, or about threequarters of a mile beyond the siding of Chacra. The Gunnison formation, the next formation in the series above the Triassic, is only about 300 feet thick, and as it dips at an angle of about 450 it is soon crossed. It is characterized by a variety of colors, but maroon, green, and white predominate. Across the river on the left there are some small conical hills composed of this formation, which are capped on the far side by massive beds of the Dakota sandstone, which marks the base of the Upper Cretaceous series and is one of the most persistent and widespread formations in the Rocky Mountain region. It is generally thin, at few places exceeding 80 feet in thickness. It was deposited on the surface of the Gunnison formation. During the deposition of the Gunnison formation the region was land, though probably of low relief, but the deposition of the Dakota marks the end of land conditions and the beginning of the occupancy of the region by the sea, which continued during the deposition of the succeeding thick shale. The Dakota sandstone is generally massive and very resistant to erosion, so that where it is upturned at any considerable angle it makes hogbacks, such as those seen back of Canon City. Although the Dakota is not exposed near the railroad its beds, concealed beneath the surface, are crossed by the track about halfway between mileposts 369 and 370. The relation of the Dakota to the rocks above is shown in the figure.

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The rocks above the Dakota for a long distance are very soft shale or shaly limestone, so they have been eroded into a wide valley that lies between the little hogback formed by the Dakota sandstone and the mountainous ridge on the left, which trends nearly parallel with the line of the railroad and is composed of the Mesaverde formation, also of Upper Cretaceous age. The first shale to be seen is exposed in a cut in the side of a hill, but it is so close to the moving train that its character can not easily be determined. It is, however, very limy, and many of its layers consist of soft, white, impure limestone. This formation is the Niobrara limestone, and it is characterized by shells (Inoceramus) from 8 to 10 inches in diameter, which occur in great abundance. These shells are of peculiar construction, for the grain of the shell runs directly through it instead of along or around it as in most shells, both fossil and living, and this structure makes the shell very weak and easily broken. At the time this shale and limestone were deposited there were, so far as is now known, no mountains in this region, and the sea had an unbroken sweep from the site of Missouri River on the east to the site of the Wasatch Mountains on the west. Many persons may find it hard to believe that changes so great have taken place in the face of the earth, but one who diligently studies the rocks is impressed more with its instability and change than with its stability. He soon learns that change has been the rule rather than the exceptionthat the rocky crust of the earth, which is so frequently referred to as "everlasting," is not everlasting in the sense of unchangeable. The earth's crust has been and doubtless is today like thin ice that bends under the skater's weight but seldom breaks, and a depression in one place gives rise to an elevation in another. Depressions in the crust of the earth, if they were at all profound, have led to the invasion of the sea, and elevation has caused the formation of dry land and possibly mountains.

The shale over which the traveler is passing is known in most of western Colorado and Utah as the Mancos shale, but toward the east the middle part of the shale changes to limy shale and then to limestone (Niobrara), and where this limestone is found the shale underlying it is generally called the Benton shale. That the rocks which form the large ridge on the left are coal-bearing is shown by old prospects and mine dumps that at many places scar the slopes. The first old mine to attract attention may be seen on the left just before the train passes milepost 370. This mine was near the top of the ridge, and the coal was lowered to the valley by a long inclined tramway, but Nature is fast removing the scars made by man, and they will soon not be noticeable. The first active operation to be seen is the Garfield (Vulcan) mine, opposite milepost 371, which is on a coal bed 14 feet thick. Coal from this mine also is lowered to track level over an inclined tramway, but this tramway is comparatively short. Farther along the mountain side the traveler may see smoke escaping from an opening nearly on the same level as the mouth of the Garfield mine, This smoke comes from a fire in the mine that
has been burning for several years. Such fires may be started in many ways, but this particular fire is supposed to have started spontaneously in broken coal. Coal of comparatively low rank, such as that mined at Vulcan, is subject to spontaneous ignition, especially when crushed and undergoing alternate wetting and drying, by which the carbon of the coal is oxidized or combined with the oxygen of the air or the water so rapidly as to start a fire. In the old Wheeler mine, which was opened years ago in the mountain point on the north side of the valley, just beyond the village of Newcastle, it was found impossible to, prevent the coal from taking fire, and many years ago, after repeated and unsuccessful attempts were made to extinguish it, the mine was abandoned, and the coal is still on fire. Spontaneous ignition of coal has occurred not. only in mines but on the outcrop of coal beds of rather low rank, and these fires have burned as long as air was available, making the adjacent rocks bright red and, where the heat was especially intense, melting them to slag or clinker.

Newcastle Area

The railroad swings to the right along the banks of Colorado River and enters Newcastle. This place is well known as a coal-mining center and is one of the points for reaching the great hunting ground of the White River Plateau to the north. It was to Newcastle that Theodore Roosevelt came in 1904, while he was President of the United States, on one of his famous hunting expeditions. From the station may be seen the bottom layers of the Mesaverde formation in the hills immediately back of the village, and on the north (right) and ahead may still be seen the scars on the mountain side and the dump of the old Wheeler mine that was abandoned because of fire. The red color, due to burning, and possibly the smoke of the fire may be seen from the train. The Mesaverde is one of the greatest coal-bearing formations in the world. In the end of the Grand Hogback, on the right (see Pl. LXII, A), the aggregate thickness of coal in beds over 4 feet thick is about 109 feet. One of these beds -the Wheeler-is 40 feet thick, and several others are more than 10 feet thick. At the time these coal beds were formed the climate in this region was very different from that which prevails there today, as is shown by the kind of plants which grew at that time and furnished the material for the beds of coal. Palms then grew here luxuriantly, and many fragments of impressions of palm leaves have been found in the rocks that are associated with the coal. Plate LXII, B, shows an usually fine specimen found by the miners at Newcastle.

From Newcastle the trains of the Colorado Midland formerly ran to Grand Junction over the tracks of the, Denver & Rio Grande Western. On account of this double use the roadbed between these points is treated as a distinct unit, and the mileposts do not conform to the general scheme of numbering Consecutively from Denver but are independent, beginning at Newcastle, and ending at Grand Junction.

About 1 1/2 miles below Newcastle the traveler passes out of the Mesaverde formation and into the overlying Wasatch. This formation is of Tertiary age and is the first rock as young as Tertiary that the traveler has seen since he left the vicinity of Denver and Palmer Lake. It is characterized generally by coarse conglomerate and ill places is composed of boulders many inches or even several feet in diameter. It is reddish or pinkish in color, or it is made up of bands of red alternating with bands of white or light green. It was not formed immediately after the Mesaverde, on which it rests here, but after the Mesaverde had been laid down, consolidated, raised above drainage level, and remained a land surface for a long time. At last the mountains were partly uplifted and great lakes were formed, and into these lakes boulders worn from the older rocks, as well as fine material, such as clay and sand, were washed, and the whole mass was finally consolidated into rock. The time which has elapsed since it was deposited and the pressure of the overlying rocks have not been sufficient, however, to make it very hard; it is much less coherent than the Mesaverde and consequently gives a greater width of valley than the older rock. The Wasatch beds near the outcrop of the Mesaverde dip steeply to the southwest, or into the great Uinta Basin, but at a greater distance from the hogback the beds flatten and become, nearly level as they approach the middle of the basin. From Newcastle to Rifle the most prominent surface features on the right are the sharp conical hills of the Wasatch formation, in which the beds apparently stand on edge.

The soft Tertiary and Cretaceous formations have been eroded very rapidly, and vast quantities of clay, gravel, and sand have been washed into the basin-like valley below the narrow canyon which the river has cut through the Grand Hogback. This loose material once filled the valley to a considerable depth, and the streams then removed part of it, leaving the remainder as great sloping terraces, which come down from the sides of the valley and would meet in the middle were it not for the trench which the river has cut. The presence of this fine material has given to one of the villages the appropriate name of Silt. On the old maps of this region this broad valley was called Cactus Valley, on account of the barrenness of the region and the presence of many forms of cacti. Today the parts on which water has been taken bear little resemblance to a cactus valley, but the unreclaimed part is extremely barren. Here for the first time on this journey the traveler is coming into the real semiarid region, where precipitation is so slight that crops can not be raised without irrigation and where the unreclaimed tracts are either barren of vegetation or have the kind that is characteristic of the more nearly desert regions. On the south (left) the traveler may see the cast front of Battlement Mesa, which is capped by a layer of basalt that has preserved the even surface over which it flowed as lava. Its east front, which is seamed and scarred, presenting a very rugged face, is one of the highest points in the vicinity, having an altitude of over 10,000 feet. The even surface upon which this flood of lava was poured is probably a part of the peneplain of which the White River Plateau is another remnant. Those who have made no study of geology may think that all plateaus are formed by the uplift of parts of the country to a greater altitude than that of the surrounding regions-in other words, that they are on anticlines or upfolds of the rocks, but this is not uniformly true. The White River Plateau is on such an upfold, but, Battlement Mesa is in a downfold, and generally upfolds and downfolds have no necessary connection with the formation and preservation of plateaus.

Rifle Area

Rifle, on Colorado River at the mouth of Rifle Creek, although not a, large town, is one of the most important points on the railroad. The irrigated land along the river near Rifle yields abundant crops, but they are somewhat different from those that are raised about Glenwood Springs, for the land here stands at a lower altitude and the summer temperature is consequently higher. Potatoes and grains are not large crops about Rifle; sugar beets, alfalfa, and fruits are more common. From Rifle a stage line, 42 miles long, leads northward to Meeker, the largest town in the irrigated valley of White River and a noted outfitting point for hunters of big game. This road continues northward from Meeker to Craig, the present terminus of the Denver & Salt Lake Railroad ("Moffat road"). This part of Colorado has long been noted for the raising of horses and cattle, and for many years Rifle, was the shipping point from which train after train of fine. range cattle went to the eastern markets. The dry-land farmer has materially cut down the extent of the open range, so that the herds have been greatly reduced in number and size, and many of the cattle that are now raised reach the market by other routes, so that Rifle is no longer preeminently a cattle-shipping point.

Opposite Rifle is a marked terrace about 400 feet high, which forms a sharp boundary to the irrigated part of the, valley. Like all the terraces so far seen, this one is doubtless a remnant of the old floor of the valley-a floor formed by the river when it was flowing some 400 feet higher than it does today, or when the surface of the land was that much nearer sea level than it is now. Remnants of what appears to be this same high terrace may be seen almost continuously below Rifle for a distance of 25 or 30 miles.

Beyond Rifle the great, broad swell of Battlement Mesa is the most conspicuous feature on the south side, of the valley, but the reason for its name does not become apparent to the traveler until he has reached a point farther down the valley. As seen near Rifle Battlement Mesa is a great rounded mass in which very few ledges of rock crop out at the surface. It also bears very few trees, but parts of it, as well as of Grand Mesa, farther south, are covered with a thick growth of timber, and these two mesas constitute, the Battlement National Forest. As the principal industry in this region is stock-raising one of the important features of the administration of this forest is the treatment of the "range" and the adjustment of grazing permits.

When Battlement Mesa is first seen from the railroad, near Rifle, no hard rock can be discerned on its surface, but near the village of Rulison small streams that come down from the mesa have made sharp cuts through the terrace on the opposite side of the river and have deposited at the foot of the terrace a great quantity of boulders in the form of alluvial cones. These boulders are composed of basalt, a dark rock that is very unlike any others which are seen in this vicinity. This basalt was once molten lava that was poured out over the even surface and now caps the mesa and protects its from erosion. Battlement Mesa was so named because of the fancied resemblance of its north front to the walls of some old castle but the traveler can not see these rugged points until he has passed the east end of the mesa.

Beyond Rifle the most conspicuous features on the north (right) side of the valley are the great white cliffs of Mount Logan. When the traveler first sees them, near Rifle, they are in the distance, but as he goes westward he approaches them, and before the train has covered many miles it is running at their bases. Many of the maroon beds of the Wasatch, which came in so prominently on the west side of the Grand Hogback west of Newcastle, have passed below the level of the river; only a few hundred feet remains in sight to form a reddish band about the foot of the white cliffs.

In the vicinity of Rulison the cliffs are very conspicuous, and from Rulison to Grand Valley the train runs practically at -their feet. These cliffs, which tower to a height of 3,500 feet above the railroad, are but the points of long spurs which far back f rom the river unite in a broad, unbroken plateau. The upper part of the cliffs is composed of white shale and sandstone known to geologists as the Green River formation. These rocks, although originally dark, weather uniformly to a dull white. The base of the cliffs is made up of the maroon shale of the Wasatch formation, which is exposed at several places between Grand Valley and Salt Lake City. The Green River formation makes prominent cliffs on the north side of the valley and occurs also in the high parts of Battlement Mesa, on the south. Its presence is generally indicated by its white color, which shows wherever the cover of brush and trees has been removed. In such places it is soon cut into castellated forms.

Most of the lower part of the valley is irrigated and produces good crops and considerable fruit. A sloping terrace on the south side of the river, opposite the village of Grand Valley, is irrigated by streams that come down from the higher parts of Battlement Mesa, and the scene here is a pretty picture of rural peace and prosperity. The principal scenic feature is the great white cliff  immediately back of the village. All except about 600 feet at the base of this cliff is composed of shale of the Green River formation, which, aside
from its striking color, is notable because it contains a large amount of organic material, mostly remains of plants, from which oil may be obtained
by destructive distillation. Oil has not yet been produced commercially from this shale, but it probably will be when crude oil from wells be comes scarcer and the demand for gasoline is greater than it is to-day. This shale has been studied tested, and mapped by Dean E. Winchester, of the United States Geological Survey. A moderate estimate, made by him, of the quantity of oil that may be obtained from the Green River formation in Colorado alone is 40,000,000,000 barrels.

The oil shale is within view from the railroad for only a short distance in Colorado, near Grand Valley, and is not seen again by the traveler until he reaches Colton, Utah, but the two areas are connected north of the railroad by an almost unbroken outcrop, and shale of sufficient thickness and richness to warrant mining is supposed to underlie an area of at least 5,000 square miles in the Uinta Basin of northwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah.

The features below the town of Grand Valley are much the same as those above it. The same white cliffs, with the maroon band about the base, rise above the railroad on the north, and the broad swell of Battlement Mesa rises on the south. Between lies the open valley, with its band of trees fringing the river and its patches of farm land where the surface is sufficiently level for irrigation. In midsummer the valley displays beautiful shades of green, but in
autumn, after the early f rosts have touched the cottonwood trees along the river and the aspens on the slopes above, it bears a, beautiful mantle of green and gold.

De Beque Area

The hills across the valley, although they lie with in the Battlement Forest, are composed of the red and green shale and sandstone of the Wasatch formation and are almost devoid of vegetation. (See Pl. LXIV, A.)

After being crowded close to the, river by the high bluffs of the maroon shale and sandstone, the railroad suddenly emerges into the broad valley of Roan Creek at the little village of De Beque, which is flanked on the north by the high turrets, towers, and minarets of the White Cliffs. As Roan Creek heads on the high plateau it contains a never failing supply of water, which is used over and over again in irrigating the level land within its valley. The pasture on the plateau is excellent, so that the principal industry in and around De Beque is stock raising.

West of the river there is a slight arch in the rocks on which a number of wells have been drilled in search of oil. Some of these wells have found small quantities of oil, but most of them have been "dry holes" -that is, holes that yield little or no oil. The slight arch in the rocks is regarded as favorable for the accumulation of oil, for oil and gas are generally associated with water in the rocks, and as they are lighter than water they are forced up into the high places or arches, as shown in the following figure, but in the region about De Beque there seems to be little. or no oil in the rocks to accumulate. A short distance west of the station at De Beque the railroad crosses Roan Creek, and beyond for some distance it runs through a rolling country, most of which is irrigated and contains good farms. The river bottom on the east (left), which occasionally may be seen from the train, is also largely under cultivation, and beyond it the highland rises, terrace above terrace, up to the crest of Battlement Mesa.

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The intricate lines of sculpture' that are carved by the rains in the soft shale or clay where it is not protected by a cover of vegetation or of broken rock are well shown in some badland buttes composed of maroon shale and clay of the Wasatch formation, a little more than 2 miles west of De Beque. (See Pl. LXV, A.) If the light is just right to bring out the minute lines the entire surface of the buttes will appear to be made up of a series of rill marks that resemble the delicate fretwork of ail artist. (See route map, sheet 7)

The rocks across which the traveler has been passing since he left Newcastle are bent into a great downfold or troughlike depression (syncline) whose east rim is composed of the coal-bearing sandstone (Mesaverde) that forms the Grand Hogback. This trough is exposed by Colorado River [errosion]. The other rim of the trough is crossed by the railroad between De Beque and Palisade, and through this rim the river has cut a deep and narrow canyon very different from the gap through the hogback at Newcastle. It is here called Palisade Canyon. As the rocks are the same at both places the explanation of the difference in the appearance of the gaps cut by the river must be sought in the difference in the attitude of the beds, or, in other words, in the amount of their dip. At Newcastle the thick bed of sandstone dips steeply toward the west, and as it is underlain by softer rocks it weathers into a sharp ridge, which can be traced for 50 miles to the north and is known as the Grand Hogback. The dip of the beds on the other rim of the trough is very slight, generally not over 10 degree, and the river cuts through the rim f or 16 miles in a canyon that increases in depth as it approaches the outer margin of the sandstone. Above the coalbearing rocks lies the maroon Wasatch, and in the middle and overlying all the other beds, and consequently younger than the others, are the white beds of the Green River formation, but these do not appear near Palisade Canyon.

South of De Beque the railroad is built on a low terrace at some distance from the river, but near the entrance to Palisade Canyon, 4 1/2 miles south of De Beque, halfway between mileposts 48 and 49, it reaches the river (on the left) in a shallow canyon cut into one of the thick beds of sandstone near the top, of the coal-bearing Mesaverde formation. As the beds rise gradually downstream the canyon slowly increases in depth from its head to Palisade, where it ends! At Akin siding (milepost 51) the canyon walls are about 300 feet high, and they show well the alternate bands of resistant sandstone and soft, easily eroded shale. Here and there some of the beds of sandstone are thick and massive and form cliffs 40 or 50 feet high, but on the whole the alternation of shale and sandstone gives rise to sloping banded walls which have a sameness in appearance that soon becomes monotonous.

At Tunnel siding (milepost 55) the walls of the canyon have increased in height to 600 or 700 feet, but they have the same general character. A mile west of this siding the, train passes through a tunnel which pierces a long spur (shaped in plan like a beaver's tail, hence the name Beavertail tunnel) that projects from the right wall of the canyon and then comes to a diversion dam which turns some of the water of Colorado River into a canal on the other side of the river. This canal is in sight throughout the length of the canyon below this point, and its effects may be noted in the crops and orchards on the high bench lands east of the river.

Grand Valley Area

Milepost 57 marks the largest diversion project in the canyon, known as the Grand Valley or High Line project of the United States Reclamation Service, which is intended to furnish water for the irrigation of the high bench lands on the north side of the river from Palisade as far west as the western boundary of the State. The diversion dam, shown in Plate LXVI, is completed, and the canal is constructed as far west as Loma  and in the near future will be extended to the State line.

The great High Line canal is crossed by the railroad a short distance below the dam and may be followed by the eye on the right until it is hidden in a tunnel that carries it through a projecting rocky point. It is carried as high as possible, and though it has descent enough to enable the water to flow readily, it is soon above the level of the railroad and can be identified only by the regularity of its banks and the new rock dumps that mark the portals of its tunnels.

Half a mile below the High Line dam Plateau Creek enters the river from the side opposite the railroad. This creek heads on the mesa far to the east and flows in a narrow valley between Battlement Mesa on the north and Grand Mesa on the south. The main automobile highway down the river is carried over the low plateau east of the river, but at Plateau Creek it descends to the river and for the remainder of the distance to the lower end of the canyon it follows the opposite bank. The walls of the canyon here are about 11000 feet high and are therefore very imposing, especially where the beds of sandstone are particularly thick or resistant.

Cameo Area

At the little coal-mining town of Cameo the canyon attains its maximum depth, about 1,500 feet. Its sides generally present the appearance of gigantic walls of masonry, the beds of sandstone forming the courses and the soft shale filling in between them like the mortar in an artificial wall. On the projecting points between the main canyon and the canyons of the tributaries the sandstone seems to form most of the wall, as it stands in gigantic pyramids that tower for above the bottom of the gorge. The pyramid on the projecting point just north of Cameo is shown in Plate LXV, B. Although the Mesaverde is the great Cretaceous coal-bearing formation in this region, it contains very few coal beds in Palisade Canyon. At Newcastle it contains more than 109 feet of coal in beds thick enough to work, but in Palisade Canyon it contains only two beds. The upper of these beds is mined at Cameo and is generally known as the Cameo coal bed. Mines may be seen just south of the station on both sides of the track. The coal from the mine on the left is brought across the river on a high trestle, which serves as a tipple for screening the coal and loading it into railroad cars. The coal mined here is of medium grade and satisfies the local demand, but it is not equal to that which is mined south of Newcastle, or in the Crested Butte region, on the east, or at Sunnyside and Castlegate in Utah, on the west. At the Cameo mine the coal bed has a thickness of 10 feet 11 inches, of which 9 feet 8 inches is clear coal.

About a mile below Cameo the High Line canal passes through the plateau by a long tunnel which brings it out on the high bench land west of Palisade.

Nearly 2 miles below Cameo the river makes a big curve to the right, and on the opposite side there is a low terrace not more than 150 feet high. This terrace has been built up by material brought down by a small creek that heads on Grand Mesa, to the east. This material is so abundant and so indestructible that it has crowded the river gradually against the opposite (west) side, so that the river has been forced to cut under a great cliff , several hundred feet in height. From the train the traveler may see that this terrace is composed almost entirely of boulders of a dark rock, which close examination would show to be basalt, or hardened lava. Grand Mesa , which here and there may be seen on the east (left) and which overtops all other features in this region, has been preserved almost entirely because it is protected by a cap of this basalt.

Below the terrace two small water-power plants have been constructed for pumping water to higher levels to irrigate land that could not be reached by the existing gravity lines. One of these plants supplies enough water to irrigate 2,300 acres of land and the other enou 'o' h to irrigate 6,000 acres. The canals and pumping plants which the traveler has seen in Palisade Canyon are more extensive than any that he has seen heretofore on this journey, and he may wonder why so much money has been spent to obtain the water of Colorado River, but when he has passed out of the mouth of the canyon and has seen the wonderful change that the water has made in the onetime desert plain he will no longer question the wisdom of the expenditure.

As the railroad makes a great bend to the west at the mouth of the canyon the traveler may notice some small coal mines that are operating on the lowest or Palisade coal bed. This coal bed, which ranges from 3 to 7 feet in thickness, overlies the sandstone that is regarded as forming the base of the Mesaverde formation. The coal bed and the sandstone are well exposed across the river, where a number of small mines have been opened to supply the local demand for fuel. Another small mine is also in operation just above the station at Palisade. The rocks here rise more rapidly than they do farther up in the canyon, and the lower slopes of the cliffs are composed of the marine shale (Mancos) that underlies the coal-bearing formation.

Palisade Area

Near milepost 63 the canyon opens, and here begin the orchards of peaches, pears, apples, and other fruit that have made the town of Palisade famous. Its situation at the foot of the Book Cliffs protects it from late frosts in spring and from early frosts in autumn, so that almost every foot of the land is under irrigation and has been planted with fruit trees. (See Pl. LXVII). Every year hundreds of cars of fruit are shipped from this place.

Here begins the great southward-facing cliff which in the early days was named Book Cliffs because of the fancied resemblance of the sandstone cap and the curved shale slope below to the edge of a bound book. A typical view of the Little Book Cliffs as they appear back of Palisade is given in Plate LXVIII. The Book Cliffs begin at Palisade and stretch westward to Castlegate, Utah, a distance of about 190 miles. They everywhere form the southern rim of the great trough of rocks on the north known as the Uinta Basin. Just west of Palisade the cliffs are formed and protected by a few beds of sandstone at the top, below which the slope consists of shale (Mancos) that was deposited there before the Rocky Mountains were in existence, when the entire region was below the waters of the sea.

These shale slopes have been intricately sculptured by the rain, and the traveler has many opportunities to examine them, for they are visible on the north from the train most of the way from Palisade to Castlegate. The appearance of these slopes, like that of most of the land forms in a semiarid climate, depends largely upon the light under which they are seen. When the light is strong and strikes squarely against the face of the cliffs the slopes are expressionless and dead. One slope is like another as they shimmer in the hot rays of the sun, but when the sun is low the shadows show every detail of the slopes, and thus revealed in black and white the surface of the cliffs looks as seamed and wrinkled as the face of an old man. Each slope is then full of individuality-it shows intricate and wonderful sculpture.

The valley that the railroad enters at Palisade is broad because the soft Mancos shale, in which it is carved, is about 3,000 feet thick, and its erosion has produced flat or rolling lands except where terraces have been cut by the streams into badlands or steep slopes. Although the shale contains considerable alkaline material, which is objectionable in farming, it makes in general some of the best farming land in western Colorado. Near the river it forms flat valley bottoms, as at the village of Clifton, but by proper underdraining even such flat lands may be made very productive. Orchards abound in this valley, and much f ruit is shipped from Clifton. Before the water of Colorado River was diverted and carried onto this land it was a waste desert, inhabited only by jack rabbits and coyotes, but irrigation has transformed it into a f ertile land, figuratively flowing with milk and honey." Is it any wonder that millions of dollars have been spent in diverting water from Colorado River in the canyon above, Palisade and in constructing great canals for delivering it to the thirsty land? But even after all our great irrigation works have been completed there will still be millions of acres of waste land, which could be converted into sites for homes of peace and plenty if water were available. The great problem of the future is to conserve all the water that is produced by the melting of snow in the high mountain regions, by holdin- it in storage reservoirs until it is needed, and then to distribute it to the desert land. Such work will require enormous sums of money, but it will in return supply homes to many thousands of people and bring immense wealth to the country.

General views of the valley may be obtained f rom places near Clifton. On the east tower the wooded slopes of Grand Mesa; on the south, far in the distance, may be caught glimpses of the gently swelling surface of the Uncompahgre Plateaua surface composed of the massive sandstones which at some places underlie the Mancos shale and which everywhere overlie the granite that forms the basement upon which all this country is built.

Grand Junction Area

The railroad traverses the flat land of the river bottom to the point where Colorado River is joined by Gunnison River, which heads in the high mountains near Marshall Pass and which is followed throughout most of its course by the narrow-gage line from Salida to Montrose and by 'the standardgage line from Montrose. to Grand Junction. At the junction of these roads stands Grand Junction, a division point on the railroad and the largest town in western Colorado. Grand Junction is the center of a vast irrigated district whose, climate is favorable to the growth of almost all kinds of grain, as well as forage crops, sugar beets, garden truck, and fruit. It is particularly noted for its beet-sugar industry and for its fruit.

The description of the country along the main line west of Grand Junction is continued [at the end of the Uncompahgre Area].

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