Detailed mapping (1:24,000), measured sections, and clast counts in conglomerates of the Duchesne River Formation and Bishop Conglomerate in the Vernal NW quadrangle in northeastern Utah reveal the middle Cenozoic stratigraphic geometry, the uplift and unroofing history of the eastern Uinta Mountains, and give evidence for the pulsed termination of Laramide uplift. The Unita Mountains are an EW-trending reverse fault bounded and basement-cored, Laramide uplift. The oldest unit of the Duchesne River Formation, the Eocene Brennan Basin Member, contains 80-90% Paleozoic clasts and <20% Precambrian clasts. Proximal to the Uinta uplift the conglomerates of this member are dominated by Paleozoic Madison Limestone clasts (70-90% of all clasts). Farther out into the basin, Paleozoic clasts still dominate in Brennan Basin Member conglomerates, but chert clasts are more abundant (up to 43%) showing the efficiency of erosion of the carbonate clasts over a short distance (~5 km). Conglomerates in the progressively younger Dry Gulch Creek, Lapoint, and Starr Flat members show a significant upward increase in Precambrian clasts with 34-73% Uinta Mountain Group and 8-63% Madison Limestone. Duchesne River Formation has a significant increase in coarse-grained deposits from the southern parts of the quadrangle (20-50% coarse) to the northern parts (75% coarse) nearer the Uinta uplift. The lower part of the Duchesne River Formation exhibits a fining upward sequence representing a tectonic lull. Clast count patterns show that pebbly channel deposits in the south maintain similar compositions to their alluvial fan counterparts. To the north, the fine-grained Lapoint and Dry Gulch Creek members of the Duchesne River Formation appear to pinch out completely. This can be explained by erosion of these fine-grained deposits or by lateral facies shifts before deposition of the next unit. Starr Flat Member conglomerates were deposited above Lapoint Member siltstones and represent southward progradation of alluvial fans away from the uplifting mountain front. Similarities in composition and sedimentary structures have caused confusion surrounding the contact between the Starr Flat Member and the overlying Bishop Conglomerate. Within the Vernal NW quadrangle, we interpret this contact as an angular unconformity (the Gilbert Peak Erosion Surface) developed on the uppermost tilted red siltstone of the Starr Flat Member sometime after 37.9 Ma. Stratigraphic and structural relationships reveal important details about the development of a Laramide mountain range: 1) sequential unroofing sequences in the Duchesne River Formation, 2) progradation of alluvial fans to form the Starr Flat Member, 3) and the unconformable nature of the Gilbert Peak Erosion Surface lead to the conclusion that there were at least 3 distinct episodes of uplift during the deposition of these formations. The last uplift episode upwarped the Starr Flat Member constraining the termination of Laramide uplift in the Uinta Mountains to be after deposition of the Starr Flat Member and prior to deposition of the horizontal Bishop Conglomerate starting at about 34 Ma. This, combined with 40Ar/39Ar ages of 39.4 Ma from the Dry Gulch Creek and Lapoint member, show that slab rollback related volcanism was occurring to the west while the Uinta Mountains were being uplifted on Laramide faults. These new 40Ar/39Ar ages constrain the timing of deposition and clarify stratigraphic relationships within the Duchesne River Formation; they suggest a significant unconformity of as much as 4 m.y. between the Duchesne River Formation and the overlying Bishop Conglomerate, which is 34-30 Ma in age, and show that Laramide uplift continued after 40 Ma in this region.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





Uinta Mountains, stratigraphy, geologic map, chronostratigraphy, Laramide, uplift



Included in

Geology Commons