USGS Logo Geological Survey Professional Paper 669
The Colorado River Region and John Wesley Powell


Charles B. Hunt


Thirty million years of changes in the rivers and canyons that Powell was first to explore.




(A) John Wesley Powell: Pioneer statesman of Federal science, by Mary C. Rabbitt

(B) Stratified rocks of the Grand Canyon, by Edwin D. McKee

(C) Geologic history of the Colorado River, by Charles B. Hunt

   The problem
   Previous work
Descriptive geology
   Upper Colorado River basin—above the Green River
   Green and Yampa Rivers
   Canyons south of the Uinta Basin
   Significance of unconformities
   San Juan and Little Colorado Rivers Grand Canyon—grand problem
   Grand Canyon to the Gulf of California
Some conclusions

(D) The rapids and the pools—Grand Canyon, by Luna B. Leopold

Grand Canyon, as sketched by W. H. Holmes of the Powell Survey and published in Dutton's monograph (1882) on Grand Canyon. View is about southeast along the axis of the Kaibab upwarp. In the distant skyline, right, is San Francisco Mountain (F) and other volcanoes in the volcanic field south of Grand Canyon. The plateau surface is Permian limestone (Kaibab Limestone); the canyon walls seen in this view are mostly Permian, Pennsylvanian, and Mississippian formations. Altitude of the rim here is about 8,200 feet; bottom of the canyon (out of sight) is below 3,000 feet. San Francisco Mountain, about 70 miles away, is above 12,600 feet.



28. Topographic map of the Colorado River basin

29. Physiographic diagram of the Colorado River basin

30. Map showing annual precipitation in the Colorado River basin and average annual discharge of the principal rivers

31. Geologic map of the Colorado River basin

32. Physiographic map of the Colorado River above Grand Junction

33. Map showing ancestral drainage into the Uinta basin and present drainage

34-37. Photographs:

34. Middle Park

35. Gore Canyon

36. Colorado River valley in structural basin of the State Bridge syncline

37. East flank of the White River Plateau

38. Geologic map of the Colorado River basin the Rocky Mountains

39. Photograph of glacial valley at head of Roaring Fork

40. Profiles of the Colorado River

41. Topographic map of Gore Canyon and the wind gap south of it

42. Geologic map and section of the Gunnison River valley

43. Structure contour map along the Gunnison River valley drawn at base of Tertiary lavas

44. Photograph of Black Canyon of the Gunnison River

45. Physiographic diagram showing drainage changes on the north side of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River

46. Physiographic diagram showing Taylor Park and Taylor River Canyon

47. Topographic map of the Grand Junction area

48. Photograph of Unaweep Canyon

49. Geologic map of Unaweep Canyon area

50. Diagrams showing drainage changes in the Grand Junction area

51. Profiles across the valleys of the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers above Grand Junction

52. Photograph of Colorado River valley above Grand Junction

53. Map showing faulted anticlines and the courses of the Dolores and Colorado Rivers

54. Physiographic diagram of the Dolores River drainage basin

55. Photograph of the Colorado River at The Loop

56. Cross-valley profile of the Green and Colorado River Canyons

57. Photograph of Green River valley at Gates of Lodore

58. Geologic map of the Yampa River valley

59. Photograph of the Yampa River emerging from Cross Mountain

60. Geologic cross section of the Uinta basin

61. Map of the eastern part of the Uinta Mountains showing distribution of Browns Park Formation

62. Structure contour map on the Kaibab Limestone in the Colorado Plateau

63. Diagram showing suggested drainage system into the Henry Mountains structural basin

64. Topographic map showing meander patterns of the Colorado, Green, and Dirty Devil Rivers

65. Photograph of Cataract Canyon

66. Topographic map showing cutoff meander at the Rincon in Glen Canyon

67. Photograph of Glen Canyon

68. Geologic map of the Four Corners area

69. Map showing probable drainage lines in Arizona during late Miocene and Pliocene time

70. Geologic section of the Defiance upwarp

71. Topographic map of Chaco River where it loins the San Juan at The Hogback

72. Geologic section of the Mogollon Rim

73. Structure contour map of the base of the Bidahochi Formation, and probable course of ancestral Little Colorado River

74. Topographic map of Grand Canyon region

75. Geologic map and diagrammatic section of the Grand Canyon region showing the several plateaus

76. Photograph of the Grand Wash Cliffs at the foot of Grand Canyon

77. Cross sections of the dry canyon at Peach Springs and of Grand Canyon along the Hurricane fault zone

78. Map showing inferred drainage pattern in Grand Canyon area when the Bidahochi Formation was deposited

79. Physiographic diagram of basins and ranges west of Grand Canyon and possible ancestral course of the Colorado River

80. Cross section of the Big Sandy and Chino River valleys

81. Aerial photograph of the canyon of the Colorado River in the Black Mountains

82. Topographic map and cross sections of the Colorado River valley between Hoover Dam and Davis Dam

83. Photograph of fanglomerate bluffs and flood plain near Parker Ariz

84. Map showing contrasts in drainage systems east and west of the Colorado River in Arizona and Colorado

85. Map showing distribution of earthquake epicenters in southwestern United States



1. Principal interpretations of process and age for various parts of the Colorado River system

2. Geologic history of the Colorado River

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Last Updated: 22-Jun-2006