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University of South Florida, Tampa
International Journal of Speleology, 2013, Vol 42, Issue 3, p. 193-202
Incision history of Glenwood Canyon, Colorado, USA, from the uranium-series analyses of water-table speleothems
Abstract:
Uranium-series analyses of water-table-type speleothems from Glenwood Cavern and “cavelets” near the town of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, USA, yield incision rates of the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon for the last ~1.4 My. The incision rates, calculated from dating cave mammillary and cave folia calcite situated 65 and 90 m above the Colorado River, are 174 ± 30 m/My for the last 0.46 My and 144 ± 30 m/My for the last 0.62 My, respectively. These are consistent with incision rates determined from nearby volcanic deposits. In contrast, δ 234U model ages (1.39 ± 0.25 My; 1.36 ± 0.25 My; and 1.72 ± 0.25 My) from three different samples of mammillary-like subaqueous crust collected from Glenwood Cavern, 375 m above the Colorado River, yield incision rates of 271 +58/-41 m/My, 277 +61/-42 m/ My, and 218 +36/-27 m/My. These data suggest a relatively fast incision rate between roughly 3 and 1 Ma. The onset of Pleistocene glaciation may have influenced this rate by increasing precipitation on the Colorado Plateau starting at 2.5 Ma. Slowing of incision just before 0.6 Ma could be related to the change in frequency of glacial cycles from 40 to 100 kyr in the middle Pleistocene. This interpretation would suggest that the cutting power of the Colorado River prior to 3 Ma was smaller. An alternative interpretation involving tectonic activity would invoke an episode of fast uplift in the Glenwood Canyon region from 3 to 1 Ma.