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February Meeting: Evolution of the Cenozoic landscape in the western San Juan Mountains – Dr. David Gonzales

February 17, 2022 @ 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Free – $20.00

LOCATION: Colorado Room, Fort Lewis College Student Union

TIMING: Happy Hour from 5:30 to 6:30 PM, Talk from 6:30 – onward; to be followed by raffle drawing.

SPEAKER: Dr. David Gonzales (Fort Lewis College Geosciences)

TALK TITLE: Evolution of the Cenozoic landscape in the western San Juan Mountains


This presentation will highlight field observations and geomorphic reconstructions of stratigraphic-time surfaces test ideas about post-Laramide landscape evolution in the western San Juan Mountains.  Recent findings offer further insight into the nature and relations of processes that crafted geologic events over the past ~35 million years.

Laramide uplift and magmatism (75-60 Ma) was followed by a protracted period of fluvial incision prior to ~35 Ma.  The landscape was mostly sculpted into undulating terrain with less than 200 feet (~60 meters) of relief, but rugged canyons up to 1,500 feet (460 meters) deep were carved near Ouray.  This was followed by deposition of the 34 to 32 Ma Telluride Conglomerate in westward-flowing rivers that formed in response to rapid tectonic uplift and erosional unroofing of highlands to the east and southeast.  Eruptions from stratovolcanoes between 32 to 30 Ma deposited thick successions of the San Juan Formation conformably on the Telluride Conglomerate and infilled pre-Telluride canyons.  The highlands that emerged prior to deposition of the Telluride Conglomerate remained elevated in the Oligocene as revealed by thinning of the San Juan Formation along their flanks.

The paleogeographic record after 30 Ma in the western San Juan Mountains chronicles episodic tectonic uplift coupled with magmatic inflation that warped and tilted the pre-Telluride erosional surface and overlying San Juan Formation eastward.  Emplacement of 27 to 4 Ma plutons contributed to regional doming and uplift especially in the San Miguel and Rico Mountains where magmatic inflation was ~3,000 feet (~915 meters).  Recurrent tectonic uplift after 35 Ma was focused in the Needle Mountains.  The driving forces for this tectonism are not well constrained but were possibly related to upwelling of low-velocity asthenosphere into the crust from latest Paleogene to Neogene, particularly in the past 10 to 6 million years.


David Gonzales is a professor of geology at Fort Lewis College. He is an alumnus of Fort Lewis College (1982) and after his graduate studies joined the college in 1997. Dr. Gonzales is interested in research that focuses on the magmatic, tectonic and landscape evolution in the Four Corners region. He frequently involves students in his research and has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey EDMAP program, Kinder Morgan and other sources to support his research. He has served as a reviewer for many academic journals, geologic software products, and grant programs. In addition, Dr. Gonzales has been a geological consultant for numerous companies and academic activities.

Dr. Gonzales was the 2006-2007 Featured Scholar and the 2003 recipient of the New Faculty Teaching Award at Fort Lewis College. He lectures and presents his research at professional geological conferences around the country.


Ph.D., Geology and Isotope Geochemistry, University of Kansas, 1997

Master of Science, Geology, Northern Arizona University, 1988

Bachelor of Science, Geology, Fort Lewis College, 1982



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February 17, 2022
5:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Free – $20.00