Tuesday, April 25, 2017

From the Road: Some Nice Gneiss

Every time I drive Highway 6 between Idaho Springs and Golden, Colorado—and I almost always take that route when heading east, rather than the section of I-70 between Idaho Springs and the hogbacks—I try to get a few photos of the great gneiss forming the canyon walls. If I'm going eastward, it can be hard to stop because I'm almost there. This time, in the fall of last year, I was heading west, but I still found it hard to stop, partly because of traffic and unexpected road work. Nevertheless, I managed to make a few pullouts that were rewarding.

The first shot is typical of the biotite gneiss that underlies much of the region: darker bands with more mafic minerals, and lighter bands composed almost entirely of felsic minerals.
Here's a little more of that same biotite gneiss showing complicated deformation.
The geology of the area, seen below in a cutout from a USGS map, looks a little complex! Our first two photos (the two easternmost dots that are rather close together) are in what is mapped here as Xb: Proterozoic biotite gneiss.
Map courtesy USGS (Kellogg et al, 2008).
A little farther into Clear Creek Canyon, I pulled over and grabbed a couple shots of this second roadcut (single dot to the west, above), primarily because of all the light-colored dikes and masses. These rocks are probably what is mapped as Xh: hornblende-plagioclase gneiss and amphibolite.

All of the rocks we're looking at today are thought to have originated as sedimentary and volcanic rocks that were deposited in a basin 1780 to sometime after 1750 Ma (million years ago), as per this pamphlet accompanying the map.
A shot of the entire roadcut. 
Somewhat darker gneiss is above somewhat lighter gneiss in this roadcut. The darker portions may qualify as amphibolite, which is part of the Xh unit.
The same gneiss, zoomed in a bit.
I noticed what looks like a little folding while I was processing these photos, so I drew in a few lines. The rocks look darker inside the fold nose, and there has been a lot of injection of the light-colored material, which might include felsic dikes like aplite or pegmatite, and also might include some quartz veins. I really don't know how common quartz veins are within these gneisses, and the roadcut is too close to the often busy, narrow and windy, two-laned U.S. Route 6 for safe examination.

If you want to see more of these rocks, here is Robin Rohrback's set of gigapans of the roadcuts along this stretch of Highway 6, along with gigapans of hand samples of the gneiss.

Kellogg, K.S., Shroba, R.R., Bryant, Bruce, and Premo, W.R., 2008, Geologic map of the Denver West 30’ x 60’ quadrangle, north-central Colorado: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3000, scale 1:100,000, 48-p. pamphlet.

No comments: