MI-27 Geology of Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.


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Citation: Bilodeau, Sally W., and John E. Costa. “MI-27 Geology of Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.” Miscellaneous. Denver, CO: Colorado Geological Survey, Department of Natural Resources, August 1982.


“A report of geologic influences on the location, development, and future of the Boulder metropolitan area,” this publication is a reprint of an article in the Bulletin of the Association of Engineering Geologists Vol. 19, no. 3 (August 1982), pps. 263–314. As testimony to the quality and pertinence of the report, the authors received the Claire P Holdredge Award for best paper by an AEG member during 1982. The CGS believes that the report will prove extremely useful to geological and engineering practitioners, government agencies, and a host of others interested in the fascinating linkages between geology and a city’s past, present, and future development. Digital PDF download. MI-22D

From the Abstract:

[Denver’s] presence, lodged at the eastern edge of the continent’s greatest mountain range, marks the real transition from east to west in cosmopolitan America. Denver is the great North American city of our resource-conscious times. The great energies of Denver are people-generated and people-oriented. Denver runs on a 24-hour day, because it is the great sociologic magnet of the continent. Little of its humble frontier beginnings remain for detection by the casual visitor, but its origins are tied to its geologic setting: its development has been controlled by its geology; and its future will be guided by such influences.

Founded in 1858, on the site of placer gold discoveries, Denver has always served as a resource-oriented supply and operations center. Today the city serves a vast area of the central United States as a financial, engineering, scientific, governmental, educational and resource extraction center. The city that was born of resource extraction remains a key element in that activity today. Denver’s very existence, on the fringe of a great mountain range, displays the effect of the natural environment on the development of a city. Its near-region topography varies by nearly 8,000 ft (2,400 m); it lies on a sedimentary basin some 13,000 ft (3,960 m) thick; it consumes groundwater and surface water at a phenomenal rate; it demands construction aggregates in alarming quantities; and it produces burdensome quantities of waste. Denver is affected by significant geologic constraints: both collapse-prone and swelling soils, hillslope instability, induced seismicity, flooding, and some areas of rising ground water. Denver is a city of the age and of the decade. The citizens and builders of Denver have learned to respect its geologic setting!