NPS Geodiversity Atlas—Colorado National Monument, Colorado

Geodiversity refers to the full variety of natural geologic (rocks, minerals, sediments, fossils, landforms, and physical processes) and soil resources and processes that occur in the park. A product of the Geologic Resources Inventory, the NPS Geodiversity Atlas delivers information in support of education, Geoconservation, and integrated management of living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components of the ecosystem.

image of colorado national monument gri report cover with geology image
In-depth geologic information is contained in the baseline inventory products of the Geologic Resources Inventory, see table below.


Colorado National Monument is located in Mesa County, west-central Colorado. The monument is situated along the northeastern flank of a large topographic feature known as the Uncompahgre Plateau, a high, relatively flat, elongated uplift that extends from Ridgeway, Colorado, northwestward to near Cisco, Utah. Established May 24, 1911, Colorado National Monument preserves approximately 8,311 hectares (20,536 acres) of one of the grand landscapes of the American West. The colorful sheer-walled canyons, towering monoliths, soaring arches, dinosaur fossils, trace fossils (tracks), and remains of prehistoric American Indian cultures record a rich environmental history of the region.

Geologic Setting

Geologic exposures in Colorado National Monument consist of rocks that are Precambrian and Mesozoic in age. Ancient Precambrian crystalline rocks (1.7 billion years old) seen in the monument underlie the entire length of the Uncompahgre Plateau. Exposed on the canyon floors are Triassic rocks (210 million years old) that overlie the ancient basement, marking an unconformity (period of non-deposition or erosion) in the geologic record of about 1.49 billion years. Mesozoic units of Colorado National Monument include the Triassic Chinle Formation, Triassic–Jurassic Wingate Sandstone, Jurassic Kayenta, Entrada, Wanakah, and Morrison Formations, and the Cretaceous Burro Canyon Formation. Many of these units reflect past depositional environments including deserts and shallow, non-marine lakes. Approximately 70–40 million years ago, a period of mountain-building called the Laramide Orogeny uplifted, folded, and faulted the rock layers, providing most of the modern structural framework observed today in Colorado National Monument.

Paleontological Resources

All NPS fossil resources are protected under the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-11, Title VI, Subtitle D; 16 U.S.C. §§ 470aaa - 470aaa-11).

Abandoned Mineral Lands

NPS AML sites can be important cultural resources and habitat, but many pose risks to park visitors and wildlife, and degrade water quality, park landscapes, and physical and biological resources. Be safe near AML sites—Stay Out and Stay Alive!

Regional Geology

Colorado National Monument is a part of the Colorado Plateaus Physiographic Province and shares its geologic history and some characteristic geologic formations with a region that extends well beyond park boundaries.

Maps and Reports

The Geologic Resources Inventory produces digital geologic maps and reports for more than 270 natural resource parks. The products listed below are currently available for this park, check back often for updates as many maps, reports, and posters are still in progress.
  • Scoping summaries are records of scoping meetings where NPS staff and local geologists determined the park’s geologic mapping plan and what content should be included in the report.
  • Digital geologic maps include files for viewing in GIS software, a guide to using the data, and a document with ancillary map information. Newer products also include data viewable in Google Earth and online map services.
  • Reports use the maps to discuss the park’s setting and significance, notable geologic features and processes, geologic resource management issues, and geologic history.
  • Posters are a static view of the GIS data in PDF format. Newer posters include aerial imagery or shaded relief and other park information. They are also included with the reports.
  • Projects list basic information about the program and all products available for a park.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 2792. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

NPS Soil Resources Inventory project has been completed for Colorado National Monument and can be found on the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 2842. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Related Articles

Colorado National Monument

National Park Service Geodiversity Atlas

The servicewide Geodiversity Atlas provides information on geoheritage and geodiversity resources and values within the National Park System. This information supports science-based geoconservation and interpretation in the NPS, as well as STEM education in schools, museums, and field camps. The NPS Geologic Resources Division and many parks work with National and International geoconservation communities to ensure that NPS abiotic resources are managed using the highest standards and best practices available.

For more information on the NPS Geodiversity Atlas, contact us.

Colorado National Monument

Last updated: December 13, 2023