Tag Archive for: Utah Geology


A fossil from an extinct relative of the rhinoceros, Telataceras, set the record for highest vertebrate fossil found in Utah.

A jawbone with three molars was found 10,000 feet up Thousand Lake Mountain in Wayne County, Utah. Geologists from the Utah Geological Survey found the fossil while mapping rock layers in the mountain in 2005.

On another expedition in 2006, the geologists found a portion of the skull of another extinct mammal, a brontothere known as Duchesneodus uintensis. The fossils were embedded in sand and gravel that were likely laid down by a river.

Finding the two fossils in the same sediment layer suggested to the scientists that they are around 42 to 37 million years old, from a period known as the Duchesnean Land Mammal Age, during the Eocene Age.

The researchers, led by Donald Deblieux of the Utah Geological Survey, believe that certain features of the brontothere fossil may mean it is a new species.




Water and weather experts are fairly certain that five to seven consecutive days of high temperatures will bring widespread flooding. Less predictable, however, are mudslides and debris flows that can swallow roadways and structures with little warning.

The spate of landslides reported since Saturday after heavy rains in northern Utah is an unsettling reminder that flood season in the mountains is precarious in more ways than one. And with each passing day, the time frame for melting record amounts of snow at high elevations becomes more compressed.

If temperatures suddenly rose to normal — or above normal — creeks and rivers in much of Utah would jump their banks, according to Brian McInerney, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service.

That most likely would lead to more mudslides, too, said Rich Giraud, senior geologist with the Utah Geological Survey.

The average high temperature for valley locations in northern Utah during the first week of June is 82 degrees. But the forecast for the next five to seven days calls for relatively cool temperatures, according to the weather service, with highs ranging from 60 degrees to the mid-70s. Rain showers Tuesday should give way to partly cloudy skies for the remainder of the week.

A string of days with average to high temperatures could result in a quick melt that would continue to soak and destabilize already saturated soils, particularly on steep slopes, Giraud said.

“You really can’t forecast landslides. In terms of timing, we can’t do that,” he said. “But when we have above-normal precipitation and a lot of snowmelt, the potential increases. If it warms up, we may start to see a lot of landslides.”

Davis County, with its steep canyons, has had a history of mudslides and debris flows, including a number in 1983, a year remembered for widespread flooding, Giraud said.



For most of human history we’ve been consuming resources at a rate lower than what the planet was able to regenerate.

Unfortunately we have crossed a critical threshold. The demand we are now placing on our planets resources appears to have begun to outpace the rate at which nature can replenish them.

The gap between human demand and supply is known as ecological overshoot. To better understand the concept think of your bank account – in it you have $5000.00 paying monthly interest. Month after month you take the interest plus $100. That $100 is your financial, or for our purposes, your ecological overshoot and its withdrawal is obviously unsustainable.

“One lesson from the five great global extinctions is that species and ecosystems come and go, but the evolutionary process continues. In short, life forms have a future on Earth, but humankind’s future depends on its stewardship of ecosystems that favor Homo Sapiens.” John Cairns, Jr., Future of Life on Earth


According to an intriguing 1826 map atlas, an unnamed river flowed from Great Salt Lake (also unnamed at the time) all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The atlas, titled Morse’s New Universal Atlas of the World on an Improved Plan of Alphabetical Indexes, Designed for Academies and Higher Schools, was recently donated to the Utah Geological Survey

Thought to be the only communication between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, the map shows the river emptying into San Francisco Bay. These old maps are not only fascinating, but offer insight into the events taking place in the early 1800s – providing an almost 200-year-old visual history of the world.



Bob Odom is used to seeing a little bit more damage each year as a landslide carries his neighborhood a little bit further downhill. But this year the pace has slightly increased.

“It’s little bit more than normal,” Odom said, standing in a street that once was straight but is now bent and broken by a seemingly unstoppable force tearing his neighborhood apart.

The landslide typically moves at a pace of a few inches a year. This winter, geologic measurements show that it sped up a bit. Though it’s not a huge increase, it’s enough to serve as a warning of other potentially troublesome landslide activity around the state.

Geologists believe the slight speed-up is due to an unusual amount of water that entered the soil during wet weather in November and December.


Geologic Information: The Devil seems to have inspired many geographic place names. According to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, 34 geographic features bear the name Devils Kitchen, and three of them are found in Utah. The Devils Kitchen that is the subject of this “GeoSights” article is a relatively small (about 700 feet across) south-facing amphitheater exposing redrock hoodoos at the head of Red Creek in the Wasatch Range, about 14 road miles northeast of the town of Nephi in Juab County.

About 60 to 70 million years ago the rock at Devils Kitchen was gravel, sand, and mud deposited by streams flowing out of a now-long-gone mountain range. Continuing deposition resulted in deep burial which, coupled with deep time, compressed and cemented the sediment, transforming it into rock.

With its red hoodoos, Devils Kitchen looks a bit like a miniature Bryce Canyon. The mineral hematite (iron oxide) creates the red color.

Beginning roughly 17 million years ago, movement of the Wasatch fault slowly uplifted the Wasatch Range, with Devils Kitchen along for the ride. The rise of the Wasatch Range empowered erosion to excavate and expose the rock we see today.



The 2011 Calendar of Utah Geology is now available for purchase in the Natural Resources Map & Bookstore!

Featuring everything from slot canyons to snowy glaciers, the calendar has more than 50 photos depicting Utah’s fantastic scenery and geologic wonders.

“The photos are taken by staff members who are often on assignment in some of the most intriguing areas of the state,” says Rick Allis, UGS Director.

This year, 318 photos were juried for inclusion in the calendar.  This was the first time Martha Hayden, a paleontologist, had submitted photos for consideration, and her shot of pictographs in Salt Creek Canyon in Canyonlands National Park won a coveted spot.  “I’m happy the photo was selected because it’s one of the truly great places in Utah.”

The pictures are accompanied by geologic descriptions and location information.  “I hope that these pictures will encourage people to get outside and off the beaten path,” says Tyler Knudsen, a geologist with several picture credits.  “We are so lucky to live in a state with so much geologic diversity.”

UGS attempted to capture the diversity in the calendar with topics including igneous mountains, bridges and arches, the Green River Formation, and geologic hazards.

The calendars are on sale in the Bookstore for $4.95 or $4.25 for orders of 10 or more.
You can view the calendar online at: geology.utah.gov/whatsnew/news/new1010.htm Remember, the holidays are fast approaching, and the calendar makes a great gift for friends and family!