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Abstract: "Black Gold" Leads to New Structural Interpretation, Northern Sangre de Cristo Mountains/Northeast San Luis Basin

Thomas A. Watkins, John S. Belcher, Robbie Gries, Mark B. Longacre

In the course of exploring for gold along the east margin of the Rio Grande Rift (northern Sangre de Cristo Mountains and northeastern San Luis Basin) live Cretaceous oil was discovered in fractured Precambrian gneiss in 25 of 42 shallow drill holes. Geologic mapping located two outcrops of Mesozoic sediments along the west flank of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Mancos Shale, Dakota Group and Morrison Formation sediments were identified from 17 drill holes. These are the first known occurrences of Mesozoic sediments in the area. Previous investigations had concluded that the Mesozoic section eroded from the San Luis uplift during the Laramide.

Surface and subsurface geologic data was integrated with gravity, magnetic and seismic surveys for a new structural interpretation. The San Luis Basin is separated from the mountains by an intermediate block and the main basin-bounding fault is three miles west-southwest of the mountain front. A major low-angle, normal fault or detachment fault is related to Miocene rifting. A thick section of Mesozoic sediments are interpreted to be present in the hanging wall of this low angle fault. Buried and thermally matured in a Laramide intermountane basin, these sediments are likely the source of the present day oil found in Precambrian rocks.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90959©1995 AAPG Rocky Mountain Section Meeting, Reno, Nevada