A proposed Laramide proto-Grand Canyon


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The absence of “rim gravels” north of Grand Canyon and of “Canaan Peak-type” gravels south of Grand Canyon suggests that a paleocanyon, which intersected the transport of these gravels north and south, may have begun forming in the Laramide in approximately the same position as today's central Grand Canyon. This Laramide-age canyon is envisioned as having flowed generally from the SW to NE; from the Peach Springs Canyon area to Mile 197 where it was captured by karst; then along a N. 60°E joint system to the Kanab Point area where it converged with drainage coming off the west side of the Kaibab arch. From there it flowed north along the west flank of the Kaibab arch to Paleogene Lake Claron. The critical idea suggested by this proposed model is that the modern Colorado River utilized Laramide paleotopography in establishing its course through the central Grand Canyon, with younger sections of the canyon integrating with it later, in the middle to late Miocene. This paleocanyon route, in association with headward erosion from the Grand Wash Cliffs toward the Kaibab arch after 16–17 Ma, helps account for the total volume of rock eroded from Grand Canyon, which cannot be explained by present-day incision rates.

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