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Could the Colorado River once have flowed into the Labrador Sea?

Date:
October 24, 2013
Source:
Geological Society of America
Summary:
Geologists advocate a possible Canadian connection for the early Miocene Grand Canyon by arguing for the existence of a "super-river" traceable from headwaters in the southern Colorado Plateau through a proto–Grand Canyon to a delta in the Labrador Sea.

Figure stands on Esplanade surface opposite Vulcan's Throne volcano, Grand Canyon, USA.
Credit: J.W. Sears

In the November issue of GSA Today, James W. Sears of the University of Montana in Missoula advocates a possible Canadian connection for the early Miocene Grand Canyon by arguing for the existence of a "super-river" traceable from headwaters in the southern Colorado Plateau through a proto-Grand Canyon to a delta in the Labrador Sea.

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Sears proposes that the river flowed first toward the southwest corner of the Colorado Plateau, and then, in a shift initiated by uplift of the Rio Grande Rift, turned north into Paleogene rifts in the vicinity of Lake Mead. He posits that it then followed northeast-trending grabens across the Idaho and Montana Rockies to the Great Plains and joined the pre-ice age "Bell River" of Canada, which discharged into a massive delta in the Saglek basin of the Labrador Sea.

In this scenario, tectonic faulting beginning 16 million years ago dammed the Miocene Grand Canyon, creating a large lake that existed up to six million years ago. Then volcanism, including the action of the Yellowstone hotspot, cut the river off in Idaho about six million years ago, leading to the eventual capture of the Colorado River by the Gulf of California.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Geological Society of America. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. James W. Sears. Late Oligocene–early Miocene Grand Canyon: A Canadian connection? GSA Today, 2013; 4 DOI: 10.1130/GSATG178A.1

Cite This Page:

Geological Society of America. "Could the Colorado River once have flowed into the Labrador Sea?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131024141434.htm>.
Geological Society of America. (2013, October 24). Could the Colorado River once have flowed into the Labrador Sea?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131024141434.htm
Geological Society of America. "Could the Colorado River once have flowed into the Labrador Sea?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131024141434.htm (accessed January 31, 2015).

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