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After an introductory section, Colorado's geologic history will unfold in chronological order below.
As we come up on major divisions along the geologic timeline, a brief "About Time" header will summarize what event or fossil record breakpoint ushered in the upcoming division and show how it's subdivided.
If you need more help with geologic time or terminology, check out these resources.
Colorado's geologic history is as complex as it is fascinating.
This geologic overview focuses primarily on the Colorado Rockies and the Colorado Plateau, but adjoining portions of Wyoming, Utah and the High Plains as far east as the Black Hills of South Dakota also have important and related stories to tell.
Throughout this article, I'll refer to Colorado and these adjoining areas as our region of interest, which closely coincides both with the area shown in the NASA photo at Bearings just below and also with the area affected by Laramide uplift.
The entire Mesozoic Era (295 Ma long) shot by in under an hour, the dinosaurs departed just 20 minutes ago (thank goodness), and we've been comfy and relatively ice-free for only a mere 0.2 seconds.
A healthy human female can expect to live just under 2 milliseconds in a developed country.
Colorado's story still includes many gaps and controversies, often around events and structures shrouded in deep time, deep earth or both.I've attempted to point out the most significant unknowns and disagreements, but often, rightly or wrongly, I've simply taken sides.If you take nothing else away from this humble attempt, please consider this: Of Colorado's 55 Fourteeners, all but 2 (Longs Peak and Pikes Peak) lie either along the Colorado Mineral Belt or on the shoulders of the Rio Grande Rift.Given enough time, cold surface rock will yield to flowing water and buried rock will bend or even flow rather than break.The planet's had ample time for all of this, even if it's out of our ken.