Date of Award


Document Type

Master's report

Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Science Education (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences


Jacqueline E. Huntoon


The late Paleozoic Cutler Formation, where exposed near the modern-day town of Gateway, Colorado, has traditionally been interpreted as the product of alluvial fan deposition within the easternmost portion of the Paradox Basin. The Paradox Basin formed between the western margin of the Uncompahgre Uplift segment of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains and the western paleoshoreline of the North American portion of Pangea. The Paradox Basin region is commonly thought to have experienced semi-arid to arid conditions and warm temperatures during the Pennsylvanian and Permian. Evidence described in this paper support prior interpretations regarding paleoclimate conditions and the inferred depositional environment for the Cutler Formation near Gateway, Colorado.

Plant fossils collected from the late Paleozoic Cutler Formation in The Palisade Wilderness Study Area (managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management) of western Colorado include Calamites, Walchia, Pecopteris, and many calamitean fragments. The flora collected is interpreted to have lived in an arid or semi-arid environment that included wet areas of limited areal extent located near the apex of an alluvial fan system. Palynological analysis of samples collected revealed the presence of the common Pennsylvanian palynomorphs Thymospora pseudothiessenii and Lophotriletes microsaetosus. These fossils suggest that warm and at least seasonally and locally wet conditions existed in the area during the time that the plants were growing.

All evidence of late Paleozoic plant life collected during this study was found along the western margin of the Uncompahgre Uplift segment of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains. During the late Paleozoic, sediment was eroded from the Uncompahgre Uplift and deposited in the adjacent Paradox Basin. The preservation of plant fossils in the most proximal parts of the Paradox Basin is remarkable due to the fact that much of the proximal Cutler Formation consists of conglomerates and sandstones deposited as debris flow and by fluvial systems. The plants must have grown in a protected setting, possibly an abandoned channel on the alluvial fan, and been rapidly buried in the subsiding Paradox Basin. It is likely that there was abundant vegetation in and adjacent to low-lying wet areas at the time the Cutler Formation was deposited.