What lies below
By Hank Lohmeyer
Published Wednesday, January 18, 2017 10:33 am
Photos by Hank Lohmeyer The view from Hart's Basin to the West Elk range takes in a lot of Delta County geology; geology that is the special field of study of Dr. David Noe of Paonia who has been giving presentations on the topic to local audiences.
The geologic features of Delta County that contribute to its bounty of agriculture and natural resources, and to the scenic beauty and recreational pleasure it affords have been the professional province of Dave Noe of Paonia.
He is a geologist "recently retired" from the Colorado Geological Survey. He has a Ph.D. from Colorado School of Mines in geological engineering and has had an extensive career in the field. He spent years in field research and mapmaking on the Western Slope including work with the Colorado Geologic Mapping program.
Noe says of himself in a profile posted online, "My specialty is in studying geology and its interrelationships with the natural world and also with human activities. This has guided my career, first as a National Park Service ranger, then for over three decades as a professional geologist. I especially enjoy fieldwork and solving geology-related problems. In retirement, I am focused on educating the general public about the wonders of geology as they relate to the places where we live and in our everyday lives."
A large turnout of more than 80 people at the Stolte Shed in Cedaredge on Jan. 12 for an interesting and enlightening presentation by Noe demonstrated the great interest that people here share in the area's geology. He has given presentations on local geology at libraries in the county.
As noted in his presentation that evening, lots of people have the idea of a Grand Mesa that was once a large volcano spewing lava for miles around. Noe explains that there have in fact been at least 22 large lava flows documented coming out of the Grand Mesa throughout geologic time. The lava flows have helped build the Grand Mesa. Some of the lava flows are well over 100 feet thick in places today.
The forces of glaciation brought large boulders and other debris from the Grand Mesa down into valleys. The forces of erosion then helped create a landscape of the many "gravel-topped mesas" that are found in Delta County today.
Noe is a graduate of Greeley Central High School and of the University of Northern Colorado where he earned his bachelor's in geology.
Upon retirement in 2015 he moved to Paonia "where the Rockies abut the Colorado Plateau." His interests include "staying active with outdoor adventures, performing on my trombone with over half-a-dozen bands, serving on the board of the Western Slope Conservation Center, and conducting public geology talks and hikes. Although I've not yet done any work as a geologic consultant, I am open to possibilities for interesting work."
Noe lists his work specialities as "geologic mapping, geologic hazards, stratigraphy, geomorphology, modern and ancient depositional systems, Cretaceous marine invertebrate biostratigraphy, project management, scientific illustration, GIS map creation, outcrop-trench-core descriptions and public speaking."
His professional work with the Colorado Geological Survey gave him years of experience doing field work and map making on the Western Slope.
The Colorado Geological Survey was formed in association of the state and federal governments in the 1990s. The work they do is described as "applied science," as contrasted with "pure science" done by the United States Geological Survey that produces the well-known USGS quadrangle topographical map series. A typical quadrangle map can cover an area of up to 70 square miles. Much of Noe's map making work on the West Slope is based on the USGS quad dimension.
Focusing on the geology that exists underneath the ground features, the Colorado Geological Survey's professionals often work with local governments on map making that meets local needs including the identification of geologic hazards and other features.
His presentation at the Stolte Shed in Cedaredge focused on "The Earth Beneath our Feet" and the vast stretches of geologic time and the "immense natural forces" of erosion that have worked over millions of years to shape the world we know today. Noe zeroed in on the Orchard City and North Delta areas for his presentation at the Stolte Shed. The talk was divided into three main areas: geologic setting; how a geologic map is made; and highlights from the Orchard City and North Delta areas.
His presentation also touched on other geologic features of this area including the Gunnison uplift; Piceance Basin; rock formations of Dakota, Burro Canyon, and Morrison formations; and familiar landforms of Mancos shales.
Most people can satisfy their passion for Delta County landscapes with some basic maps and learning where roads go and the names of the places they go to; and then getting out and going there.
But for those who want to know more, especially of a more technical nature, there are some readily available materials available.
One is to check out the Colorado Geological Survey web page and look for maps of interest to order.
Another is the series of hydrologic studies of the county done for county government. They are available online through the county's website -- "Groundwater Systems in Delta County, Colorado:" GIS-Based Hydrological and Environmental Systems Analysis and Formulation of Conceptual Site Models prepared for the county by geologists Kenneth Kohlm and Paul Vanderheide
Another area study has been uploaded to the web by a Mesa State University student: "A Geologic Study of Dakota Formation Exposures in Delta County, Colorado," by J. Robert Rice, geoscience senior, 2014.