Raton Basin Colorado and New Mexico

The first iridium-bearing terrestrial K-T boundary sections were discovered in the Raton Basin of southeastern Colorado and northeastern New Mexico (Figure 7.2). The K-T boundary is preserved in the Raton Formation, an entirely nonmarine unit of Maastrichtian and early Paleocene age (Figure 7.3). The Raton Formation is composed of sandstone, siltstone, mudstone, coal, and minor conglomerate. Thin to thick coal beds are common in the lower and upper parts of the formation, but are scarce to absent in the middle "barren series,'' which is composed largely of sandstone. The K-T boundary is present in the upper part of the lower coaly interval, in some places just below sandstone of

Boundary Visible Colorado
Figure 7.1 Map of North America showing approximate locations of areas in which K-T boundary localities occur in nonmarine rocks. Each dot represents one or more (as many as 12) individual localities. Numbers are keyed to Table 2.1 and Appendix.

the barren series. It is also present in numerous locations on the eastern side of the basin, and in many places the boundary can be recognized by a distinctive, thin (1-2 cm) claystone unit visible in outcrop, even at a distance (Figure 7.4). In most places where the boundary claystone has been identified, a thin coal bed closely overlies it. An important difference in the stratigraphic setting of the K-T boundary in the Raton Basin from that in the Williston Basin is this: in the Raton Basin, the boundary is entirely enclosed within a coal-bearing interval, the Raton Formation. The fine-grained rocks of the Raton Formation contain abundant plant megafossils and palynomorphs, but with the exception of a few dinosaur tracks, vertebrate fossils are absent, likely an artifact of depositional environments unfavorable for their preservation.

In Maastrichtian time, the fluvial coastal plain in which sediments of the Raton Formation accumulated was vegetated by a diverse, angiosperm-dominated forest in which broad-leaved evergreen species were dominant and conifers were rare. The climate was warm and sub-humid. Following the K-T boundary event, the vegetation changed radically to a low-diversity forest, and


Starkville South

Starkville South


Basalt flows Uerf ano Formation Middle Tertiary intrusives Cuchara Formation Poison Canyon Formation Raton Formation Vermep F ormation

Trinidad Sandstone and Pierre Shale undivided Pierre SNiobr ara undivided Precambrian undivided




Colorado New Mexico


Figure 7.2 Geological map of the Raton Basin showing approximate positions of K-T boundary localities discussed in the text. In all, 13 fully documented boundary localities are known in the basin.

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