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A Survey of Fossils and Geology of Red Rock Canyon Open Space, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Red Rock Canyon Open Space (RRCOS) is a 785-acre open space in the western foothills of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The City of Colorado Springs opened RRCOS to the public in October 2003. Because this acreage has been in private ownership since the late 1800s, there has been little documentation of fossils or geology within this property.
Although continuous with the stratigraphy of nearby Garden of the Gods Park, the geology of RRCOS shows remarkable differences. Of primary significance are the relatively uninterrupted, upturned exposures of a sequence of strata comprised of the Fountain Formation, Lyons Sandstone, Morrison and Ralston Creek formations, Purgatoire Formation, Dakota Sandstone, the Benton Shale, Niobrara Formation and Pierre Shale. The majority of formations can be seen within a 1.5 kilometer (km) west to east transect. Lying horizontally over these vertical beds are the Mesa Gravels (equivalent to Verdos Alluvium). Within these formations several sites of geologic interest to the Colorado Springs community were recorded, in particular, the spectacular eolian crossbeds within the Lyons Sandstone.
Fossils documented through this study include apparent roots within the Fountain Formation, and numerous tree imprints, leaves, and Ankylosaurid and Iguanodontid tracks in the Dakota Sandstone. The Codell Sandstone and Niobrara Formation display shark and fish teeth, ammonites, inoceramids, a possible Mosasaur palatine tooth, and tail or fin rays of an Ichthyodectes sp. fish.
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