Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Rifle Falls State Park is located a few miles northeast of the Garfield (CO) County city of Rifle.  The park is a small area, as state parks go, with ~48 acres, but has some spectacular scenery anchored by the falls themselves. The area surrounding the falls is a lush oasis of exotic looking vegetation, cascading waterfalls, and crystal clear streams.  The Leadville Limestone (Mississippian in age) is the bedrock at the falls with East Rifle Creek providing the water.  The Leadville is quite porous (in other parts of the state the Leadville is the host rock for metallic deposits) and numerous small caves may be observed in the Park.  Ground and surface water flowing over and through the Leadville has dissolved parts of the limestone and the water has become saturated with calcium carbonate.  As East Rifle Creek cascades, ~70 feet, over the Leadville Limestone cliff, a gas, carbon dioxide, is released and the chemistry of the water is changed and calcium carbonate is rapidly deposited in the form of travertine, a dense, usually banded, sedimentary rock. It appears that the Creek has changed course many times over the past centuries as the travertine wall extends many hundreds of feet on either side of the current falls.

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