Rocky Mountain (56th Annual) and Cordilleran (100th Annual) Joint Meeting (May 3–5, 2004)

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-5:00 PM


AALTO, K.R., Geology, Humboldt State Univ, Arcata, CA 95521,

Areas of map overlap of the four great post-Civil War geological surveys of the American West include a strip across northern Colorado [King and Hayden Surveys], NW Colorado-SW Wyoming [King and Powell Surveys], and the central Utah Wasatch front [King and Wheeler Surveys]. Prior to the publication of atlases [King -1876, Hayden-1881, Powell-1876, Wheeler-1874] little field data was exchanged, yet maps of overlapped areas are fairly similar [mapping displayed on poster]. However, tectonic interpretations markedly differ. While King favored Mesozoic crustal shortening followed by Cenozoic vertical faulting, the others emphasized solely vertical tectonics. J. T. Gardiner’s methods of making topographical maps the basis for portraying geology for the King Survey were adopted by the other surveys [Gardiner worked with Hayden in the Colorado]. The Wheeler Survey focused on geographic mapping (which J. D. Whitney in 1875 deemed: “defective and far inferior” to the work of the King Survey), with reconnaissance geologic mapping by G. K. Gilbert and others. Geologic mapping by the King, Powell and Hayden Surveys in NW Colorado, and by the King and Hayden Surveys in central Colorado, is so similar as to seem redundant. However, King in 1878 justified survey expenses, writing that "This exploration has not duplicated other surveys made by authority of Congress." While mapping in overlapping areas in partly reflects varied goals of survey leaders and/or imprecisely defined survey and territorial boundaries, it as well reflects the strong personalities of and rivalry among these men and some unwillingness to share information. The stage was thus set for Congress to call for the consolidation of all western surveying under the authority of a single agency, the newly formed U. S. Geological Survey, with King selected as its first director.