The response of erosional landscapes to Quaternary climate oscillations is recorded in fluvial terraces whose quantitative interpretation requires numerical ages. We investigate gravel-capped strath terraces along the western edge of Colorado's High Plains to constrain the incision history of this shale-dominated landscape. We use 10Be and 26Al cosmogenic radionuclides (CRNs), optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), and thermally transferred OSL (TT-OSL) to date three strath terraces, all beveled in shale bedrock and then deposited upon by Lefthand Creek, which drains the crystalline core of the Front Range. Our study reveals: (i) a long history (hundreds of thousands of years) of fluvial occupation of the second highest terrace, T2 (Table Mountain), with fluvial abandonment at 92±3ka; (ii) a brief occupation of a narrow and spatially confined terrace, T3, at 98±7ka; and (iii) a 10–25 thousand year period of cutting and fluvial occupation of a lower terrace, T4, marked by the deposition of a lower alluvial unit between 59 and 68ka, followed by deposition of an upper alluvial package at 40±3ka. In conjunction with other recent CRN studies of strath terraces along the Colorado Front Range (Riihimaki et al., 2006; Dühnforth et al., 2012), our data reveal that long periods of lateral planation and fluvial occupation of strath terraces, sometimes lasting several glacial-interglacial cycles, are punctuated by brief episodes of rapid vertical bedrock incision. These data call into question what a singular terrace age represents, as the strath may be cut at one time (its cutting-age) and the terrace surface may be abandoned at a much later time (its abandonment age), and challenge models of strath terraces that appeal to simple pacing by the glacial-interglacial cycles.
Geomorphology – Elsevier
Published: Oct 15, 2017
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