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Dikes 
 
Dikes are formed when magma (a mixture of molten material and crystals) rises from below and cuts across pre-existing strata.  The magma may follow pre-existing cracks or faults, or may create its own path upward. The magma crystallizes underground and becomes a dike, which is a plutonic or intrusive rock.

Erosion cuts into the earth and allows us to observe the dikes. The magma in a dike may or may not have reached the surface.  If the magma pours out onto the surface then it becomes a volcanic or extrusive rock.  All extrusive rocks must of necessity have intrusive feeders, usually dikes or plugs.
 

Colorado is home to examples of every type of known dike structure.

Here are a few of Colorado's amazing array of dikes:
ImageRotator picture

 Video of dike formation

 by Tanya Atwater

 


 Click image to enlarge
The Big Wall

The Spanish Peaks region is world famous for its dikes.  More than 500 have been mapped.  There are several different compositions, ages, and orientations of the dikes.  The dikes sometimes stand out in bold relief such as this one named the Big Wall, shown here at the base of West Spanish Peak.
 


The Devil's Stairsteps

Click image to see information and images of the beautiful dike formation in southern Colorado know as the Devil's Stairsteps.
The Hogback Dike

Click image to see information and images of the 6-mile-long Hogback Dike of Lathrop State Park

Click image to enlarge
This dike in Horseshoe Gulch has unusual horizontal columnar jointing.
 
Normally, columnar jointing in lava flows is vertical. The igneous dike outlined by the red lines, intruded across relatively cold, sedimentary strata (wall rock).

The columnar joints are interpreted to form normal (at right angles) to the isotherms (lines of equal temperature) in the molten material during cooling and solidification. In lava flows, the isotherms are generally horizontal, getting cooler toward the atmosphere on top of the flow. So, the columnar joints that form at right angles to the isotherms are vertical.

Click image to enlarge
In the Horseshoe Gulch dike, the magma lost heat fastest to the walls into which it intruded. The isotherms within the molten material were parallel to the wall rock. Therefore, the isotherms were vertical (parallel to the walls of the dike and the columnar jointing (parallel to yellow line) formed at right angles (normal) to the wall rock.
Valmont Dike

The Valmont dike just east of Boulder cuts the Pierre shale.

Click image to see more information and images of the Valmont Dike.
Sandstone Dikes

Not all dikes are composed of igneous rock!

Click on the image at the left to learn about this special geology and how it forms.

Click image to enlarge
San Juan Mountain dikes  - At least seven dikes can be seen cutting up through these volcanic deposits in the San Juan Mountains.

Image:  V. Matthews
Click image to enlarge
This basaltic dike cuts Tertiary sedimentary rock in a railroad cut in Trinidad State Park.
Dike in Trinidad SP - This basaltic dike cuts Tertiary sedimentary rock in a railroad cut in Trinidad State Park.
Proterozoic pegmatite dike in the Arkansas River Canyon.
The Morley Dikes

Located near Raton Pass south of Trinidad, Colorado, these classic dikes intersect coal formations in the area.

Click image to see more information and images of the Morley Dikes - and some information about how geology affected the original town of Morley, Colorado, now long abandoned.
This mountain was known for many years as Dike Mountain due to its large swarm of radiating dikes.  Explore its new name with this link.
Last Updated: 11/5/2012 3:52 PM  Find us on facebook
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