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Data Series 918

Prepared in cooperation with National Park Service

Sample Descriptions and Geophysical Logs for Cored Well BP-3-USGS, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Alamosa County, Colorado

By V.J.S. Grauch, Gary L. Skipp, Jonathan V. Thomas, Joshua K. Davis, and Mary Ellen Benson

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (3.10 MB)Abstract

The BP-3-USGS well was drilled at the southwestern corner of Great Sand Dunes National Park in the San Luis Valley, south-central Colorado, 68 feet (ft, 20.7 meters [m]) southwest of the National Park Service’s boundary-piezometer (BP) well 3. BP-3-USGS is located at latitude 37°43ʹ18.06ʺN. and longitude 105°43ʹ39.30ʺW., at an elevation of 7,549 ft (2,301 m). The well was drilled through poorly consolidated sediments to a depth of 326 ft (99.4 m) in September 2009. Water began flowing from the well after penetrating a clay-rich layer that was first intercepted at a depth of 119 ft (36.3 m). The base of this layer, at an elevation of 7,415 ft (2,260 m) above sea level, likely marks the top of a regional confined aquifer recognized throughout much of the San Luis Valley. Approximately 69 ft (21 m) of core was recovered (about 21 percent), almost exclusively from clay-rich zones. Coarser grained fractions were collected from mud extruded from the core barrel or captured from upwelling drilling fluids. Natural gamma-ray, full waveform sonic, density, neutron, resistivity, spontaneous potential, and induction logs were acquired. The well is now plugged and abandoned.

This report presents lithologic descriptions from the well samples and core, along with a compilation and basic data processing of the geophysical logs. The succession of sediments in the well can be generalized into three lithologic packages: (1) mostly sand from the surface to about 77 ft (23.5 m) depth; (2) interbedded sand, silt, and clay, decreasing in overall grain size downward, from 77 to 232 ft (23.5 to 70.7 m) depth; and (3) layers of massive clay alternating with layers of fine sand to silt from 232 to 326 ft (70.7 to 99.4 m), the total depth of the well. The topmost clay layers of the deepest package have a blue tint, prompting a correlation with the “blue clay” of the San Luis Valley that is commonly considered as the top of the confined aquifer. However, a confining clay was intercepted 113 ft (34.4 m) higher than the blue clay in BP-3-USGS.

Most of the geophysical logs have good correspondence to the lithologic variations in the well. Exceptions are the gamma-ray log, which is likely affected by naturally occurring radiation from abundant volcanic detritus, and one interval within the deepest lithologic package, which appears to be abnormally electrically conductive. Resistivity logs and variations in sand versus clay content within the well are consistent with electrical resistivity models derived from time-domain electromagnetic geophysical surveys for the area. In particular, the topmost blue clay corresponds to a strong electrical conductor that is prominent in the electromagnetic geophysical data throughout the park and vicinity.

BP-3-USGS was sited to test hypotheses developed from geophysical studies and to answer questions about the history and evolution of Pliocene and Pleistocene Lake Alamosa, which is represented by lacustrine deposits sampled by the well. The findings reported here represent a basis from which future studies can answer these questions and address other important scientific questions in the San Luis Valley regarding geologic history and climate change, groundwater hydrology, and geophysical interpretation.

First posted March 17, 2015

For additional information, contact:
Director, Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
Box 25046, MS 964
Denver, CO 80225

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Suggested citation:

Grauch, V.J.S., Skipp, G.L., Thomas, J.V., Davis, J.K., and Benson, M.E., 2015, Sample descriptions and geophysical logs for cored well BP-3-USGS, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Alamosa County, Colorado: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 918, 53 p.,

ISSN 2327-638X (online)




Regional Setting and Geophysical Studies

Drilling Operations

Procedures for Lithologic Descriptions

Geophysical Logs

Summary of Findings

Significance for Future Studies


References Cited

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