Wyoming Geo-Notes - Summer 2015

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The WSGS website includes new content and multi-media platforms.

WSGS Goes Live with NEW Website!

The Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS) has launched a brand new interactive website for the agency, along with improved navigation and a variety of downloads on Wyoming’s geologic resources.

Main tabs include Energy, Hazards, Minerals, Water, Wyoming Geology, Products, and Public Information. Each section contains basic information as well as photos and graphics, with additional links to the more technical science and applied research by the agency.


  • The Energy pages include the latest production numbers for coal, oil and gas and uranium.
  • The Hazards pages include landslides and earthquake maps and infographics.

  • The Minerals section covers mineral resources as well as "Wyoming Gemstones" with links to "Nephrite Jade" and "Diamonds," some of the more popular pages of the agency.
  • The Water section includes a state map with links to pdf downloads of the WSGS water basin plans as well as information on Wyoming’s groundwater resources.

  • The Wyoming Geology pages include the geologic history of Wyoming with a clickable time scale in color.

  • The Geologic Mapping section includes other tabs linking to downloadable bedrock and surficial geology maps of all different sizes.

  • The Public Information section includes all agency news and outreach programs, including copies of our quarterly e-newsletter Geo-Notes as well as the Cultural Geology Guide...a statewide video project in progress.

Other products can be found on the WSGS Online Catalog, a clearinghouse of reports and maps published by the agency. A new search feature is now included on the site for easy access to items by topic.

Check out the new WSGS website at www.wsgs.wyo.gov. To sign up for WSGS news releases or Geo-Notes, click here.

WSGS Role in Groundwater Research


The WSGS will complete its series of groundwater studies across the state with a final report on the rivers of northeast Wyoming, slated for release in 2018.  

WSGS hydrogeologists study the distribution, flow and quality of Wyoming’s water underground. This information is then complied, mapped and published by the agency.

The WSGS has produced five major technical reports covering Wyoming’s major river basins in the state, including the Snake/Salt River Basin, Bear River Basin, Wind/Bighorn Basin, Greater Green River Basin and Platte River Basin. The final groundwater study will include the Powder, Tongue, Belle Fourche, Cheyenne, Niobrara and Little Missouri rivers.

These projects are funded by the Wyoming Water Development Office and include groundwater data, maps and analyses. The scientific information compiled for these studies are then incorporated into the state’s major water plans. Such collaboration between state agencies is important for managing the future use of Wyoming's water resources.

The WSGS studies cover the geologic conditions of the water basins, water quality, and the natural storage of water in the underground aquifers. Locally, water from snowmelt infiltrates through the ground to recharge the underlying aquifers that residents use for their groundwater supplies.

Groundwater is especially important in the arid West where surface water is not as ample as in other parts of the country. Both groundwater and surface water provide freshwater for a wide variety of uses, from the water we drink to water used by livestock and wildlife. 

Wyoming is an important headwaters state that supplies this finite resource to some of the nation’s largest rivers. The state’s mountain snowpack is an important source of natural water flows that ultimately discharge into the Colorado, Missouri and Colombia Rivers as well as the Great Salt Lake Basin.

Check out the new WSGS Summary Report on Wyoming’s Groundwater Resource, a four-page synopsis with maps and information.

A "Chalk Talk" on Wyoming’s Changing Landscape by Sam Knight

Dr. Sam Knight

“Wyoming is a geologic showplace, a panorama of windswept basin floors and imposing mountains.”

~ Samual Howell Knight “Doc”

(To view a video of one Dr. Knight’s final lectures on Wyoming geology, click here. Courtesy of the UW Dept. of Geology and Geophysics.)

Known as “Mr. Geology of Wyoming,” Dr. Sam Knight was a professor and head of the geology department at the University of Wyoming until he retired in 1963. Knight taught more than 10,000 students throughout his career and was known to them as “Doc.”

In 1925, Knight established the UW Science Camp, a geological camp in the Medicine Bow Mountains west of Laramie that attracted students from all over the country. The camp was named after him in 1966. Knight continued teaching as professor emeritus until 1966. During his 60 years at UW, he expanded the geology department and helped make it a nationally recognized program.

Knight was famous for his 3-D drawings, and his ability to draw a perfect circle— freehand— on the classroom blackboard. His “chalk talks” became well known with his use of colored chalk to draw block drawings that vividly depicted and expounded on the physical evolution of Wyoming he discussed during his classes. The following text details a “chalk talk” by Knight, an excerpt by Brainerd Mears (1990).

Knight lectured on how Paleozoic and Mesozoic seas advanced and retreated across the continental platform, depositing sediments. As the Cretaceous seas withdrew, “broad-backed anticlines arose and wide synclines subsided” to initiate the Cenozoic structural framework of Wyoming’s mountains and basins.

The rising mountains were eroded, exposing the Precambrian basement complex in their cores. Concurrently, the basins were filled with debris from the mountains, greatly supplemented by “vast clouds of volcanic ash drifting in from remote sources.”

Subsequent cycles of erosion, transportation, and deposition modified the late Tertiary landscape. Near the conclusion of his presentation Knight said, “ice sculpted the final scene” as Pleistocene glaciers flowing down pre-existing stream valleys in the mountains scoured great U-shaped troughs and deposited hummocky horseshoe-shaped moraines on the adjacent plains.

Generalized Geologic Map of Wyoming (pdf download)

Coming Soon – Cross Sections of Fort Union and Lance Formations

WSGS is soon to release a plate showing a series of stratigraphic cross sections of the Fort Union and Lance formations in the Great Divide Basin. As part of the WSGS energy assessments, geologists Ranie Lynds and Chris Carroll have been gathering data and creating a stratigraphic model to gain a better understanding of the clastic depositional setting around the Late Cretaceous and Early Paleocene time interval. This project is intended as original research that uses subsurface data to design a stratigraphic architecture for potential coal, oil, and natural gas resource development in the northeast part of the Greater Green River Basin.

Weekly Geo-Note! Sign up…

Are you on social media? If not, you can still see our weekly Geo-Note posts online at www.facebook.com

Each Friday we provide a new post on something geologically fascinating. This includes geology tidbits on Wyoming as well as for other locations around the nation and the globe.

Included in each week’s post is an eye-catching visual such as a photo or infographic. The most popular Geo-Note to go “viral” was a post about the Geologic Time Scale. We featured a colored infographic showing the various stages of geologic time along with the associated animals and fossil records. This post went to more than 3,000 viewers. Our weekly Geo-Note post is a great way for our agency to reach a broad audience interested in geology.

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WSGS Research Underway

Jacob Carnes

Geologist Jacob Carnes taking field notes for a WSGS minerals investigation.

Click here for full project descriptions...

  • Mineral Investigations (iron, rare earth elements, zeolites, lithium)
  • Phosphate study
  • Saline waters report
  • National Coal Resource Data System
  • Wyoming oil and gas online map
  • Unconventional oil and gas research
  • Karst
  • Water atlas
  • Geologic hazards report

WSGS Newsletter - Summer 2015

Wyoming Geo-Notes