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Current Projects


Chugwater Quadrangle

A bedrock geology map now underway of the Chugwater 1:100,00-scale quadrangle in southeast Wyoming will complete bedrock mapping for the eastern edge of Wyoming and the Denver Basin and High Plains Aquifer areas.

A bedrock compilation effort for the quadrangle began nearly a decade ago by the Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS), portions have been mapped by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for Water Supply papers, and two 1:24,000-scale maps were published from the study area. WSGS geoscientists are using these resources to construct a digital bedrock geologic map in an ArcGIS geodatabase. Staff previously interpreted aerial photos to refine contact placement, edge-matched with adjacent 1:100,000-scale quadrangles. They have field checked the map area to ground-truth formations and unit contact placement. The map is due to be published in spring 2020.

Digital Depth to Precambrian Basement Map of Wyoming

The WSGS is creating a basement map that will provide valuable information about the depth to Precambrian geology of Wyoming. The map will serve as the framework for related WSGS projects focused on constraining Precambrian lithology and geochronologic relationships, as well as provide key data to identify potential areas of critical mineral deposits.

Critical minerals are important to U.S. national security and economy. Wyoming hosts significant occurrences of many of these minerals, in part due to the wide variety of geologic environments present throughout the state. Many critical minerals in Wyoming are either found in, or originate from, Precambrian igneous and metamorphic basement rocks. These rocks are exposed at the surface in many of the basement-cored mountain ranges in the state, but can be buried below Phanerozoic strata in the nearby basins.

The WSGS is compiling and preserving depth-to-basement and structure data from seismic interpretations, cross sections, and well logs. The data will be incorporated into a Geologic Map Schema (GeMS)-compliant geodatabase and utilized to generate a digital, publicly available depth to the Precambrian basement map.

The project is partially funded by the National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program and will be completed in summer 2020.

StateMap Program

field work

Geologists at the WSGS are finalizing the next set of maps to be released under its StateMap program. All five maps are at 1:24,000 scale:

  • Firehole Canyon project, Sweetwater County, three bedrock geology maps: This project involves mapping the Earnest Butte, Lion Bluffs, and South Baxter 7.5' quadrangles. The purpose of this project is to provide significant infill mapping with the overall goal of producing the Firehole Canyon 1:100,000-scale map in the next few years. The area contains one of Wyoming's largest water reservoirs, and has potential for oil and gas, coal, and trona among other mineral resources. The mapping area also may provide key information on timing of uplift of several Laramide structure and basin response to deformation.
  • Little Greys River project, Lincoln County, two surficial geology maps: This project will produce maps of the Blind Bull Creek and Pickle Pass 7.5' quadrangles. The work will update existing landslide inventories for the area, which is prone to landslide activities, including events that have closed roads. The maps will also refine the location of the northern extent of the Greys River fault, extending its known trace approximately 10 km to the north. The normal fault shows Holocene offset and is potentially capable of large earthquakes.

The mapping projects will be published in summer 2020. More information about the StateMap program can be found on the Geologic Mapping Page.

Mapping in the Laramie Mountains

WSGS is working with Dr. B. Ronald Frost (Emeritus--University of Wyoming Department of Geology and Geophysics) on a series of 1:24,000-scale quadrangle maps in the Laramie Mountains. Three quadrangles—Guide Rock, Poe Mountain, and Moonshine Peak—display key relations between the various plutons of the Laramie anorthosite complex and the Archean basement rocks to the north. The portion of the maps covering the Laramie anorthosite complex include mapping conducted by the faculty and students of the Department of Geology and Geophysics during the years 1980–1996. The mapping of the Laramie anorthosite complex, combined with mapping of the adjacent country rock by George Snyder of the USGS, appeared as the USGS Open-File Reports OFR 84-358 (A–M). The goal of this project is to produce this updated view of the geology of the central Laramie Range. Guide Rock and Poe Mountain are expected to be published in 2020.

Mineral Investigations


A publication in the works focuses on occurrences of jade, which is the most famous gemstone in Wyoming. Nephrite jade, also known as Wyoming Jade, is Wyoming’s state gemstone and first received wide attention in the Granite Mountains area of central Wyoming in the 1930s. Wyoming Jade is considered to be some of the finest nephrite in the world, and varies from translucent to opaque and ranges in color from off-white (rare) to apple green, emerald green, leaf green, olive green, and black.

This investigation will discuss the geology, mineralogy, and history of jade in Wyoming, along with its significance as a gemstone.

NURE Re-Analysis

This project focuses on re-analyzing legacy sediment samples collected in Wyoming as part of the National Uranium Resource Evaluation (NURE) that occurred in the late 1970s. The goal of this project is to analyze a portion of the samples using modern analytical methods in search of new areas containing critical and strategic minerals, including uranium, vanadium, titanium, cobalt, and rare earth elements. The new geochemical dataset will contain results for 60 elements with better accuracy than the original data, which only contained analysis for 48 elements. The NURE lab results will be released in a separate publication from a report comparing current analysis with the original. A series of maps indicating relative abundance for each mineral are also being developed.

Vanadium, Other Critical Mineral Occurrences in Uranium Roll-Front Deposits

The WSGS is examining the geochemistry of samples from select roll-front deposits in Wyoming. Vanadium is classified as a critical element by the USGS. It is often found with uranium in roll-front settings along with minor concentrations of other critical minerals and elements such as rare earth elements, arsenic, barium, strontium, gallium, and germanium. Vanadium is a byproduct of uranium production, both currently and historically.

Vanadium is commonly incorporated into uranium-bearing minerals as oxides or phosphates (such as carnotite and torbernite, respectively). Depending on the deposit and basin in which the uranium deposits occur, the aforementioned elements may or may not be present along with uranium. The study aims to gain insight into the reasons for such disparities. Using a portable X-ray fluorometer, geologists will examine the geochemistry of core samples from select locations in the Powder River and Great Divide basins to gain a better understanding of the relationships between uranium, vanadium, and as many other critical elements as possible.

Wyoming’s economy could benefit from vanadium exploration and production, especially if existing technology allowed for the economic in-situ recovery (ISR) of vanadium (or other critical elements) along with uranium. Previously, vanadium was largely overlooked because of unfavorable market conditions or a focus only on uranium production (or both).

Oil and Gas

Subsurface Energy Database

This will be a spatial database for organization, future entry, and dissemination of Wyoming well, reservoir, and formation attributes and associated log interpretation. The searchable database will incorporate legacy as well as new data, and will be used as a repository for subsurface interpretation data to be accessible online to other agencies, private industry, and the public. This project fulfills the WSGS mission to provide geologic resource information to impact sound economic development and overall improvement in the quality of life for Wyoming’s residents.

Upper Cretaceous Stratigraphy in the Powder River Basin

WSGS oil and gas geologists Rachel Toner and Derek Lichtner are currently working to publish subsurface Upper Cretaceous reservoir interpretations from geophysical well logs in the Powder River Basin. The final publication will include a series of isopach and structure contour maps of each reservoir, along with specific top and thickness data from each well.

Greater Green River Basin Stratigraphy

A new project is in the works to collect subsurface stratigraphic data from geophysical well logs in the Greater Green River Basin (including the Bridger, Green River, Washakie, and Great Divide basins). WSGS geologists will integrate existing legacy datasets with new well information to develop a dataset to generate thickness and structure contour maps of key surfaces and reservoirs in the Greater Green River Basin. Data will be added to the Subsurface Energy Database.


Salinity Investigations

Salinity is an expedient measure of general water quality used in part by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to classify groundwater classes suitable for human, livestock, agricultural, and industrial uses. Also referred to as total dissolved solids, salinity measures the dissolved mineral residue that remains after evaporation of the liquid portion of a water sample.

WSGS geologists have conducted recent groundwater salinity investigations in the Denver-Julesburg and Powder River basins in eastern Wyoming. A related study in the Greater Green River Basin of southwestern Wyoming is scheduled for publication later this year. These basin-specific studies largely used geophysical well logs obtained from the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC) supplemented by water quality analyses from the USGS to estimate groundwater salinities to a depth of 7,000 feet below ground surface (bgs).

Another salinity report underway takes a statewide focus. This investigation specifically examines saline groundwaters suited to industrial uses to a depth of 20,000 feet bgs. More than 36,000 water quality analyses from the USGS and WOGCC have been examined for this study, which is schedule for release in 2020.

Groundwater Response in Sandstones of Wasatch and Fort Union Formations, Powder River Basin

This project update uses groundwater monitoring well data from the Bureau of Land Management to examine how groundwater levels in sandstone aquifers of the Wasatch and Fort Union formations have responded to decreased coalbed methane (CBM) production in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming. The type, magnitude, and timing of water level responses will be evaluated as they relate to the depth of the monitored sandstone aquifer and its vertical distance from a CBM-producing coal seam. An analysis of the data will attempt to construct mathematical models to predict the time required for groundwater levels to return to preproduction depths. The report will contain monitoring well and water level statistics as well as time series graphs for all monitoring sites.

Glendo State Park

State Park Geology

Wyoming state parks may be a traveler’s final destination or a stop along the way. Nonetheless, a major draw to the parks is the geology. WSGS geologists are gathering information about the geology of each of Wyoming’s state parks for new public information circulars to be available for park visitors.

Public information circulars will be published in pamphlet form as they are completed. To date, Glendo, Edness K. Wilkins, Bear River, Keyhole, Guernsey, Curt Gowdy, and Seminoe state parks have been completed.