Colorado Rose Sandstone is taken from the Buster Quarries in Lyons, Colorado, on the East face of the Rocky Mountains northwest of Boulder. The region was first quarried in 1873 and has been noted for its durable red sandstones ever since. The Buster Quarries are located at the north end of Beech Hill, which provides the highest quality sandstone, both in color and in durability.
The Beech Hill quarries have been in continuous operation since the late 1800's and in the Buster family for nearly 50 years. Stone from the workings was specifically requested by the Colorado legislature for use in the state's pavilion at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1902. Beech Hill sandstone has been shipped nation-wide and internationally ever since.
The Geological History of the Quarry
The Lyons Sandstones were laid down between 250 and 260 million years ago during the Lower Permian Period, when a broad, shallow sea filled the American Midwest. Dunes, beaches, and sandbars formed at the western edge of the sea, along a mountain range that was the ancestor to the Front Range of today's Rocky Mountains. This was a period of desert climate, and the sand pushed up along the seashore met a broad expanse of dunes blown down from the the ancestral Front Range, piling up to depths of at least 220 feet. Well mixed among the quartz and silicate grains of the sand were flecks of iron oxides, mostly hematite, which impart the striking pink, red, and rose colors for which the Lyons formation is known.
Over the next 20 million years or so, into the Triassic Period, the Lyons sand beds were deeply buried and compacted by soft muds and silts washed down by streams that flowed out of the eroding mountain range toward the shrinking inland sea. Under as much as 675 feet of overlying earth, the buried sands compacted and hardened, eventually forming the rolling, layered beds of the Lyons Sandstones.
Further depositions occurred during the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods as the inland sea alternately shrank and grew and the ancestral range eroded away. Then, in the late Cretaceous, a new period of uplift began, forming the present Rocky Mountains and lifting the Lyons formation with it. Continuing erosion removed the covering layers of shale and limestone to expose the striking red sandstones hidden beneath, particularly in the area around the town of Lyons, where the hard sandstone forms obvious hogbacks in the landscape.
The qualities of the stone were easily recognized, and quarrying operations were underway within 20 years of the arrival of the area's first white settlers, as would-be farmers and ranchers turned to the native stone as another source of income.