Joint Meeting of the Rocky Mountain Petroleum Sections of AIME, 3–4 March, Denver


The Paradox Basin is a sedimentational basin lying in southeastern Utah and southwestern Colorado. The earliest major exploration occurred on the northside of the San Juan River in Township 40S - Range 24E, during 1956 and 1957.Extensive development also followed on the south side of the river in Township 41S in the latter part of 1957. These activities have continued on both sides of the river to the present. Development within the basin has become identified with field names approved by the Utah Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The major fields on the north of the river are Aneth, Cahone Mesa, Ismay Bluff, McElmo Creek, and on the south, White Mesa, Ratherford and Desert Creek.


Commercial production in the Basin was first obtained by Shell Oil Co. on the south side of the river at their Desert Creek No.2, on Nov. 5, 1954. Shortly after, the Texas Co. brought in their Navajo C No.1 on the north side of the river for 1704 bbl of 430 gravity oil. This well indicated the extensive activity with which the Four Corners Area has since been identified.

To date the majority of drilling and development has been on Navajo Indian lands. These lands are characterized by poor surface coverage and, therefore, very little economic development. Telephone lines, power lines, and habitable communities were non-existent at the time major drilling programs were started in the Four Corners Area. Roads consisted of Indian Service trails and were unsuited for either the volume of traffic or the truck loads suddenly imposed upon them. Improvement and extension of the trails was greatly handicapped by the extensive areas of unconsolidated sands and the distances to accessible rock suitable as aggregates for road construction. Since there were no small communities on the reservation around which either trailer or housing developments could be initiated, personnel and supplies had to be based at the nearest town or towns.

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