Field Trips

This meeting offers the following 13 field trips, which range in length from one to three days. Questions? Please contact the field trip leaders or Field Trip Co-Chairs: Eugene Smith and Ernie Duebendorfer.

There are funds available to help students attend these trips.
See [ Field Trip Grants ]

Field Trip Registration is now closed.
Please contact the Field Trip leaders to inquire about space availability.

Premeeting Field Trips

  1. Wilson Ridge Pluton and River Mountains Volcanic Section: Linked Magmatism in the Lake Mead Area, Nevada and Arizona.
    Sun.-Tues., 16-18 March (3 days).
    Denise Honn, UNLV, +1-702-895-4301; Eugene Smith, UNLV, +1-702-895-3971.
    Cost: US$305; includes hotel in Boulder City Sunday and Monday nights, lunches and snacks both days, guidebook, and travel by 4WD vehicles. Participants are responsible for breakfast and dinner both days of the trip. Trip begins and ends at UNLV. Min: 8; Max: 12.
         We will visit a plutonic complex and coeval volcanic section in the Lake Mead area of Nevada and Arizona. The Wilson Ridge Pluton (12.5 to 13.4 Ma) and River Mountains volcanic section (12.6 to 13.4 Ma) of southern Nevada and northern Arizona exemplify an igneous system with both volcanic and plutonic rocks exposed. The volcanic cover was removed from its underlying pluton by the Saddle Island detachment fault (ca. 13.4 Ma). Subsequent faulting and tilting (5-20) exposed a 20-km, nearly continuous section of the Wilson Ridge Pluton. Normal faulting and stratal rotation in the River Mountains have exposed much of the volcano in cross section, including a plug of plutonic rock. This field trip will focus on the links between the volcanic and plutonic segments of the system, including field relationships, mafic enclaves, mineralogy, geochronology, structure, and geochemistry. On the first day, we will examine the Wilson Ridge Pluton and take a two-mile moderately strenuous hike to view spectacular magma commingling textures. Monday night will be spent in Boulder City, Nevada. On the second day, we will visit the River Mountains volcanic section and take several short hikes to view the River Mountains stock, rhyolite domes, and basaltic vent areas. We will return to Las Vegas on Tuesday evening in time to allow hotel check-in and participation in the welcoming party.
  2. Widespread Evidence of Late Paleozoic Tectonism in the Great Basin, Nevada.
    Sun.-Tues., 16-18 March (3 days).
    Sorry, this trip has been canceled.
  3. Active Tectonics of the Eastern California Shear Zone.
    Sun.-Tues., 16-18 March (3 days).
    Kurt Frankel, Georgia Institute of Technology, +1-404-894-4008; Mike Oskin, University of North Carolina, +1-919-962-4239, Allen Glazner, University of North Carolina, +1-919-962-0689; Eric Kirby, Pennsylvania State University, +1-814-865-0732; Frank Monastero, United States Navy, +1-760-939-4046; Jeff Unruh, William Lettis & Associates, +1-925-256-6070; Doug Walker, University of Kansas, +1-785-864-2735.
    Cost: US$385; includes two breakfasts, three lunches, one dinner, snacks, two nights' accommodation, transportation during trip, and a guidebook. Min: 12; Max: 34.
         The eastern California shear zone plays an important role in accommodating Pacific-North America plate boundary deformation east of the San Andreas fault. This field trip will highlight recent research on fault slip rates and displacement histories in this region. Trip participants will examine late Pleistocene fault slip rate sites along the Lenwood and Calico faults in the Mojave Desert, evidence for temporal variations in fault slip rates along the Garlock fault, recent deformation in the Coso Range, total dextral displacement across Owens Valley, and late Pleistocene spatial and temporal variations in slip rate along the Owens Valley, White Mountains, and northern Death Valley-Fish Lake Valley fault zones.
  4. Ediacarian and Early Cambrian Reefs of Esmeralda County, Nevada: Congruent Ecosystems across the Neoproterozoic-Cambrian Boundary.
    Mon.-Tues., 17-18 March (2 days).
    Steve Rowland, UNLV, +1-702-895-3625; Melissa Hicks, Exxon-Mobil; Lynn Oliver, U.S. Forest Service; Marty Erwin, UNLV.
    Cost: US$155; includes two lunches, one dinner, one breakfast, and transportation, with primitive camping on Monday night in the scenic wilds of Esmeralda County. Departs from UNLV at 9 a.m. on 17 March and returns to Las Vegas at ~5 p.m. on March 18. Airport pickup can be arranged. Min: 8; Max: 16.
         Participants will visit three of the best examples of Ediacarian and Early Cambrian reefs in North America: (1) the stromatolite-rich, latest Ediacarian reef complex of the Deep Spring Formation at Mount Dunfee; (2) the classic, ecologically-zoned, Lower Poleta reef complex at Stewart's Mill; and (3) a recently described, latest Early Cambrian reef complex in the Harkless Formation in Lida Valley. The Harkless reefs contain the oldest reported tabulate corals in North America; these reefs represent the last pulse of reef-building by metazoans prior to a long hiatus that extends through the Middle and Late Cambrian and Early Ordovician. The focus of the trip will be a comparison of reef community structure across the Ediacarian-Cambrian boundary. Moderately strenuous hiking and steep slopes will be involved, rewarded by spectacular exposures of reefs.
  5. Dinosaurs of Nevada: Sedimentology and Paleontology of the Mesozoic in the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.
    Tues., 18 March (1 day).
    Joshua Bonde, UNLV, +1-702-468-2500; David Varricchio; Frankie Jackson, Montana State University-Bozeman; Aubrey Shirk, UNLV.
    Cost: US$90; includes lunch, guidebook, and transportation. Min: 15; Max: 30.
         This field trip will explore the Mesozoic sedimentology of the Valley of Fire State Park, with particular attention to the mid-Cretaceous section. The Cretaceous sediments in the Valley of Fire were deposited in the foredeep of the Sevier Fold and Thrust Front and show a transition from braided fluvial lithofacies to a multichanneled aggrading fluvial system. In addition to exploring the sedimentology, there will also be a tour of the vertebrate paleontology of these Mesozoic formations, from ichnofossils in the Jurassic Aztec Sandstone to dinosaur and turtle sites from the Lower Cretaceous Willow Tank Formation. These Lower Cretaceous Formations are the formations from which the first Nevada dinosaurs were described. The biota recovered extends known Early Cretaceous faunas from western North America to southern Nevada during the Albian. Some long hikes will be included in this trip.
  6. Crustal Properties, Magmatism, and Tectonics in a Tilted Crustal Section, Eastern Transverse Ranges and Southern Mojave Desert.
    Sat.-Tues., 15-18 March (3 and a half days). Andrew Barth, IUPUI, +1-317-274-1243; Lawford Anderson, Carl Jacobson, Scott Paterson, Joseph Wooden.
    Cost: US$310; includes two breakfasts, three lunches, two dinners, transportation, and guidebook. Camping and moderate hiking are involved. Trip begins and ends in Las Vegas. Max: 15.
         This field trip offers an overview of the tectonic evolution of a tilted section through the upper and middle crust of the Cretaceous Cordilleran arc. An east-to-west transect will afford us a view of continental arc and retro-arc tectonics in the Cretaceous and a top-down view of variations in the composition and emplacement of igneous rocks, culminating in underthrust oceanic lithosphere.


  1. Cenozoic Evolution of the Abrupt Colorado Plateau-Basin and Range Boundary, Northwest Arizona: A Tale of Three Basins, Thick Lacustrine-Evaporite Deposits, and the Nascent Colorado River.
    Sat.-Mon., 22-24 March (3 days).
    Jim Faulds, University of Nevada-Reno, +1-775-682-8751; Keith Howard, U.S. Geological Survey-Menlo Park, +1-650-329-4943; Ernie Duebendorfer, Northern Arizona University, +1-928-523-7510.
    Cost: US$380; includes two nights lodging, three lunches, two breakfasts, transportation, and guidebook. Trip begins and ends at UNLV. Min: 13; Max: 25.
         In northwest Arizona, the unextended Colorado Plateau abruptly gives way to the highly extended Colorado River extensional corridor along a system of major west-dipping normal faults. Several large growth-fault basins developed in the hanging walls of these faults. Lowering of base level in this part of the Basin and Range facilitated development of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon. This trip will explore stratigraphic constraints on the timing of deformation and paleogeographic evolution of the region. Highlights will include examination of mid- to late Miocene growth-fault relations that constrain the timing of structural demarcation between the Colorado Plateau and Basin and Range, a major detachment fault, synextensional megabreccia deposits, thick nonmarine carbonate and halite deposits that immediately predate arrival of the Colorado River, a post-6 Ma roll-over anticline, and basalt flows interbedded with Colorado River sediments.
  2. Interpretation of Pleistocene Glaciation in the Spring Mountains of Nevada: Pros and Cons.
    Sat., 22 March (1 day).
    Jerry Osborn, University of Calgary, +1-403-220-6448; Nick Saines, Saines Environmental Hydrogeology, Las Vegas, +1-702-896-4049; Matt Lachniet, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, +1-702-895-4388 .
    Cost: professionals US$40, students US$30; includes bus transportation, lunch, and guidebook. Trip begins and ends at the conference venue. Max: 24.
         Diamicts and geomorphic features near Charleston Peak in the Spring Mountains (elevation 11,918 ft), a short distance northwest of Las Vegas, have been interpreted by Orndorff, Van Hoesen, and Saines (2003) as glacial in origin, but a glacial origin for these features is not universally accepted. The area offers seemingly conflicting evidence for and against glaciation and provides a great example of the difficulties of definitive interpretation of diamicts. Participants will view these features at the heads of Kyle and Lee canyons in the Spring Mountains and hopefully contribute constructively to the debate. Outcrops of diamict in the Kyle Canyon fanglomerates will also be visited. The trip includes a round-trip hike of 2+ miles. Although elevation gain on the walk itself is modest, the altitude attained (8360 ft above sea level) is over 6000 ft higher than the trip's starting point in Las Vegas, so participants should be fit and in good health. Trip leaders include a glaciation proponent (Saines) and a skeptic (Osborn).
  3. Quaternary Volcanism in the San Francisco Volcanic Field: Recent Cinder Cone Eruptions that Profoundly Affected the Northern Arizona Physiography and Life of the Ancestral Pueblo Indians.
    Sat.-Sun., 22-23 March (2 days; 3 nights: leaves UNLV at 5 p.m. on Fri., 21 March, and returns at 9 p.m. on Sun., 23 March).
    Sarah L. Hanson, Adrian College, +1-517-264-3944; Wendell Duffield.
    Cost: US$280; includes lunches, lodging, transportation, and a copy Volcanoes of Northern Arizona by Wendell Duffield. Max: 22.
         The San Francisco Volcanic Field in northern Arizona hosts over 600 volcanoes ranging in age from 6 Ma to <1000 yr. The more recent activity occurred in the eastern portion of the field-building Sunset Crater cinder cone (ca. A.D. 1080) and Merriam Crater, the Sproul, and two unnamed cinder cones (ca. 20 ka). Sunset Crater produced Strombolian eruptions and two lava flows. One, or several, of the older vents, ~20 km ESE of Sunset Crater, produced the Grand Falls flow that dammed the Little Colorado River and created Grand Falls. This two-day trip will explore the eruptive products as well as the physiographic and cultural and effects of these eruptions. Field locations at Sunset Crater will include the eruptive products from the Strombolian eruption, the Bonito lava flow, hornitos, squeeze-ups, and related fissure deposits. Grand Falls locations will include the lava dam at Grand Falls, flows in the Colorado River channel, and an older lava dam just north of Grand Falls.
  4. Late Paleozoic and Early Mesozoic Continental Sedimentary Rocks of Virgin River Gorge to Zion National Park and Vicinity.
    Sat., 22 March (1 day).
    Sorry, this trip has been canceled.
  5. Spirit Mountain Batholith and Secret Pass Volcanic Center: Magmatism in the Uppermost Crust, Colorado River Extensional Corridor, Nevada-Arizona.
    Sat.–Sun., 22–23 March (2 days).
    Nicholas Lang, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, +1-865-974-6008; B.J. Walker, Oregon State University; +1-541-737-1201; Lily Claiborne, Vanderbilt University, +1-615-322-2140; Rick Hazlett, Pomona College, +1-909-621-8675; Calvin F. Miller, Vanderbilt University, +1-615-322-2232.
    Cost: $US210. Min: 13; Max: 22.
         We will examine spectacular cross-sectional views of a Miocene batholithic complex and coeval eruptive center in southeast Nevada and northwest Arizona, respectively. We will emphasize the storage transport, fractionation, and eruption processes at a range of depths exposed by extension-related tilting. The shallow to mid-crustal Spirit Mountain batholith reveals evidence for multiple replenishment and rejuvenation over a 2-m.y. period, with extensive coarse cumulate granites and leucogranite (high-silica rhyolites) sheets, mafic-felsic mingling and mixing, and a major dike swarm. The roots of the possibly related Secret Pass Canyon volcanic center comprise a large, very shallow, composite laccolith and smaller dikes, sills, and a volcanic neck, with intriguing field relationships with the volcanic sequence that it intrudes and underlies. The sequence includes volcanogenic sediments, ignimbrites, domes, and block-and-ash flow deposits.
  6. Using the Earth-System approach for K-12 Curriculum-Exploring Lake Mead on the Forever Earth Boat.
    Sat., 20 March (1 day).
    Sorry, this trip has been canceled.
  7. Devonian Carbonate Platform of Eastern Nevada: Facies, Surfaces, Cycles, Sequences, Reefs, and Catastrophic Alamo Impact Breccia.
    Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, March 21-24, (4 days).
    John E. Warme, Colorado School of Mines, +1-303-273-3816; Jared Morrow, San Diego State University; Charles Sandberg, USGS, Denver.
    Cost: $295, includes 3 nights lodging, 3 lunches, 1 dinner, snacks/refreshments, guidebook, handouts. Trip leaves the UNLV campus at 5 p.m. Friday, 21 March, and ends Monday evening, 24 March, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus. Min: 8, Max: 24
         Devonian limestone and dolostone formations are superbly exposed in numerous mountain ranges of southeastern Nevada. The Devonian is as much as 1500 m (5000 ft) thick and reveals continuous exposures of a classic, long-lived, shallow-water carbonate platform. Our excursion will be based in Alamo, Nevada, about 150 km (100 mi) north of Las Vegas. Our emphasis will be on platform lithostratigraphy, but will include overviews of the conodont biostratigraphy that is crucial for understanding regional correlations and chronostratigraphy. We will complete traverses in several local ranges and study the Lower Devonian Sevy Dolostone, the thin Oxyoke Canyon Sandstone, the transition to the Middle Devonian Simonson Dolostone, the limestones of the recently named Fox Mountain Formation, and then examine in more detail the Upper Devonian Guilmette and West Range formations. These carbonate formations are mainly comprised of hundreds of partial to complete shallowing upward Milankovitch-scale cycles, and are grouped into sequences bounded by regional significant surfaces. The character of dolomitization in the Sevy and Simonson appears to be linked to exposure surfaces and related underlying karst intervals. Shallowing-upward Limestone/dolostone cycles of the less-altered Guilmette exhibit typical platform-facies fossil- and ichnofossil-assemblages, exhibits stacked biostromes and bioherms of flourishing stromatoporoids and sparser corals, and are punctuated by channeled quartzose sandstones. In the Guilmette we will study the stages of development of a completely exposed 50 m (160 ft) buildup that is constructed mainly of stromatoporoids, with an exposed and karstified crest. It is a superb example of such Devonian buildups known from surface and hydrocarbon-bearing subsurface locations worldwide. Of special interest is the stratigraphically anomalous Alamo Breccia that represents the middle Member of the Guilmette. This spectacular catastrophic megabreccia, 50-100 m (165-330 ft) thick, may be the best exposed and exhibited proven bolide impact breccia on Earth. It contains intervals generated by the seismic shock, ejecta curtain, tsunami surge, and runoff caused by a major impact. We will traverse the newly interpreted crater-rim impact stratigraphy at Tempiute Mountain and dine in Rachel along the Extraterrestrial Highway.


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