Take a seven day trek through Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim), Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park. This field seminar will provide participants with a working knowledge of the geological, archaeological and natural history of the Colorado Plateau as revealed at Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce Canyon National Parks and other localities on the Colorado Plateau. By attending, geologists, educators and students will have a first hand opportunity to observe and understand many of the principles that established the science of geology along with a comprehensive journey into the geological story of this fascinating landscape. Join us on this remarkable excursion May 31-June 6, 2014. For more information: Geology of Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks

Participants will explore and investigate a number of classic geological sites on the Colorado Plateau, and by the end of the seminar will be able to:

  • Identify the geologic principles derived from early studies on the Colorado Plateau by J.W. Powell, G.K. Gilbert, and others.
  • Summarize the origin and history of the Proterozoic metamorphic complex of the Grand Canyon region and contrast these rocks with other western metamorphic terranes.
  • Identify and analyze the depositional environments of the Paleozoic and Mesozoic rocks of the Colorado Plateau, as exposed at each of the parks and landscapes in-between.
  • Analyze and classify the faults and folds associated with Mesozoic and Cenozoic tectonic activity, including the unique monoclines that define sub-provinces within the plateau country.
  • Assess and evaluate competing hypotheses concerning the erosional history of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.
  • Analyze and assess of the history of land use on the Colorado Plateau from prehistoric time to the present, including water use, agriculture, and mineral/energy development.

Course Content

The arc of our trip, from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon and back, provides a remarkably detailed history of the North American continent from the Early Proterozoic to Holocene time. Few places provide the story in such scenic fashion.

Each participant will receive a field guide that includes a geological and cultural overview of the Colorado Plateau region, and a comprehensive road guide for the route traveled on the trip.


As we leave Las Vegas and travel through the Lake Mead and Kingman area we will observe exposures of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks from the Grand Canyon sequence as well as other younger volcanic rocks, and see up close one of the largest engineering feats in history, Hoover Dam. At Diamond Creek (along the only road that reaches the bottom of the Grand Canyon), we will encounter the Proterozoic rocks of the basement complex that underlie much of the Colorado Plateau. The metamorphic rocks are overlain by the Cambrian Tonto Group along the “Great Unconformity”. We will spend a day at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to allow for a comprehensive look at the Paleozoic history by foot, car, or by air (optional).

Leaving Grand Canyon, we will visit the Little Colorado River and a corner of the “Painted Desert” to examine some of the tectonic structures that form the boundary of the Kaibab Plateau. Mesozoic terrestrial sediments dominate this landscape, and at Antelope Canyon we expect to explore a labyrinth that has been carved through the Navajo Sandstone. If the roads are passable, we will investigate exposures along the Cockscomb, a major Laramide monocline traversing Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the spectacular span at Grosvenor Arch, and the odd sedimentary pipes at Kodachrome Basin State Park. We will be traversing outcrops of the late Cretaceous Mesa Verde Group, the source of coal reserves in the Colorado Plateau.

The Claron Formation, exposed in striking fashion at Bryce Canyon National Park, represents a major change of sedimentary deposition on the Colorado Plateau in early Cenozoic time. The freshwater sediments have been eroded into the tall hoodoos along the edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. We will then start moving down section into the Jurassic and Triassic sediments exposed in Zion National Park. Zion exposes an early Mesozoic sequence of terrestrial floodplain deposits and coastal dunes that have been eroded in spectacular fashion. Time will be set aside for an exploration of the upper canyon on foot or by tram.

* For registration, itinerary, and full course details please visit: HERE! *

Last 5 posts by Susan Nash

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