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METROPOLITAN STATE UNIVERSITY of DENVER DEPARTMENT of EARTH & ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES Colorado Plateau Geology Fieldtrips

Uwe R. Kackstaetter, Ph.D. (Dr.K)

Jim Cronoble, Ph.D. (Dr.C)

The most important role of field trips in the learning process is in "direct experience with concrete phenomena and materials".  

- Orien (1993),

“... geology as an open-air pursuit affords an admirable training in habits of observation, furnishes a delightful relief from the cares and routine of everyday life, takes us into the open fields and the free fresh face of nature, leads us into all manner of sequestered nooks, whither hardly any other occupation or interest would be likely to send us, sets before us problems of the highest interest regarding the history of the ground beneath our feet, and thus gives a new charm to scenery which may be already replete with attractions.”

— Sir Archibald Geikie

Field Trip Videos

Let the adventure begin…

The Colorado Plateau

“The whole country is utterly worthless to anybody for any purpose whatever, unless it should be the artist in search of wildly grand scenery or the geologist, as there is a great open book for him all the way.” -  John Wesley Powell about the Colorado Plateau

Every year during May the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Metropolitan State University of Denver conducts an incredible field course into the vast expanse and beauty of the Colorado Plateau. Variable topics include a variety of geologic destinations, such as the Colorado National Monument; Dead Horse Point, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks; Capitol Reef National Park, Goblin Valley State Park and Utah's Basin and Range province; Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest National Parks, Zions and Bryce Canyon National Parks, just to mention a few. Along with basic concepts of geology, participants are immersed in the rock formations exposed in the eastern Colorado Plateau and fringes, including their ages, rock types, and origins.


Historical geology and geomorphology come to life in this beautiful, desolate, arid country.  

A great variety of field destinations are visited on a 4 year cycle. Year 1 takes us to Capitol Reef National Park and Utah's Basin and Range Province, where detachment faulting, hydrothermal activities and late-stage volcanism and changes in paleogeography will be specifically studied. In the second year, field exposure to salt tectonics, joint patterns, stratigraphic hydrocarbon traps, as well as ancient man's interaction with the geologic environment are analyzed in the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and surrounding areas. Year 3 brings us to Zions and Bryce Canyon National Parks and adjacent geologies where ancient sand dunes, stratigraphic changes, transport directions, geomorphology, as well as sedimentary metal mineralization will be investigated. And finally in year 4 a visit to the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest National Parks and adjacent areas reveals the Proterozoic through Mesozoic stratigraphy, lignite fossilization, petrification processes, mass wasting, astroblem impacts as well as western mining histories.

Rocks are records of events that took place at the time they formed. They are books. They have a different vocabulary, a different alphabet, but you learn how to read them.”

-John McPhee

Experimental geology has this in common with all other branches of our science, petrology and palaeontology included, that in the long run it withers indoors.

— Phillip H. Kuenen

Much as I admired the elegance of physical theories, which at that time geology wholly lacked, I preferred a life in the woods to one in the laboratory.

— Tuzo Wilson



Field Trip Photos

Let the adventure begin…