Location, Location, Location

by Timothy Oleson
Friday, July 19, 2013

Although field camps based east of the Mississippi River do exist, and a handful of American schools run camps abroad in places like Ireland, Italy and parts of Africa, the vast majority of camps in the U.S. are stillĀ  conducted out West. From the Black Hills and the Great Plains, across the Rockies and other mountain ranges, to the Desert Southwest, the western U.S. offers much in the way of beautifully exposed outcrops, distinctive landscapes and transects through long stretches of geologic time.
Naturally, every field camp director is partial to the plots of land to which he or she returns each year. Here’s what a few of them had to say about their particular field sites.

Miriam Barquero-Molina
University of Missouri at Columbia
Field Camp Site: Wind River Mountains near Lander, Wyo.
We have Laramide structures [associated with the Laramide Orogeny], and Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Archean rocks; we have sedimentary rocks, igneous rocks and metamorphic rocks. We can do mapping in easy structures, complicated structures or extremely complicated structures … and we are fairly close to the national parks — a few hours from Yellowstone and the Tetons. So the wealth and breadth of geology that we get in this very blessed corner of Wyoming is difficult to replicate.

Phil Brown
University of Wisconsin at Madison
Field Camp Site: Wasatch and Uinta Mountains near Park City, Utah
I don’t know that you can draw an 80-kilometer-diameter circle anywhere else in the nation that would be more interesting than an 80-kilometer circle drawn around Park City in terms of the diversity of the geology. [Within that circle] we can go 15 kilometers north and be in the Wyoming Archean basement, and if we could dig below the sediment that we’re standing on, we’d be in the Proterozoic. We go 15 kilometers west of here and we’re in the Basin and Range, or 15 kilometers east we’re in the Uintas. And there’s the Great Salt Lake right there. It’s just a super special area to run a field camp.

Frank Ettensohn
University of Kentucky
Field Camp Site: Elk Mountains near Gunnison, Colo.
We mainly map in sedimentary rocks, but we have access to Precambrian igneous and metamorphic [outcrops as well]. And although we’re in an upturned anticline — which provides some interesting stories about the tectonic framework — we’re also right next to the [Paleogene] West Elk Volcanic Center. The camp is not only academically strenuous, but also physically strenuous. We do most of our mapping between 2,680 meters and about 3,750 meters. We have rocks that are relatively flat-lying … but for the most part things are tilted, faulted, folded and intruded, all in the same mapping area.

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