Death Valley Trip 2007

Death Valley Field Trip: March 26-31, 2007

Dr. Griffing had been planning a Death Valley  Hartwick trip after first visiting the area in the Spring of 2004.  When we were looking at destinations for the annual department trip, Dr. Johnson felt it might be the right time for Death Valley, and decided that a Spring Break trip might give us adequate time to explore the park. Prior to the main trip, two thesis students traveled to southern California with Dr. Griffing, in order to conduct some field research in the San Bernardino Mountains. Below, Matt Daigneault installs a data collection station that records ambient air temperature, rock surface temperature and intensity of solar radiation.

The San Bernardino contingent met up with Dr. Johnson and the other students in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Monday the 26th.  Professor Emeritus David Hutchison (below) also joined us in Vegas for the trip to Death Valley the following day.

On Tuesday morning, we made the short trek west to Death Valley National Park, California.  Below, the group poses at Artist's Overlook.

Later we set up camp near Furnace Creek, California and prepared for several days of spectacular geology. Below, trip participants learn to take strike and dip measurements on tilted beds exposed along Artist Drive.

On Wednesday, we worked our way south to Devil's Golf Course and Badwater (below) to examine alluvial fans and evaporite mineral precipitation and dissolution. At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater holds the distinction of the lowest elevation in the USA! We traveled even farther south to view the turtleback folds at Copper Canyon.

The following day, we traveled north to Stovepipe Wells Village for gas, groceries and nearby access to one of several sand dune fields (below) in Death Valley. Students were able observe many dune features, such as low-amplitude wind ripples and grain flow tongues on avalanche faces.

Next, we hiked into Titus Canyon (no relation to S.F.P.D.T.S.), a dramatic slot canyon in lower Paleozoic limestones that shows textbook normal faulting, spectacular fault megabreccias (below) and cave carbonates.  Nooks and crannies along the walls also show evidence of massive debris flows that occassionally travel down the canyon.

Finally, we made our way north to Ubehebe Crater (below), a  basaltic cinder cone superimposed on several smaller vents. At approximately 300 years old, Ubehebe is the largest and most recent of many phreatic eruptions, caused when groundwater in contact with the rising magma flashes to steam and blasts the magma into the air in fragments and droplets.

Before heading back to Vegas on Friday, we hiked the Natural Bridge trail in order to examine 1.7 billion-year-old metamorphic rocks uplifted as a result of Death Valley tectonics. The Natural Bridge trail also provided a beautiful view of Badwater Basin and the distant Panamint Range (below).