Field Trip to Yellowstone, June-July 2011

Yellowstone Field Trip. Group photograph at Artist’s Point in Yellowstone.
Yellowstone Field Trip. Group photograph at Artist’s Point in Yellowstone

The Yellowstone Field Trip was made possible by the Storke Memorial Fund, designated to support educational activities at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University. The field trip was sponsored by the Department, organized by graduate students, and led by Professor Mark Anders.  Eighteen current students and one former student participated in the 10-day trip. A student-produced field guide for the trip will is available below.


A student-led seminar series laid the foundation for this field trip. The students met 8 Wednesdays in May and June for a total of 16 hours. Each participant presented a topic of interest to the rest of the group and led the discussion.  A complete list of references by topic is available in the field guide.

Session 1

  • Basin and Range style normal faulting - Guleed Ali
  • Teton Mountain uplift history - Cathleen Doherty

Session 2

  • Thermal and mechanical effects of the Yellowstone hotspot - Yang Zha, Claire Bendersky
  • Seismicity related to Yellowstone ("parabola of death!") - Raj Moulik

Session 3

  • Hydrology of Yellowstone National Park - Amelia Paukert
  • Biology of the Yellowstone hot-springs - Ellen Crapster-Pregont

Session 4

  • Laramide Thrusting (Bear Mountain Uplift, Rattlesnake Mountain, etc...) - Anna Foster
  • Wyoming-Idaho Thrust Belt - Mark Vankeuren

Session 5

  • Stratigraphic expression of Ancestral Rockies and Laramide uplifts - Julius Busecke
  • Pinedale and Bull Lake glacial deposits - Mike Wolovick

Session 6

  • Volcanism associated of Yellowstone National Park - Jason Jweda
  • Volcanism of Snake River Plain - Natalia Zhakarova
  • Kimberlites and Diatremes in Wyoming and Colorado - Alexander Lloyd

Session 7

  • Stillwater Complex - Jill Van Tongeren
  • Insar measurements of Yellowstone - Ge Jin

Session 8

  • Heart Mountain Landslide - Rafael Almeida
  • Final logistical considerations

Trip Itinerary

(Detailed itinerary and description of visited sites can be found in the field guide.)

Day 1 - June 25th, 2011

  • Flew to Denver, CO
  • Explored Flagstaff Mountain by NCAR in Boulder, CO
  • Stayed in Greeley, CO

Day 2 - June 26th, 2011

  • Drove to Lander, WY, observing the stratigraphic section (Archean-Jurassic) and effects of Laramide thrust faulting
  • Drove to Pinedale, WY examining glacial deposits
  • Camped at Pinedale camp

Day 3 - June 27th, 2011

  • Studied glacial deposits at Fremont Lake
  • Drove through the Wyoming-Idaho thrust belt, stopping to examine structures
  • Drove to Grand Teton National Park, examining the uplift history of the Teton Range
  • Camped at the University of Michigan’s Camp Davis

Day 4 - June 28th, 2011

  • Rode the Teton Village tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain, hiked the snowy Tetons while observing Paleozoic stratigraphy
  • Drove through the Snake River Canyon, observing Sevier-aged thrust faulting and active fault scarps
  • Camped in Alpine, WY

Day 5 - June 29th, 2011

  • Drove north along Grand Valley into Swan Valley and then across the Snake River Plain to Yellowstone National Park, examining pyroclastic formations associated with Yellowstone volcanism
  • Stopped to study the 1959 Hebgen Lake Earthquake catastrophic landslide and fault scarp
  • Arrived in Yellowstone and observed Old Faithful geyser
  • Camped in Grant Village campground in the park

Day 6 – June 30th, 2011

  • Explored the Yellowstone Park: mud volcanoes and fumaroles, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Obsidian Cliffs, Mammoth Hot Springs (travertine terraces), and Tower Falls (columnar basalt)
  • Drove northeast, stopping to look at Heart Mountain Detachment (the largest terrestrial landslide on Earth)
  • Camped at Hunter Peak campground

Day 7 – July 1st, 2011

  • Drove over Beartooth Pass, stopping to examine Heart Mountain Detachment at Pilot Peak Overlook
  • Explored the Stillwater mine and layered intrusion (Nye, MT)
  • Camped at Hunter Peak campground

Day 8 – July 2nd, 2011

  • Drove through Sunlight Basin observing the Heart Mountain Detachment, Cathedral Cliffs, White Mountains, and Dead Indian Pass
  • Drove to the Bighorn Mountains
  • Camped at Shell Canyon campground

Day 9 – July 3rd, 2011

  • Drove out of the Bighorn Mountains stopping at Shell Falls and Red Gulch Dinosaur Track site
  • Traveled through Wind River Canyon stopping for lunch at Boysen Reservoir
  • Stayed in Greeley

Day 10 – July 4th, 2011

  • Returned rental vehicles
  • Flew back to New York

Field Guide

In summer 2011, over nine days, a group of Columbia University graduate students visited four states and covered well over 1000 miles of Rocky Mountain geology. The group started in Denver, Colorado and traversed parts of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Of the many geological attractions of Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park located over Yellowstone Hotspot is possibly the crown jewel. Yellowstone is the largest volcanic system in North America and the associated geothermal activity produces the largest active geysers in the world, as well as thousands of other fascinating geothermal features. In addition to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming also offers opportunities to observe characteristic geologic features of the Western United States: manifestation of Sevier and Laramide orogenies, Basin and Range extensional features, regional stratigraphic units, dinosaur tracks, catastrophic landslides, effects of Yellowstone hotspot volcanism, and much more. This field guide describes a number of convenient locations to observe and explore these features, and provides background information about major geologic processes that shaped this region over time.