NAGT > Teaching Resources > Teaching in the Field > Field Trip Examples > Physical Geology: Idaho Field Trip

Physical Geology - Idaho Field Trip:

Simon Kattenhorn, University of Idaho

Our trip begins and ends in Moscow, Idaho, and covers the geological history of the area dating back to around 2 billion years ago. The route illustrated below includes 9 stops at points of geological interest, primarily along the Snake River near Clarkston, Washington.

Intended Audience: Introductory physical geology course for non-majors.

Location:

North western Idaho and eastern Washington - Columbia River Basalts, Lewiston Fold, Mazama ash; see Field Guide for more information.

There are 9 stops on this field trip, each of which are outlined in the Field Guide:
  • STOP 1: Overview. Introduce the 4 main geological units.
  • STOP 2: Granite Point. Discuss relative dating, unconformities.
  • STOP 3: Columbia River Basalts. Pillow basalts.
  • STOP 4: Columnar basalts. Lewiston fold.
  • STOP 5: Mazama ash.
  • STOP 6: Lunch and Landslides.
  • STOP 7: Glacial mayhem.
  • STOP 8: The soggy saga. Cross-cutting relationships.
  • STOP 9: Summary of the geological history in the area.

Summary:

This optional field trip is designed to augment the in-class learning experience in introductory physical geology by providing students the opportunity to see firsthand local geological features and understand their context in the long-term tectonic evolution of the western United States. The university is conveniently located in a portion of the American west where a plethora of geological features are readily accessible over a total field trip duration of 6 hours. Over a total of 6 field stops, students are presented with an opportunity to observe features relevant to topics learned in class involving rock types, volcanic features (lava flows and ash fall deposits), faults and folds, mass wasting features, catastrophic flood deposits (Bonneville and Missoula floods), and loess deposits. Our trip begins and ends in Moscow, Idaho, and covers the geological history of the area dating back to around 2 billion years ago. The route includes 9 stops at points of geological interest, primarily along the Snake River near Clarkston, Washington.

Context:

Students must have a background in rock and mineral identification, an understanding of volcanic processes and volcanic rocks, knowledge of the geologic time scale and the meaning of unconformities, an introduction to types of geologic structures, and an understanding of sedimentary structures.

Goals:

This field trip aids students' abilities in identification and interpretation of geological features in nature. The activity pushes the student to move beyond simply assimilating facts in the lecture setting to firsthand identification of features in the field and the development of interpretations regarding the origins of observed features.

Assessment and Evaluation:

Students are required to hand in a completed field trip handout to demonstrate full participation. As a result of the large class size (280-310), the field trip is optional and provides a bonus point opportunity.

Materials and Handouts:

Activity Description/Assignment (Acrobat (PDF) 60kB May1 08)
Solution Set (Acrobat (PDF) 62kB May1 08)

References:

Field trip guide with maps, photos and discussion of the geologic processes at each stop.

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