NAGT > Teaching Resources > Teaching in the Field > Field Trip Examples > Mojave-Mecca Geology Field Trip

Mojave-Mecca Geology Field Trip

Les Hasbargen
SUNY College at Oneonta

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Intended Audience

This field trip is designed for geoscience undergraduates to gain exposure to rocks and faults along a plate boundary. The trip also targets teaching geologic mapping skills.


The field trip covers an area from the Salton Sea to the Mojave National Preserve. A Google Earth kmz file of locations is attached to this field trip.
I would like to add more time, and perhaps remove a site or two, while focusing more on field mapping. Also, I would suggest taking students first to Rainbow Basin as a first experience in field mapping, before turning them loose to map the somewhat complex structures in Painted Canyon in the Mecca Hills.


This 8 day field trip occurs over spring break. Upper division geoscience students visit a spectrum of locations in southern California. The course blends field mapping exercises with look-see sites along the plate margin.


14 students and 2 instructors participated on the field trip. The students were upper division undergraduate geoscience majors.


Students gain experience with geologic materials in field settings. They will characterize sedimentary rocks and mappable stratigraphic units, measure rock orientation, identify faults and folds and measure fault displacement, recognize effusive and explosive volcanic rocks, and understand how arid region geomorphic features form. Students will be able, after finishing this course, to:
  • describe in detail sedimentary rocks and structures
  • develop a reference stratigraphic column
  • measure strike and dip of sedimentary layers with a compass
  • plot locations of field measurements on a topographic map
  • locate contacts between mappable units, and plot the contact correctly on a topographic map
  • take accurate and complete field notes
  • construct a geologic map from field data
  • recognize unconformities
  • measure geologic structures


Students made a geologic map, and created a cross section from the map.

Notes and Tips

Assessment and Evaluation

Students handed in field notes, which were graded according to a rubric. They handed in a finished geologic map and cross section. In addition, each student had to give a presentation on some aspect of the geology they saw in the field in greater detail at the end of the semester.

Materials and Handouts

I created a field trip guide book. I also made available a number of geology papers about locations we planned to visit.