Field Trips

Pack up your gear and mark your calendars for SIX great field trips!



Field Trip 1 (pdf)

DATES: September 11-13th (3 days).


Walter Nelson

Nathan Rogers

DESCRIPTION: Trip participants will observe regional changes in the Niobrara while traversing stratigraphic strike and dip sections through the Western Interior Seaway. The goals of this field trip are 1) to understand thickness and facies changes in the Niobrara in a regional context, and 2) to geologically consider the organic-rich calcareous mudstones (i.e. the “marls”) in terms of horizontal oil and gas production beyond the areas of recent horizontal development. The marl lithology is essentially “as chalky as it gets” in the Smoky Hill section west of Wolcott and New Castle. Even farther west, the Fort Hays Limestone is absent and overall carbonate content decreases in the rest of the section. We will emphasize and discuss relationships between what we see on this trip and the more typical facies assemblages and sequences of the Niobrara Formation present along the Front Range.

Departing from Grand Junction, we will travel along strike through extensive outcrops near Delta, enjoy a very scenic drive through the San Juan Mountains on the Million Dollar Highway through Ouray and Silverton, and then dig into the spectacular Mancos-Niobrara outcrops in Durango. Traversing east, and down dip, we will also dig into the section along the Piedra River and then see the Fort Hays Limestone return to the basal Niobrara section in beautiful Pagosa Springs, CO. For convenience, both nights of this trip will be spent in Durango within walking distance of town life. As we head back to Grand Junction participants will be able to visually follow the recently familiarized ‘Mancobrara’ units seen on the trip.


Tentative Free, Optional Day – Thursday, September 10th Anyone registered for the trip is welcome to meet on September 10th, the day before the field trip starts, to look at the classic Niobrara section in Wolcott, CO. Wolcott is 117 miles west of Denver on I-70 and 128 miles east of Grand Junction. Meeting time and place TBA. We will explore Wolcott’s classic lower Niobrara outcrop by the railroad tracks and the remainder of the overlying section in nearby gulch and slope exposures. This location will place the chalky Niobrara Formation within the context of its Mancos counterpart farther west. After completion of the field stop participants will travel on to Grand Junction. Group transportation is not provided for this day.

Friday, September 11th: Depart in the morning from Two Rivers Convention Center and head south to Durango, CO. We will stop along the way near Delta to see the basal Niobrara section where the Fort Hays is present. Upon arrival in Durango we will visit two outcrops before checking into the hotel.

Saturday, September 12th:  Short drive east from Durango down dip to Piedra to explore an extensive Niobrara outcrop of the entire section. In Pagosa Springs, just 15 miles east of Piedra (and farther down-dip), we will see the Fort Hays return to the basal Niobrara section. Short drive back to Durango. Visit the Animas River Brewery.

Sunday, September 13th Brisk morning hike to see a vast outcrop of the B-equivalent section. Check out of the hotel and head back to Grand Junction. We will pass through cliffs of the B-equivalent section again in Ridgway, which can be traced all the way back to GJ. Arrive in time for the Ice Breaker at the Two Rivers Convention Center.




Field Trip 2 (pdf)

DATE: September 12th (1 day).


Steve Cumella

Rex Cole

Mark Kirschbaum

DESCRIPTION: The Hunter Canyon area of the Book Cliffs provides an excellent opportunity to compare well-exposed marine and nonmarine rocks of the Iles Formation of the Mesaverde Group with nearby well log data. This part of the Book Cliffs is located on the southwestern flank of the Piceance Basin, one of the major gas-producing basins in the US. The same units exposed in outcrop along Hunter Canyon are productive in wells less than two miles to the north in Hunter Canyon field. Furthermore, Cozzette and Corcoran are productive throughout the Piceance Basin.

Compartmentalization within shoreface and deltaic reservoirs is key to trapping gas in the Iles Formation of the southern Piceance Basin. There are two types of reservoirs: 1) compartmentalized gas-saturated Corcoran and Cozzette sandstones, and 2) continuous mostly water-saturated Rollins sandstones. Compartmentalized sandstones are interpreted to have been deposited during a time of relatively low accommodation with relatively low sediment supply while more connected sandstones were deposited during a time of relatively high accommodation and a much higher sediment supply. The compartmentalization is due to 1) location within the overall parasequence stacking pattern; 2) facies variability within the deltaic and wave-dominated deposits; and 3) further partitioning due to the superposition of multiple types of erosion surfaces ultimately related to low accommodation rates. The continuous sandstones are more connected because they were deposited during times when rates of progradation were more regular and overall accommodation and sedimentation were higher.

ITINERARY: This one-day field trip will begin and end at the Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction. We will first head to Hunter Canyon, 15 miles northwest of Grand Junction, and walk through the section from the Mancos to the Rollins comparing the facies observed in outcrop to the productive intervals on well logs in nearby Hunter Canyon field. We will then drive to nearby Coal Gulch and compare and contrast the same intervals in a more proximal setting.


FEE: TBD includes transportation (van), box lunch, healthy snacks, bottle water, and extensive fieldtrip guide.



Field Trip 3 (pdf)

DATE: September 12th (1 day).


Eric Eckberg
Verner C. Johnson
Richard Livaccari
Timothy Bower
Gregory S. Baker
Michael Feil

DESCRIPTION: The focus of the field trip is to examine the structural & mineral zones to reassess the likelihood of a Laramide-aged graben structure controlling the location and geometry of Unaweep Canyon. The canyon trends southwest-northeast and cuts across the entirety of the Uncompaghre Uplift, generally orthogonal to the main Laramide basement structure (the Redlands Fault). The Uncompahgre Uplift, therefore, is a southeast-northwest-trending post-Laramide uplift, and is bounded on all sides by reactivated Permian/Pennsylvanian faulting systems originating in the Ancestral Rocky Mountain orogenic period. The sediments overlying the Precambrian units at the Great Unconformity begin with the Triassic Chinle Formation and continue through the lower Cretaceous Burro Canyon and Dakota Formations. Laramide orogeny stresses, providing the incentive for the reactivation of the Permian/Pennsylvanian fracture zones, introduce the plastic deformation of the Triassic to Jurassic stratigraphic units. Post-Laramide erosion and additional tectonic stresses modify the uplifting Uncompahgre Plateau to the modern morphology. Unaweep Canyon is an area where numerous mineralized fault zones crop out. These faults are thought to be at least Laramide Orogeny in age with mineralization through hydrothermal activity appearing afterward. A multiple step mechanism for the formation of the geophysical, structural, and geochemical evidence found in this area is necessary to understand the tectonic development of the Uncompahgre Uplift during Laramide and Post-Laramide time.

ITINERARY: This one-day field trip will begin and end at the convention center in Grand Junction, Colorado. Stops comprise a transect through Unaweep Canyon in the Uncompahgre Uplift from Grand Junction, Colorado, to Gateway, Colorado. These include:

  1. Nancy Hanks Mine, Copper City, and Pearl City: Examining mineralization and alteration zones associated within the Unaweep Canyon.
  2. Divide Road Overlook: Overview discussion of Unaweep geometry.
  3. Divide Road: Identifying canyon-parallel faults.
  4. Unaweep Drainage Divide: Discussion of subsurface canyon geometry and morphology.
  5. Unaweep Seep: Further discussion of western range-front faulting and associated mineralization/alteration.
  6. Gateway: Concluding discussion at Paradox Basin overlook, including tectonic events of the Uncompahgre Uplift, salt diapirism south of Gateway, sandstone hosted U/V and Cu deposits.

PARTICIPANT LIMIT: 25 (including 3 drivers)

COST: TBD Includes transportation, course materials, sack lunch, snacks, drinks and water.



Field Trip 4 (pdf)

DATES: September 17th (1 day).

Brann Johnson, Director Emeritus, Center for Tectonophysics, Texas A&M University

Jay Scheevel, SGAT

DESCRIPTION: The primary objective of this field trip is to observe and discuss fault structure and associated fault segmentation and linkage over a broad range of scales with emphasis on well exposed, flexure-related, normal faults in the Moab member (Jem) of the Entrada Formation (well-sorted, high porosity, quartz sandstone) and the overlying Tidwell member (Jmt) of the Morrison Formation. Fault structure reflects mechanics of fault formation and is an important control of fluid flow attributes of the faults. A secondary objective is to present the mesozoic-cenozoic, structural evolution of the half graben developed over the Cache Valley salt wall.

There are three stops, two of which entail on- and off-trail geological traverses.

  • At Stop 1, a scenic overview, we’ll briefly present the stratigraphical and structural big picture of the Cache Valley half graben.
  • Stop 2 entails a two mile, geological traverse in association with the Delicate Arch trail and has four goals:
    • (1) show the detailed stratigraphy important for discerning faults in the Morrison Formation,
    • (2) observe in outcrop and detailed maps the structure of small and moderate displacement faults in the Jem,
    • (3) observe examples of the structure of two large displacement faults, and
    • (4) in outcrop and detailed maps observe fault networks in the Jem and their relationship to fault-fault interactions and implications on reservoir fluid flow.
  • Stop 3 entails two geological traverses, each of approximately one mile. The first traverse provides:
    • (1) more examples of the structure of faults cutting the Jmt and Jem,
    • (2) cross sectional view of fault networks in the Moab and the underlying Slickrock member of the Entrada with a discussion of mechanical stratigraphy, and
    • (3) observe and discuss systematic bedding dip change (rollover) in hanging walls of larger faults.
  • The second traverse has four goals:
    • (1) observe outcrop details of a late-stage, upward propagating, high angle fault and associated fold and abrupt bed steepening,
    • (2) walk a section of the Lower Cretaceous, Cedar Mountain Formation (Kcm), showing the detailed stratigraphy and its importance to mapping faults as well as discuss evidence for the influence of salt movement during deposition,
    • (3) observe within Cretaceous, interbedded sandstones and mudstones, an excellent example of a rotated, early formed, large displacement, normal fault and an exceptional exposure of its lateral fault tip, and
    • (4) an outcrop of Dakota Sandstone showing an example of early stage, bed parallel, strike-slip fault system.

As a wrap-up, we’ll present a structural evolution of the Cache Valley half graben.


Wednesday, September 16th: Introductory pre-trip meeting at 7:00 PM, (location TBA).

Thursday, September 17th: Field trip departure at 6:00 AM from the Two Rivers Convention Center and return same day by 7:00 to 8:00 PM.


FEE: TBD includes transportation (van), box lunch, healthy snacks, bottle water, and extensive fieldtrip guide.



Field Trip 5 (pdf)

DATE: September 16th-20th (4 days).


Keith Shanley

Mike Boyles

DESCRIPTION: The Book Cliffs of eastern Utah are among the most spectacular outcrops of marginal marine strata anywhere in the world. Gentle structural dips and desert-like environments allow for the correlation of stratal units across miles of superb exposure. The Book Cliffs have served as a field analog and laboratory for siliciclastic alluvial and marginal marine systems as well as sequence stratigraphic concepts. These superb exposures of the Upper Cretaceous Blackhawk Formation and associated units are used to demonstrate regional-scale, field-scale, and reservoir-scale stratigraphic relationships and their application to subsurface studies. Detailed facies analysis is used to introduce concepts of parasequences, parasequence stacking patterns, and sequence boundaries that can be used to help predict reservoir occurrence and geometry. These predictions can be tested by observing larger-scale outcrop exposures. During the field trip we will make use of subsurface correlation exercises and core photographs to link outcrop observations to practical subsurface application.

Trip leaders Keith Shanley and Mike Boyles have run numerous field trips to the Book Cliffs over the course of their career for their employers (Shell Oil, Amoco/BP) as well as for the Nautilus Training organization and the AAPG Continuing Education Program.


  • Wednesday Sept 16:
    • Meet and drive to Price, Utah with a couple of road-side geologic overview stops along the way. Approximate departure time: 1500 hrs.
    • Hotel: Holiday Inn Express, Price, UT.
  • Thursday Sept 17:
    • Stop 1: Helper Water Tower – overview.
    • Stop 2: Overview of common sedimentary facies found in shallow marine parasequences – Spring Canyon Mbr., Gilson Gulch.
    • Stop 3: Parasequence stacking patterns – Spring Canyon Mbr. Gentile Wash.
    • Stop 4: Landward pinchout of a shallow marine parasequence – Spring Canyon Mbr., Hardscrabble Canyon.
    • Stop 5: Alluvial facies marginal to marine strata – Aberdeen Mbr., Power Plant Roadcut.
    • Hotel: Holiday Inn Express, Price, UT.
  • Friday Sept 18:
    • Stop 6: Fluvial-dominated parasequence overview – Panther Sandstone, Gentile Wash.
    • Stop 7: Detailed facies – lower Panther Sandstone, Gentile Wash.
    • Stop 8: Detailed facies – upper Panther Sandstone, Hardscrabble Canyon.
    • Stop 9: Facies relationships – Panther Sandstone, Spring Canyon.
    • Stop 10: Overview of stratigraphic relationships – Panther Sandstone, Helper Water Tower.
    • Drive to Green River, UT.
    • Hotel: First Choice Inn, Green River, UT.
  • Saturday Sept 19:
    • Stop 11: Lateral facies changes – distal marine parasequence – Kenilworth Mbr., Blue Castle Overview.
    • Stop 12: Progradation under limited accommodation and incision – Desert Mbr., Hatch Mesa.
    • Stops 13 & 14: Detailed facies – Desert Mbr., Tusher Canyon.
    • Hotel: First Choice Inn, Green River, UT.
  • Sunday Sept 20:
    • Stop 15: Detailed facies – Desert Mbr., Castlegate Sst., – Thompson Canyon.
    • Stop 16: Detailed facies – Desert Mbr., Castlegate Sst., – East of Blaze Canyon.
    • Stop 17: Downdip facies relationship – Desert Mbr., Castlegate Sst., – Nash Wash.
    • Drive to Grand Junction, Trip ends in Grand Junction mid-afternoon Sunday Sept. 20.

PARTICIPANT LIMIT: 20 maximum, 8 minimum

FEE: TBD includes transportation (SUV vehicles), lodging, field lunches and snacks, bottle water, and fieldtrip guidebook.



Field Trip 6 (pdf)

DATES: September 16-17th (1 ½ days).


Riley Brinkerhoff,
Wasatch Energy Management,

Michael Vanden Berg,
Utah Geological Survey,

DESCRIPTION: The goal of this field trip is twofold: (1) to provide geologists and engineers a deeper understanding of the Green River Petroleum System in the Uinta Basin, and (2) expose them to reservoir and stratigraphic characteristics of lacustrine, deltaic and fluvial deposits within the Green River Formation. We will discuss Lake Uinta’s structural setting and how the basin’s structure and climatic setting influenced the sediments deposited within the lake. We will discuss the different plays within the Uinta Basin and how they are controlled by GRF stratigraphy and maturity. This trip is for anyone wishing to deepen their understanding of lacustrine sedimentation, factors controlling production from lacustrine rocks and the Uinta Basin in general.


Wednesday, September 16th:   Leave Two Rivers Convention Center after conference ends (around 1 p.m.) and drive north to Raven Ridge in the Uinta Basin. We will make four outcrop stops examining Lake Uinta evolution and marginal lake deposits. Our last stop is a 20 minute drive to our hotel in Vernal, UT. We will enjoy a group dinner that evening.

Thursday, September 17th:  Load up and leave by 7:30 a.m. to drive southeastwards examining multiple units and facies including:

  • White Face Butte (Wasatch, Uteland Butte, Castle Peak, Long Point Bed and Black Shale Stratigraphy).
  • Texas Creek (Microbialite shoals, Douglas Creek clastic stratigraphy).
  • Three Mile Canyon (Distributary mouth bars, microbialite colonialization, oil seeps, Mahogany oil shale, Dragon gilsonite vein).
  • Condo Section of Evacuation Creek (Parachute Creek Mbr. deltaics).
  • Mahogany box cut (oil shale deposition and microstructures).
  • Rotated slump block (cyclic saline lake/rapid clastic deposition, seismites and detached blocks).
  • Evacuation Creek Bridge (Closing of the lake, Bird’s Nest deposition).
  • White River Bridge (Uinta Formation progradation and growth faults).
  • Bonanza (gilsonite veins).

We will arrive back in Grand Junction at the Two River Convention Center around 7pm.