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Field trip: Northern Arizona 

Maymester, 2012

After graduation, a group of SNC Geology faculty and students flew out to northern Arizona for a 10 day field trip.
Students studied the geology of the Grand Canyon, Sedona, the San Francisco Volcanic Field, Meteor Crater, and
Petrified Forest National Park. Students camped, learned to keep a field book, and learned geology field techniques.
As with all geology field trips, students learned what it means to be a geologist while having fun at the same time!

Photographs from this field trip, and descriptions, are below:


Paleo River Channel

This outcrop of an ancient river channel was the first stop for SNC Geology after leaving the Phoenix airport. We pulled
off the road in Black Canyon City and took notes. 



Students sit on the side of Montezuma Well taking notes. Montezuma Well is a sinkhole that formed when rock collapsed
into a cavern beneath the surface. The water has a constant temperature of 76 degrees Fahrenheit and contains 5
species that are found nowhere else in the world. 


Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is made up of a sequence of rock layers. The rocks at the bottom of the canyon are around two billion
years old. The rocks in the canyon represent land masses colliding and drifting apart, mountains forming and eroding
away, sea level rising and falling, and relentless forces of moving water. The Grand Canyon was carved during the
uplifting of the Colorado Plateau, starting about 6 million years ago. While we were at the Grand Canyon, we hiked
roughly 1,000 vertical feet down (only 1/5 of the mile-deep canyon!), studying the stratigraphy along the way.


These are brachiopod fossils we found in the walls of the Grand Canyon. Brachiopods were filter feeders that lived in
warm, shallow oceans.This helps us determine the environment at the time they were alive, which was about 270
million years ago!


A couple of students taking notes in their field books. A field book is an important tool to a geologist. It is key to record
everything you osbserve in the field so as not to forget any details later.  

brunton compass

Students take a break from hiking to learn how to use a Brunton compass. The seniors demonstrate how to use the
compasses to measure the angle of a plane, useful for determining ancient wind directions in one of the formations
along the side of the canyon.


Glen Canyon Dam

After we left the Grand Canyon, we made our way north to Page, Arizona to study the geology of the Glen Canyon Dam
and Lake Powell, the large reservoir behind the dam. We took a tour inside the dam learning its history. We also
learned about some of the environmental effects of the dam.


Near the Glen Canyon Dam is a spectacular set of sedimentary rocks from the Mesozoic Era. These sediments were
deposited in the Western Interior Seaway, a large ocean that covered parts of the central United States during the


oak creek canyon

Oak Creek Canyon formed during the second phase of the uplift of the Colorado Plateau and follows the path of a large
fault. The fault of the canyon had three different types of movement: right-lateral (during the Precambrian), reverse (70
million years ago), and normal (6 million years ago).



Students listen as one of the seniors gives a lecture on the Sedona redrocks and the vortexes. The Schnebly Hill Formation
makes up the famous red rocks of Sedona and are only found here because the area was once an estuary, which is a
partially enclosed area along the coast. Vortexes are an interesting bit of pseudoscience in Sedona. They are said to
be circular fields of energy that give people good health, but the students did not feel any different while at a vortex.


View at Sunset Crater

SNC Geology hiked the Lava Flow Trail at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. HIking up the crater is no longer
allowed due to erosion caused by early hikers. Sunset Crater is the youngest volcano in the San Francisco Volcanic
Field and erupted only 950 years ago. In the background is San Francisco Mountain, which is a stratovolcano that
formed 3 million years ago and is the tallest peak in Arizona.

Squeeze Up

A student stands in to show size of the spatter cone. A spatter cone forms when lava squirts out of the ground like a paste.

San Francisco Volcanic Field

This view of the San Francisco Volcanic Field from the top of Mount Elden shows various volcanic features. 

hand lense

A student uses his hand lens to identify a rock on Mount Elden. We drove to the top of Mount Elden and practiced rock

lava tube

SNC Geology sit outside the entrance to a lava tube getting ready to hike underground.

lava tube 2

Inside the lava tube there is a constant temperature of 40 degrees and headlamps are needed to see. Lava tubes are
formed when the top of a lava flow cools quicker and crusts over while lava below keeps flowing through an insulated
tube. If all of the lava empties out, the tube is left behind. We were able to see lava stalactites, stalagmites, and ridges
along the edge that represented different heights of the lava.


At the end of a long day students and the professors sat on the porch of Kendrick Cabin and watched the sunset next
to a cinder cone.


Meteor Crater

SNC professors and students pose in front of Meteor Crater. Meteor Crater formed 50,000 years ago when an asteroid
crashed into Arizona. The asteroid was about 150 ft across and weighed several hundred thousand tons. It struck Earth
with a force greater than 20 million tons of TNT. The crater is 550 ft deep (60 story building)  and 2.4 miles in circumference.
To better imagine the size, picture twenty football games being played simultaneously on its floor, while more than 2 million
spectators watch from its sloping sides.

Inverted Stratigraphy 

This picture is a close-up of the inverted stratigraphy at Meteor Crater. When the meteorite hit Earth, the blast caused the
rock layers to "flip" over and become inverted.



Students and their guide, paleontologist Bill Parker, look for fossils in Petrified Forest National Park. Students
were able to find pieces of bones, teeth, and plenty of petrified wood. Outside of the park, it is not as easy to find
fossils, so we were lucky.

Petrified Forest National Park

The various colors of the sedimentary layers in the park can be seen.

Petrified Wood

This petrified wood formed 50 to 200 million years ago. Petrified wood forms when a tree falls into water and does not
decompose right away, because it is covered in ash. Silica from the ash carried by groundwater then replaces the wood,
preserving it. Different minerals in the water give petrified wood its color.

U.S. Geological Survey - Flagstaff:


The USGS campus in Flagstaff was the last stop of the trip. Students got a tour of the facility and were able to talk to
some of the people who work there. This picture is of George Billingsley and his maps of the Grand Canyon. He has
spent most of his career mapping the Grand Canyon, which took him about 40 years!


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