Geology 3B West Valley College

Spring, 2004 Saratoga, California

California Natural History Field Lab (2 units): Death Valley, Owens Valley

Instructor: Dr. Robert Lopez


Office: SM 47A

Phone: 408-741-2437

Office Hours: MW 1-2 pm; T 9-10am

Course Meets: Instructional Meetings = Th 2:05 pm – 4:10 pm, SM47

Field Trip Depart March 27, 7:00 am

Six Days Return April 1, 8:00 pm

Catalogue Description: Field geology lecture/laboratory sequence illustrating topics covered in course Geology 1A, Geology 1B, Geology 10, and Geology 15. This is a field-oriented course and will have 2 instructional hours per week followed by a six-day field trip/camp. The instructional meetings will introduce the field use of topographic and geologic maps as well as background on the specific focus region of the trip, which will include discussions on other areas of natural history such as biology, anthropology, astronomy, and meteorology. Trip locations will differ with each class (Cascade and Modoc Volcanoes; Sierra Nevada Foothills and Yosemite; Lake Tahoe and High Sierra; Eastern Sierra Nevada; San Francisco Bay, Coast Ranges, and the San Andreas Fault; Los Angeles and Transverse Ranges; Death Valley and Mohave Desert; Baja California). A fee will be required. This course may be taken multiple times. (Requirement geology or natural history course; class limited to 15 students.)

Text: Miller, M.G. and Wright, L.A., 2002, Geology of Death Valley National Park, Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., (available at bookstore)

Recommended Text: Sharp and Glazner, 1997, Geology Underfoot in Death Valley and Owens Valley, UC Press ($12.80 on

Course Reader: Course logistics, field trip rules, study questions, excursion notes, field-mapping techniques, and some course notes. (Available soon at bookstore)

Course Webpage: click on the Natural History of California.

Evaluation: Each student or student pairs (no more than two) will pick an area of Death Valley geology and make a poster presentation at our Death Valley Conference. We will invite students and faculty from throughout the college to attend our symposium. By the time of our symposium (April 15), you will all be experts on some aspect of Death Valley Geology. This project is worth 300 points.

Poster Presentations 300 points

Exercises 100 points

Total 400 points

Course Themes: The course will integrate the relationships of California rock exposures to the classroom discussions on the plate tectonic evolution of California. Also, we will apply fundamental field geology techniques to the geology of California.

Principle Objectives: Upon completion of the course, you should be knowledgeable about the origin and significance of the geology of the California Basin and Range Province. You will also have knowledge of the Native American History and non-Native American influence in the Owens and Death Valley regions. Examples: 1. Reasons for volcanic unrest in the basin and range. 2. Mineral deposits in the Owens and Death Valley regions. 3. The Inyo-White Mountains and Panamint Mountains. 4. Geology and Ecology of basin and range province. 5. Pleistocene lakes. 4. Native Americans of the Owens and Death Valley regions 5. Miners, Ranchers, Farmers, and Recreation in the basin and range.

Places that you will come to know: The Mojave Desert, Boron California, Red Rock Canyon State Park, Alabama Hills, Lone Pine and Mount Whitney, Owens Valley fault scarp of 1872, Owens playa, the Coso Range, Panamint Springs and Darwin Plateau, Stovepipe Wells Sand Dunes, Ubehebe Crater, Race Track Playa, Titus Canyon, Scotty’s Castle, Furnace Creek and Resort, Golden Canyon and Manly Butte, Zabrinskie Point, Dante’s View, Badwater, Devil’s golf course, Artist’s Drive, plus more!!

Class Schedule






Introductions: Course Outline; Slide Show of 2002 Death Valley and Owens Valley Trip.

Ex. 1: Topographic Maps

Intro p. vii

Ch. 1 p. 1-30 Handout



Review readings from week one. Review Plate Tectonics and California – Basin and Range Province.

Ex. 2: Plate Tectonics

Ch. 2 p. 31-47 Handout



Minerals and Rocks

Rocks Cycle: Igneous, Sedimentary, Metamorphic Rocks

Ex. 3: Minerals and Rocks




Geologic Structures and Geologic Maps

Ex. 4: Structures and Geologic Maps




Geologic History of Death Valley Part One: Passive Margin Tectonics, Pahrump Group, Noonday Dolomite, Ibex Fm., Johnnie Fm. Clastic Wedge Development: Stirling Quartzite, Wook Canyon Fm., Zabriskie Quartzite.

Ch. 3 p. 47-52 Handout



Geologic History of Death Valley Part Two: Paleozoic to Mesozoic Carbonate Shelf.

Ch. 3 p. 52-55 Handout



Geologic History of Death Valley Part Three: Tertiary tectonics and the Basin and Range; Late Cenozoic Extension

Ch. 3 p. 55-60 Handout



Overview of Owens Valley and Mojave Desert: Red Rock Canyon State Park, Fossil Falls, Range Front Faults and Owens Scarp; Alabama Hills and Sierran Batholith



27 to April 1


Bring textbook and handouts



Discuss and make preparations for poster presentations at our Death Valley Conference/Symposium for next week.




Death Valley Conference/Symposium held at Viking Den



Tentative Trip/Camp Schedule (We may modify as we go)

Day –1



Depart 7:00 am from West Valley College Geology Department: SM47

Long, long, six- to eight-hour drive to the town of Mojave. If daylight permits, observe Badlands at Red Rock Canyon and the Ricardo Group.

Camp at Red Rock Canyon State Park. (No Showers)

Day 2



Fossil Falls of Pleistocene Owens Lake, Red Hill Cinder Cone, Sierra Range Front Fault and Owens Valley Scarp of 1872, Alabama Hills.

Camp at Alabama Hills. (Showers at Diaz Lake)

Day 3



Drive to Death Valley; Brief stops at Father Crowley Overlook and Panamint Springs; Hike Mosaic Canyon, Investigate Stovepipe Wells Sand Dunes.

Camp at Texas Springs Group Site. (Showers at Furnace Creek – Pool!)

Day 4



Golden Canyon Hike to Zabriski Point, Manly Beacon, Dante’s View, Badwater Playa.

Camp at Texas Springs Group Site. (Showers at Furnace Creek, Pool!)

Day 5



Travel through Grapevine and Funeral Mountains, Titus Canyon. Hikes in the Grapevine Mountains.

Camp at Texas Springs Group Site. (Showers at Furnace Creek, Pool!)

Day 6

April 1

Break Camp. Shoreline Butte and Pleistocene Lake Manly, Trona Pinnacles

Drive Back to West Valley College.