Join us for a weekend of free field trips with Utah’s finest geologists, paleontologists, and archaeological conservationists. Meet the organizations that preserve and protect our public lands while discovering a bounty of rocks and minerals from vendors at our pop-up market outside the John Wesley Powell River History Museum.

*FULL 2024 SCHEDULE TO BE ANNOUNCED SOON!*

We value inclusion and access for all participants and are pleased to provide reasonable accommodations for this event.

Contact us with any questions about special arrangements; we’re here to help!


2024 OPENING LECTURE

GREG MCDONALD

John Wesley Powell River History Museum

Stuck in the Pleistocene: Tar Pits Around the World and Utah

When you say tar pits most people immediately think of the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles with the remains of saber tooth cats and mammoths. But tar pits have been found around the world including South America, the Middle East and even in the Caribbean and many of them also preserve the remains of other types of animals. While we often think of these tar traps as only happening in the past, there are many places today where oil comes to the earth’s surface and are trapping animals to become future fossils. One place where this is happening is in Utah, near The Great Salt Lake. Studying the conditions on how animals can become trapped today can help paleontologist understand the entrapment of extinct species in the past and better understand the fossil record. The talk will present tar pits from around the world, the different animals they preserve and how the study of the modern tar traps in Utah are helping paleontologists to better understand the secrets of past tar pits.


FIELD TRIPS

How to sign up for a field trip:

  • Attendees can sign up for trips before and during the Friday evening lecture and also on Saturday and Sunday at the festival information booth outside the John Wesley Powell River History Museum.
  • The festival booth will open at 5pm before the Friday evening lecture, and again at 9am on both Saturday and Sunday.
  • Field trip sign-ups are first come, first serve and must be done in-person during the festival. There’s no way to sign up in advance.
  • All field trips are half-day to full-day trips. Group size for each trip is approximately 25 people. If there is a trip you are particularly excited about, we recommend coming to the Friday evening lecture to sign up early.
  • Field trip leaders will meet their group in the museum parking lot. Prepare to caravan to field trip sites in your own vehicle. Many trips involve driving on dirt roads. Descriptions of road conditions can be found in each trip description. Pack plenty of water and a sack lunch, and fill your gas tank ahead of time. Wear comfortable clothing and bring sun protection.
  • If you have any questions call 435-564-3330. Staff at the John Wesley Powell River History Museum will not be able to answer any questions. The Museum does not organize the festival, they are just our gracious hosts!

FOSSIL POINT DINO BONES – GREG MCDONALD

Fossil Point is an extraordinary fossil locality where boulders yield large dinosaur bones from the Jurassic Era, dating as far back as 145 million years ago. A short drive from Green River, this site is home to large dinosaur vertebrae, leg bones, and fantastic views of the La Sals and Henry Mountains.

Roads: Less than 30 minutes on well graded dirt roads from Green River. The last mile has a rocky stretch. Passenger cars can make it to Fossil Point successfully if they drive with care.

Leader: Greg McDonald is a recently retired regional paleontologist for the Bureau of Land Management. Based out of the Utah State Office of the BLM, he worked with the field offices in Utah, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. Prior to transferring to the BLM he worked for the National Park Service as the Senior Curator of Natural History in the Washington Museum Management Program, as Paleontology Program Coordinator in the Geologic Resources Division and as the paleontologist at Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument.


TEMPLE MOUNTAIN – BENJAMIN BURGER

Join us on an exciting field trip to Temple Mountain, where we’ll embark on a geological adventure spanning a remarkable period in Earth’s history. Our journey will take us through the end-Permian mass extinction period, as we explore the rocks and collect fossils that hold clues to Earth’s ancient history. Along the way, we’ll also visit historical uranium camps, including the very mine that supplied Marie Curie with the ore she used in her groundbreaking experiments on radioactive elements, and won her two Nobel Prizes. Our first stop will be at the early Triassic Sinbad Limestone, where we’ll have the chance to collect invertebrate fossils, giving us a glimpse into marine life recovering from Earth’s Worst Mass Extinction. Next, we’ll visit the late Permian Kaibab Limestone, offering us insights into what life was like before the extinction, in the late Permian.

Roads: Please note that the route requires high-clearance vehicles, but we’ve arranged for parking at the campground for those with 2WD vehicles to join the field trip by catching a ride, as the field will loop back. In case of inclement weather rendering roads impassable, we have an exciting alternative plan to explore the remarkable features of Goblin Valley State Park a few miles to the south and delve into the mysteries of Jurassic sedimentary rock formations. Plus, for those interested, you can easily visit to Goblin Valley State Park as an option after the field trip on the way back to Green River. Prepare for a full-day journey filled with geological wonders and historical significance that will leave you with a deeper understanding of our planet’s rich past.

Leader: Benjamin Burger Associate Professor of Geology at Utah State University. Benjamin currently works at Utah State University’s Uintah Basin campus in Vernal Utah teaching classes in paleontology and geology. He also maintains a YouTube channel on the geology of Utah. His active research centers on ancient climate change in deep time, and the geological history of the intermountain west. Previously he has worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and earned graduate degrees at Stony Brook University in New York and the University of Colorado in Boulder.


OCEANFRONT PROPERTY IN GREEN RIVER: GIANT CLAMS OF MANCOS SHALE – JOSH LIVELY

If you took a time machine 85 million years in the past, Green River would be at the seafloor, hundreds of feet below the surface. While dinosaurs were walking around on land near what is now the Wasatch Plateau, marine life was teaming in the shallow seas of eastern Utah. Join Dr. Joshua Lively for a tour of the Cretaceous Mancos Shale and a look at the life inhabiting this ancient sea, including ammonites and giant clams! We will take a short trip outside of town to see these fossils in the field and learn what they tell us about Cretaceous seas.

Duration: 3 hours

Roads: A vehicle with moderate ground clearance is recommended (at least Subaru Outback).

Leader: Joshua Lively, PhD – Paleontologist. Dr. Lively is the Curator of Paleontology at the Prehistoric Museum in Price, Utah. He earned his master’s from the University of Utah where he studied Cretaceous turtles, and a PhD from The University of Texas at Austin, where he focused on mosasaurs and other Cretaceous marine life.


HWY 191 PALEONTOLOGY – JIM KIRKLAND

Paleozoic marine fossils. Cretaceous dinosaur tracks. The discovery of Utahraptor. A fossil swamp. Join State Paleontologist Jim Kirkland on a tour of Hwy 191 between Crescent Junction and Moab. Travel through three hundred million years of Earth’s history with stops at a Paradox Formation outcrop, the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite, the future site of Utahraptor State Park, and the Copper Ridge Dinosaur Tracksite, with rockhounding opportunities along the way.

Roads: A 90-mile round trip, mostly pavement, with a few short stretches on dirt roads. Any car can make the trip.

Leader: Dr. Jim Kirkland has been the Utah State Paleontologist with the Utah Geological Survey over 20 years. He issues permits for paleontological research on Utah state lands, keeps tabs on paleontological research and issues across the state, and promotes Utah’s paleontological resources for the public good. An expert on the Mesozoic, he has spent more than forty-five years excavating fossils across the southwestern US and Mexico.


THE GEOLOGIC GLORY OF THE SAN RAFAEL SWELL – PAUL ANDERSON AND TOM CHIDSEY

The San Rafael Swell is a showcase of Colorado Plateau geology. This large, anticlinal feature formed due to Laramide mountain-building compression during the Cretaceous through early Tertiary (65 to 45 million years ago). Uplift and erosion of the Swell have created a colorful array of sedimentary rocks about 6,900 feet thick, ranging in age from Permian (280 million years ago) through the Cretaceous, exposed in spectacular cliffs along cuestas, mesas, and deep canyons. These rocks were deposited in a wide range of environments including dune, floodplain, river, braided stream, delta, swamp, tidal flat, and shallow marine, now long gone.

Roads: This long loop will traverse some dirt roads with a few rough spots.  A moderately high clearance vehicle is required, but not 4- or all-wheel drive.

Leaders: Paul Anderson has been a geologic consultant for nearly 40 years and a past resident of Emery, Utah, where he and his wife Mary Ann are active in the local community. Paul is an expert on the Cretaceous geology of Emery County including its coal and gas resources as well as many other areas of the state. Tom Chidsey is an emeritus geologist from the Utah Geological Survey where he worked as a petroleum researcher for 31 years and 13 years prior in the oil and gas industry of Utah and Texas. Both Paul and Tom have served as presidents of the Utah Geological Association and have been awarded the prestigious Lehi Hintze Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Geology of Utah.


ROCK ART OF BUCKHORN WASH AND THE CENTRAL SAN RAFAEL SWELL – GEOFF SMITH

Spend the day in the extraordinary canyons and ravines of the San Rafael Swell. We’ll drive a 122 mile loop, stopping at numerous rock art panels including the Silent Sentinel, the Daisy Chain, and the world famous Buckhorn Panel.

Roads: High clearance recommended for patches of rough road along the way.

Leader: Geoff Smith is a past president and current active member of Castle Valley Archaeological Society. Geoff is a 5th generation Emery County resident and currently serves as an advanced EMT for Emery County.


MYGATT-MOORE DINO QUARRY – JULIA MCHUGH

Journey 152 million years into the past, with this tour of the Mygatt-Moore Quarry, a gigantic dinosaur bonebed that has produced thousands of fossils over more than 30 years. This tour will highlight the history of the site, new discoveries, and even take you on a short walk along the Trail Through Time to discover the fossils of a Camarasaurus still embedded in the hard sandstones of an ancient river channel.

Roads: The quarry is an hour and 15 minute drive from the museum, mostly on I-70 between Green River, UT, and Fruita, CO. Any car can make the trip.

Leader: Dr. Julia McHugh is the Curator of Paleontology of the Museums of Western Colorado, and an instructor in the geosciences program at Colorado Mesa University. Dr. McHugh is an expert in Morrison Formation paleontology, taphonomy, and amphibian evolution. Her recent collaborative research has included discoveries on tooth replacement mechanisms in sauropods like Apatosaurus, cannibalism in the theropod Allosaurus, and evidence for decay and decomposition ecologies at the Mygatt-Moore Quarry. The recent special exhibition at Dinosaur Journey in Fruita (part of the Museums of Western Colorado), Dinosaurs Macabre, is based on these recent research projects. She has worked on excavations in Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Oklahoma. She has a B.A. in Geology from Hanover College, a M.S. in Geosciences from Idaho State University, and a Ph.D. in Geoscience from The University of Iowa.


SEGO CANYON ROCK ART – GEOFF SMITH

The rock art at Sego Canyon is among the most interesting and unique in all of the south west. The panels include art from Fremont, Ute and Barrier Canyon cultures and span thousands of years.

Roads: About 30 miles from Green River. Mostly paved highway and a short segment of dirt road. Any car can make the journey.

Leader: Geoff Smith is a past president and current active member of Castle Valley Archaeological Society. Geoff is a 5th generation Emery County resident and currently serves as an advanced EMT for Emery County.


CRYSTAL GEYSER: A GEOLOGIC ODDITY – PAUL ANDERSON AND TOM CHIDSEY

Crystal Geyser is located along the Green River about 3 miles south of town. Unlike the more familiar geysers in Yellowstone, Crystal Geyser is human-made and flows cold water, which explodes with carbon dioxide (CO2) like a shaken bottle of soda pop. It was created in 1936 when an oil exploration well encountered a high-pressure system containing trapped CO2 instead of oil. This same system was responsible for ancient Ice Age (Pleistocene – 2.6 million to 12,000 years ago) deposits of tufa in the area first identified by Major John Wesley Powell during his 1869 journey along this stretch of the river on the way to the Grand Canyon. Modern terraces of tufa are forming today from calcium carbonate-bearing water flowing from the geyser. Major eruptions of Crystal Geyser attain heights of 40 to 80 feet, which last from 3 to 49 minutes, and occur anywhere from 17 to 27 hours apart. A few brief stops will describe the geology along the route.

Roads: The route traverses mostly dirt roads, but well graded.

Leaders: Paul Anderson has been a geologic consultant for nearly 40 years and a past resident of Emery, Utah, where he and his wife Mary Ann are active in the local community. Paul is an expert on the Cretaceous geology of Emery County including its coal and gas resources as well as many other areas of the state. Tom Chidsey is an emeritus geologist from the Utah Geological Survey where he worked as a petroleum researcher for 31 years and 13 years prior in the oil and gas industry of Utah and Texas. Both Paul and Tom have served as presidents of the Utah Geological Association and have been awarded the prestigious Lehi Hintze Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Geology of Utah.


JURASSIC NATIONAL MONUMENT’S CLEVELAND-LLOYD DINO QUARRY – CASEY DOOMS

The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry at Jurassic National Monument is one of the world’s most impressive collections of dinosaur bones and fossils from the Jurassic Morrison Formation. Over 12,000 bones from at least 70 different prehistoric critters have been excavated here. Fossils from the quarry have been reassembled and displayed in museums throughout the world. 

Roads: The quarry is a 90 minute drive from Green River, located within the San Rafael Swell. Any car can make the drive to the quarry, which is about equal parts pavement and well-graded dirt roads. 

Leader: Casey Dooms is a Park Ranger at Jurassic National Monument working for the Bureau of Land Management, and he oversees the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry. He has 17 years of paleontological experience, mostly in Emery and Carbon counties.


GEOLOGY AND PALEONTOLOGY OF THE SAN RAFAEL SWELL – JOSH LIVELY

Description: People come from near and far to visit “The Swell” for its opportunities for outdoor recreation, but did you know it preserves a deep geologic history? Join Dr. Joshua Lively for a geologic tour of the San Rafael Swell, traversing over 170 million years of geologic time across I-70 and through Buckhorn Draw. We’ll start our day in Green River and end in Castle Dale, making stops to cover the Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous time periods. Learn the geologic stories behind The Swell’s iconic scenery, and see a few fossils along the way!

Duration: full day

Roads: Low-riding vehicles (such as Priuses and small sedans) are not recommended on this trip.

Leader: Joshua Lively, PhD – Paleontologist. Dr. Lively is the Curator of Paleontology at the Prehistoric Museum in Price, Utah. He earned his master’s from the University of Utah where he studied Cretaceous turtles, and a PhD from The University of Texas at Austin, where he focused on mosasaurs and other Cretaceous marine life.