Left: The mighty Colorado River in spring snowmelt, from the Red Cliffs Lodge, at the northwestern tip of the Castle Valley anticline, on the last day of the fieldtrip.
Right: A huge area of the geologically best part of the United States, if not the world: the region around Canyonlands and the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers.

The April 2016 ConocoPhillips-UA Geosciences Southern Utah field trip

In April 2016, Bob Krantz (COP), Simon Kattenhorn (COP), George Davis (UA), Mark Barton (UA), Isabel Barton (UA), Victor Garcia (UA), and Drew Laskowski (UA) led a phenomenal and hopefully 1st Annual ConocoPhillips-UA Geosciences fieldtrip to southern Utah (generously sponsored by COP), including spectacular stops in the Canyonlands, La Sals, Paradox Basin, Lisbon Valley, Arches, and en route around Sunset Crater, Wupatki, the Raplee Anticline, Goosenecks, etc. The trip introduced us to a wide variety of geology, with most intense focus on faulting and fluid flow, and it was really kind of amazing how at the end a huge range of features from stratigraphy, salt, structure, groundwater, hydrocarbons, and metals (U, Cu, Fe, Mn) came together in a truly holistic story greater than the sum of the parts. I'm sure it was 100% intentional. Also joining us for much of the trip (but locking themselves out of their vehicle for part of it), were Alexis Ault, Joel Pederson, Ravi Kanda, and James Mauch from Utah State University, Devon Orme from Stanford, and Gene Humphreys from the University of Oregon. Here are a few photos.


2016 UA Geosciences Distinguished Alumnus Robert Krantz, MS '83, PhD '86, getting ready to lead the discussion above the Colorado River, after the first hike of the first day, which was "easy and short and definitely not a death march or anything like that..." Riiight...

George Davis chimes in about how much he has always loved salt tectonics more than any other kind of geology.

Bob and Simon explicate the geology beneath our feet that only oil people are allowed to see. BTW, that magic marker is wanted by the NPS.

Standin on a corner of Navajo sandstone, such a fine sight to see. At the entrance to Arches NP, learning about the former Saudi Arabian supergiant that was once present here. If only we could go back in time and pump previous oilfields...


Kojo Plange modeling Arizona wear in front of the Honaker Trail limestone. Supposedly there is a fault in there somewhere? But underneath that rock in the foreground are some beautiful specimens shown at right...


Spherical concretions in the Entrada Sandstone that are not oxides... My guess is they are calcite (possibly ferroan?). Possible precursors to Fe-oxide spherical concretions if they had accumulated enough Fe in the reduced state? See this photoshow if you are intrigued...


Drew gives Simon a poster-holding break, while Bob interprets the "world-famous roadcut" near the entrance to Arches NP. He actually has "before and after" photos of this roadcut, the before being from several decade ago, when the road was thinner and the rock wider. It is a little scary how little a real 2-D structure section resembles one in the same place but only 10 meters farther into the face. Don't worry about it though, structural geologists, I'm sure it only happens in roadcuts.


Part of the troop at a splay of the Moab fault way north, in Bartlett Wash. Lots of hunting around for the fault and Socratic method pedagogy. Also spectacular concretions in the Morrison to the east of the Navajo here, and a line of paleo-sand-blow vents in the Navajo strata from a long-forgotten earthquake (e.g.).

Deformation band city here, increasingly so as one approaches the fault. I really am impressed with the note-taking abilities of our grad students.

Simon "von Grabenstein" Kattenhorn led us on an epic (in a good way) long day trip to "The Grabens" region of Canyonlands NP. Wow. So cool. Here we are near Hell's Kitchen. You know how cool a place is by the abundance of place names with "Hell" in it. This is up there.

Scaling the horst astride one of the larger (but nowhere near largest) grabens.

I was feeling pretty inferior with my broken arrowhead next to Drew's pretty sweet arrowhead until...

...I found this one. Yes we put all of them back in the same place we found them. I remember exactly where, if you want to take us back there. Given that we found these in about 20 seconds of poking around, it's likely there are better ones.

Isabel Barton expounding on the striking bleaching in this Cutler Group sandstone in Lisbon Valley. Yes many sandstones in the Colorado Plateau are bleached; the question is why. This one is cool because it contains abundant black interstitial blobs of "dead oil" or decayed bitumen/kerogen left behind by migrating hydrocarbons, which reduced the Fe and took it elsewhere.

We spent a lot of time staring at the side of UA Suburbans (hey, it's official use). Here Mark Barton explains Eh-pH equilibria of Cu, U, Fe, Mn, V, and the history of both hydrocarbon and metal mobilization in Lisbon Valley.

Mark Barton knowing he's cool, entertaining questions from the audience below the location where a large fraction of the US's uranium came from. If you look closely you can see addits and tailings in that cliff that went after incredibly rich U deposits in the Chinle Fm., in the 1950s. It all comes back to fluid migration and redox.

I should have found a better way to make those pyrite nodules and their oxidized alteration rinds look more like eyes. This is the weirdest Wingate Sandstone you've ever seen. It's bleached here, but there is also tons (yes perhaps even metric tonnes) of pyrite, both disseminated as well as concentrated into cm-scale concretions. The idea here is that the reduced fluid (like hydrocarbon?) that came through here also contained a lotta S, so sulifidization reduced and remineralized the Fe, instead of carrying it away. Also: those (much later) oxide rinds around the reduced cores remind me spherical oxide concretions seen elsewhere...

Team Barton making sense out of salt tectonics in none other than the Paradox Basin, which is actually a giant anticline. Here it is kind of poignant or something that off in the distance you can see the Uncompaghre uplift, a Ancestral Rockies (!) uplift that led to this Penn-Perm basin in which you got bioherms for organics and dried up oceans for salt that then so dramatically affected the structures, geomorphology, fluid flow, and mineralization for hundreds of millions of years after. A bunch of Penn-Perm salt that is rarely seen, and the reduced fluids associated with the same source, are fundamental to much of the geology of the frickin Colorado Plateau.

Victor and the Amazing Technicolor Sediment-Hosted Cu-Deposit.

Team Barton tie it all together at the Cliffdweller Mine site with salt tectonics, anticlines, migrating reduced fluids, and the sediment-hosted Cu-mineralization icing on the cake! Applause!!!

Not to be outdone, George Davis entertains the troops with stories of geologists and interpretations old and new, at Goosenecks of the San Juan. This is where we also realized that we should have had Joel Pederson say some things about the geomorphology, as he did on this field trip a few years ago.