Death Valley Field Camp



December 27, 2024 - January 12, 2025 - Three credits


Register online


Application Deadline: July 30, 2024


Cost: $3,895.00 three credits and $4,895.00 four credits. Deposit $300 (required upon registration). Cost includes tuition, fees, food, lodging and daily transportation to the sites.  Cost does not include airfare to Las Vegas. Each session limited to 20 students.


Important Dates: Students will be picked up in Las Vegas at 2:00PM on December 27 and drive to Shoshone. We will drop everyone off  in Las Vegas before 11:00 AM on January 12 and 17.


overturned forelimb_niles

Introduction: The Death Valley region is world renown as a remarkable natural laboratory for geological field studies owing to its rich geologic and tectonic history and excellent rock exposures. Projects will investigate Proterozoic and Paleozoic stratigraphy, Basin and Range extensional faulting and synextensional volcanism, and neotectonic development of the right-lateral eastern California shear zone near the intersection of the Southern Death Valley and Garlock fault zones.

Prerequisites: Physical geology, mineralogy and/or petrology required; structural geology helpful but not required.

Projects: Students will map Precambrian and lower Paleozoic stratigraphic units that are deformed by Mesozoic folds and late Tertiary Basin and Range normal faulting, and map and examine field relations between Tertiary extensional faulting and synchronous volcanism. Students will map and examine field relations of deformed Pliocene basin deposits that record a dynamic depositional and tectonic history of southern Death Valley, which now lies within a region of right-lateral shear known as the eastern California shear zone.

Students will develop skills for making geologic field observations and constructing geologic maps in the field. Students will learn techniques for measuring stratigraphic sections, collect structural data in the field, construct geologic cross sections, conduct simple structural analyses from the field data, and interpret geologic history from both stratigraphic and structural relations examined in the field, and regional tectonic relations that we will review as a group from the literature. Students will have the opportunity to learn mapping techniques using both topographic base maps and stereo imagery in the field.

Physical Demands: Field work will involve working in rugged and steep terrain.  Some projects may include demanding hikes of considerable length and elevation gain. Students are expected to be physically and mentally prepared to work in these conditions.

Facilities: We will be staying in a dormitory style housing in Shoshone. The town of Shoshone has minimal conveniences although it does host a restaurant and general store. WiFi is available, but is not very fast.

Climate: Weather in the Death Valley/Mojave Desert in January is unpredictable. Days can be warm pleasant, but cold weather is not that uncommon, and nights are cold. The average January high in Death Valley is 67˚F; the average low is 40˚F. About half of our field studies will be at slightly higher (i.e., cooler) elevations. Students should expect variable conditions with the potential for cold, windy, and perhaps even wet weather.

Textbooks: Geology in the Field, 1985, Robert R. Compton. (Note: This text is now out of print, so please try to find one online if you don't have it already).

Field Equipment: Geologic rock hammer and hammer holder, Hand lens (10x), Mechanical and colored pencils (#2 lead (or harder) and variety of colors), (2) Pilot extra fine (0.5) black RT pens, Field notebook(s), Daypack and/or field vest for carrying field supplies, H2O bottles, Clip/map board, Protractor and straight edge, Pocket knife (good for a lot of things as well as a scratch test tool), Grain-size chart, Dilute HCl ,Safety glasses, Calculator, Good quality digital camera (with downloading capabilities), Laptop computer, Sunscreen, Lip balm, Sunglasses

Field clothing: Sturdy hiking boots (mandatory),Rain jacket, Fleece jacket (idea is to dress in thin, light, and breathable layers that can be added or subtracted according to conditions), Light-weight leather work gloves, Field hat (full brim), Swimsuit (for hot springs)

For more information Contact:


Dr. Nuri Uzunlar, Director, Black Hills Natural Sciences Field Station 

Professor, Geology and Geological Engineering Department

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

Office Phone: (605) 394 - 2494 ; Cell: (605) 431-1275

Back to main page