Geology Field Camp




Six semester credits

Dates: May 25 - June 28, 2018


Camp full - Contact  to be wait listed



Register online

Cost: $4,995.00. Deposit $400 (required upon registration). Cost includes tuition, fees, food, lodging and transportation to field sites and from Bozeman to Dillon and back to Bozeman. Cost does not include airfare to Bozeman.


Important Dates: Students will be picked up in Bozeman at 2:00 PM on May 25 and drive to Dillon. We will have drop off at Bozeman airport before 11:00 AM on June 28. If you are driving you can check in at Western Montana College in Dillon on Thursday. Earliest you can leave camp is June 27, 6:00PM


Each session is limited to 30


Introduction: The scenic Montana Rockies expose classic thrust structures of the Cordilleran foreland. This 5-week field course focuses on geologic mapping and cross-section construction of imbricated thrusts in Paleozoic platform and Mesozoic foreland basin strata. Four weeks will concentrate on mapping well-exposed structures in southwest Montana, where thrust structures involve syntectonic conglomerates, volcanics, and intrusives. Some thrusts were reactivated by basin-range extensional faults in the border zone of the Yellowstone hotspot.


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


Projects:  Students will measure and describe stratigraphic sections to gain familiarity with Paleozoic and Mesozoic formations of the Montana Rockies. They will map Mesozoic folds and thrusts that deform these formations, as well as Cretaceous sills and stocks that intrude them. They will map interference structures between thrust faults and uplifts of Precambrian basement rocks.


Students will also map and examine field relations of deformed Neogene basin deposits that record a dynamic depositional, volcanic and tectonic history of the Montana Rockies in the border zone of the Yellowstone hotspot track.

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 topographic base maps, aerial photographs, and GPS units in the field.


Physical Demands: Fieldwork will involve traversing 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: Lodging during the first two weeks of the field course will be in dormitories of the University of Montana, Western, in Dillon, Montana. During the final three weeks, lodging will be in a rustic dormitory-style setting at UM western's Birch Creek Center in the Pioneer Mnts near Dillon. Evening lectures and discussions, report writing, and drafting for project maps and cross sections, etc., will be based at UM Western and Birch Creek Center. The town of Dillon has all conveniences.  WiFi is available at UM Western. Birch Creek Center has cell phone service only.


Climate: Springtime weather in the Montana Rockies is capricious. Days can be warm and pleasant, but cold weather is not that uncommon, and nights are cold. Students should expect variable conditions with the potential for cold, windy, and wet weather. About half of our field studies will be at slightly higher (i.e., cooler) elevations. The average highs are low 60ís to high 70ís ˚F; the average lows are mid 30ís to mid 40ís ˚F. Solar radiation is intense at the higher elevations (up to ~ 7,000 feet). Days can be warm and pleasant and even hot.


Textbooks: Geology in the Field, 1985, Robert R. Compton (Note: This text is now out of print, so please try to find on online if you don't have it already. It's out of date in some respects, but it's still about the best field manual out there).


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

Weatherproof geological 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


Good quality digital camera (with downloading capabilities)

Laptop computer


Lip balm




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)


For more information contact:


Dr. James Sears, Montana Camp Coordinator

Geosciences Department

University of Montana

Missoula, Montana 59812

Phone: (406) 243-2341




Dr. Nuri Uzunlar

Director, Black Hills Natural Sciences Field Station 

Professor, Geology and Geological Engineering Department

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

 Phone:  (605) 431-1275


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