Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spotlight on California Geology: the Eastern Mojave Desert

The eastern Mojave Desert is a geological wonderland of rugged mountain peaks, basaltic cinder cones, widespread rhyolitic ash deposits, limestone caverns and the site of California's only known exposures of dinosaur trackways. The area has a rich history of human habitation, and with everything from petroglyphs, pictographs, forts, and old train stations, as well as a portion of the iconic Route 66. The Far West Section visited the area in February of 2005 as the guests of the Desert Research Center at Zzyzyx. The conference was sponsored by El Camino College.

The trip was disrupted by an unusually wet winter storm system that left many of the dirt and gravel roads in the region impassable, but the participants of the field trips still saw a great many interesting localities nonetheless.

You can retrace the field trips with the roadguide developed for the event here. Sales of the guidebook support the Far West Section scholarships for earth science students. Chapters include the following:

  • Surficial Geology of the Cima Volcanic Field and Adjacent Areas of the Eastern Mojave Desert, California by John Dohrenwend
  • Landscape Evolution in the Eastern Mojave: Geology, Biology and Climate Change by Robert Fulton
  • Mojave Tracks Through Time by Robert Reynolds
  • Eastern Mojave Desert Geology Tour, Parts I and II by Dee Trent, Richard Hazlett and T. James Noyes
  • Geology and Mining Activity in the Standard Mining District, San Bernardino County, California by Ted Weasma
  • Prehistoric Rock-Art of the Eastern Mojave Desert by David Lee
  • Prehistory of the Granite Mountains by Don Christensen, Jerry Dickey and David Lee

The photos above from the conference include a panorama of the Providence Mountains which contain a nearly complete Paleozoic section something like 10,000 feet thick, topped by Tertiary rhyolitic ashflows. The second shot is of pictographs hidden deep in the Granite Mountains south of Kelso Dunes, and the third is a really close up look at some lichens growing on basalt in the Cima Volcanic Field.

Check it out!

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