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2017 Field Trips

GSM Tours and Fields Trips in 2017

The following field trips are planned by the Geological Society of Minnesota in 2017:

There will be a total solar eclipse across the United States on Monday, August 21, 2017. Here are web sites that track its path:

To whet your appetite, in the February 2017 Newsletter, read Mark Ryan’s recollection of the total solar eclipse he experienced in Mexico in July, 1991. And the May 2017 Newsletter includes Deborah Naffziger’s experience of a total solar eclipse in Winnipeg in February, 1979. Dave Wilhelm is organizing a field trip whose primary purpose will be to view the 2017 eclipse, in the vicinity of Kearney, Nebraska. This is within easy car driving distance from Minnesota, with a Saturday, August 19 departure. Since we will head hundreds of miles southwest, we are including some geology and making a week of it. Around 45 persons are planning to view the eclipse on this trip, and around 30 are planning to remain with us for the geology portion starting Tuesday, August 22. If you are interested and have not yet responded, do so as soon as possible to Dave Wilhelm at, as accommodations are filling up rapidly and planning information for this trip is being sent only to members who have indicated interest.


Randy Strobel is planning two separate half-day field trips this fall. These are areas that Randy described in his February 6, 2017 lecture to GSM. E-mail for sign-up will be sent to GSM members the week of August 27.

-          On Sunday, September 17, walking trips of Minnehaha Falls and the nearby Mississippi River gorge, including a look at the new GSM marker soon be erected in the park (if it has been installed). One walking trip will be offered from 10 AM to 12 noon, followed by lunch at Sea Salt Eatery. A second walking trip will be offered from 3 to 5 PM, followed by dinner at Sea Salt Eatery. Each trip will be limited to around 18 persons. If these fill, Randy might schedule a third walking trip on Sunday, September 24.

-          On Sunday, October 1, Mississippi River Fall Color and Rocks Bike Ride: This biking trip will run on both sides of the Mississippi River Gorge, starting at Minnehaha Park, proceed to Lock & Dam # 1, up to the Stone Arch Bridge and back to Minnehaha Park (about 15 miles with a few hills). October 1 is predicted to be peak color this year. We will start around 11 AM and finish around 3 PM, followed by late lunch at Sea Salt Eatery.


The following field trips and tours were offered by the Geological Society of Minnesota in 2017:

On Saturday afternoon, January 28, Dave Wilhelm organized a 2+ hour tour of the Wildlife Science Center in Columbus, MN. About 40 GSM members and guests participated, including some young children. The temperature hovered around 25 degrees, so the animals were fairly active to maintain body heat. The tour started with an indoor presentation about WSC and its inhabitants, followed by an outdoor tour to observe the animals up close. We saw, heard (and smelled) gray & red wolves, coyotes, foxes, a mountain lion, bobcat, porcupine, and screech owl, and got detailed explanations of their behaviors and interactions (great photos here). And we were exhilarated by choruses of wolf howls a few times during our visit. The Center moved in April, 2017, so our event was one of the last opportunities to tour the previous site. Photos from this tour are here. The new address of WSC is 22830 Sunrise Rd NE, Stacy, MN 55079, near Carlos Avery Wildlife Area. This is about 37 miles (40 minutes) north of downtown St. Paul.

On Saturday, February 11, 2017 from 10 AM until 12 noon, Steve Erickson organized a tour of the American Engineering Testing Company at 550 Cleveland Avenue North in St. Paul. This informative tour was conducted by Dan Vruno and Dale Hunt of AET, and 18 GSM members participated.  AET specializes in petrography (study of detailed descriptions of rocks) and the making and testing concrete. Among other projects, AET has been involved with the new St. Croix River Bridge (subject of Dec. 5 GSM lecture) and the Green Line Light Rail. Look for Deborah Naffziger’s report in the May 2017 Newsletter. Photos from the tour are here. (Click the circled “i” at top right to see captions.)


Dave Wilhelm scheduled another tour of St. Anthony Falls Laboratory on Wednesday, April 12. Look for Deborah Naffziger’s report in the May, 2017 Newsletter.  GSM plans to continue arranging one or more weekday tours to SAFL each semester as member interest dictates, so you will be notified of another possible opportunity during Fall, 2017.

Bill Robbins invited GSM members to a talk on April 18 hosted by the Minnesota Section of the Optical Society of America on the history of the Goodsell Observatory at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. The three GSM members who attended learned the history of Goodsell and its current imaging techniques; the importance of observations and timing, both historically and up through current work on pulsars (the best celestial clocks); and details of the Observatory’s clocks and the work being done to refurbish them. The talk was followed by a tour of the Observatory, where we saw these fine historic instruments up close, the largest of which is an 1890 16.2” Brashear refractor 22 feet long weighing 12,700 lbs., the largest telescope in Minnesota until 1969. Unfortunately, the skies were cloudy that night, so we were unable to observe the heavens though these beautiful instruments.


The University of Illinois Twin Cities Alumni Association arranged a visit to Eagle Lake Observatory on Friday, May 5, hosted by the Minnesota Astronomical Society. As there was room for additional participants, they generously invited GSM members and friends to join them, which about 10 did, including one three-generation family. We listened to a great talk on deep-sky objects (star clusters, nebulae, galaxies, etc.) by amateur astronomer Suresh Sreenivasan, followed by a wonderful evening of viewing through a clear, cool sky. See photos from the GSM 2016 visit to this observatory here.