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2017 Field Trips

GSM Tours and Fields Trips in 2017

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 tours of St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL) on Wednesday, April 12 and Wednesday, November 15. 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 Spring, 2018.

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.


There was a total solar eclipse across the United States on Monday, August 21, 2017. Dave Wilhelm organized a field trip whose primary purpose was to view the 2017 eclipse, in the vicinity of Kearney, Nebraska. This was within easy car driving distance from Minnesota, with a Saturday, August 19 departure. Since we headed hundreds of miles southwest, we included some geology and made a week of it. Over 50 persons viewed the eclipse from a cow pasture 13 miles north of Kearney, and around 30 remained for some or all of the geology portion starting Tuesday, August 22. See the full trip itinerary here. Look for Newsletter articles by Deborah Naffziger in the November 2017 and February 2018 Newsletters. Field Trip photos:

-          Day 1: Pipestone National Monument

-          Day 2: Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park

-          Day 3: Eclipse Day

-          Day 4: Kearney area geology

-          Day 5, Part 1: Water and Geology Tour, North Platte to Big Springs

-          Day 5, Part 2: Kingsley Dam & Hydro, Cedar Point Biological Station

-          Day 6: Sand Hills, Carhenge

-          Day 7 Part 1: Scottsbluff

-          Day 7 Part 2: Agate Fossil Beds, Toadstool Geologic Park

-          Day 8: Wounded Knee, Badlands National Park, Corn Palace


Articles on previous solar eclipses can be found in the February 2017 Newsletter (Mark Ryan’s recollection of the total solar eclipse he experienced in Mexico in July, 1991) and the May 2017 Newsletter (Deborah Naffziger’s experience of a total solar eclipse in Winnipeg in February, 1979).


On Sunday, September 17, Randy Strobel led 18 persons on two walking trips of Minnehaha Falls and the nearby Mississippi River gorge, including a look at the location of the new GSM marker soon to be erected in the park. The first walking trip was offered from 10 AM to 12 noon, followed by lunch at Sea Salt Eatery. The second was offered from 3 to 5 PM, followed by dinner at Sea Salt Eatery. These walking trips covered areas that Randy described in his February 6, 2017 lecture to GSM. Participants enjoyed perfect weather during the walks.

On Sunday, October 8, Randy Strobel led 17 GSM members and guests on a bike tour of the Mississippi River gorge. It covered areas that Randy described in his February 6, 2017 lecture to GSM. We met at the GSM markers overlooking Minnehaha Falls at 11 AM. This biking trip ran on both sides of the Mississippi River Gorge, starting at Minnehaha Park, proceeded to overlooks of Lock & Dam # 1, went up the St. Paul side of the River to the Stone Arch Bridge and back on the Minneapolis side to Minnehaha Park (about 15 miles with a few hills). Along the way, we saw three small waterfalls on tributary streams of the Mississippi (Hidden Falls, Shadow Falls, Bridal Veil Falls – all unfortunately much altered by human development), sculptures that are part of the 2006 “Minnesota Rocks!” project, large polished banded-iron formation specimens on the University of Minnesota campus, an overlook of St. Anthony Falls at Water Power Park, the now-repaired site of the June, 2014 landslide along West River Parkway, and a large sinkhole in south Minneapolis. Temperatures were in the 60s, and fall colors along the River were brilliant – it was an ideal day for biking. We finished around 3:30 PM, after which a few of us enjoyed late lunches at Sea Salt Eatery. Photos from the bike tour are here.