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    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
    Northwest Geology Field Trips, by Dave Tucker, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial- Share Alike 3.0 United States License. You can use what you find here, repost it with attribution to the author, "remix" it for your own purposes, but may not use it with the intent of making money off of it.

    EDUCATORS: Please feel free to use anything you find here that is useful to your mission educating people about Earth science. E-mail me if it would help to have a larger or higher-resolution version of any of the images. tuckerd at geol dot wwu dot edu

Geology of the Rock Trail, Larrabee State Park

Tafoni Wall, striped by tree shadows, is a highlight of the Rock Trail.

Tafoni Wall, striped by tree shadows, is a highlight of the Rock Trail.

I have posted a geology guide to Larrabee State Park’s new Rock Trail. Read the full guide here on the Northwest Geology Field Trips website. The out-and-back hike is just short of 2 miles, and the cliff exposures are perhaps the best in the Chuckanuts. The trail, built by prodigious efforts of over 100 volunteers, was profiled in the Bellingham Herald in February.

 

Red line marks the new Rock Trail. Contour interval is 20'. Note scale in lower left.

Red line marks the new Rock Trail. Contour interval is 20′. Note scale in lower left.

Geology guide to Fragrance Lake Trail (Larrabee State Park)

The Christmas Girls had just finished decorating all the sign posts as I pulled into the parking lot. Very festive! Click to enlarge.

The Christmas Girls had just finished decorating all the sign posts as I pulled into the parking lot. Very festive! Click to enlarge.

I’ve written up a geology guide to the popular Fragrance Lake trail. You’ll find it here. Even if the hike is mostly in glacial till, there are interesting stones in it, and the Chuckanut cliffs are always worth a peak. I do some armwaving about the origin of the big cliffs above the lake, too.

Geologic hike on Sumas Mountain, Whatcom County: real geology and a mining hoax

Doug McKeever at the rusted ore cart and the infamous ‘gold vault’ from perhaps the biggest mining scam in the region. Photo courtesy Eric Rolfs.

Hey, take me straight to the field trip!

No, I haven’t finished my book. Time away from the keyboard is important, so what do I do? Go for a hike up Sumas Mountain, come home and write about the geology! I have had this field trip in my head for a while, and needed to share it. I did the hike back in early April with Doug McKeever and Eric Rolfs, but didn’t have my camera, so returned with Scott Linneman May 28. Click here to read the story of an audacious early 19th Century mining scam, and to learn about the geology on this short hike. You’ll also find a rare bonus- an exposure of the basal contact of the Chuckanut Formation, where it overlies the serpentinized ultramafite of Sumas Mountain.

New Eocene painting at WWU Geology museum

The corridor geology exhibits at WWU’s Geology Department features a new diorama by Marlin Peterson. He earlier painted a Diatryma to go along with the giant bird’s footprint on display.(time lapse video of his effort painting the giant bird). The new painting is on the first floor of the ES building, just beyond the western set of elevator doors.

Photo of a digital painting by Marlin Peterson - tapirs stalked by creodonts. Click to enlarge.

Marlin’s painting is of an Eocene tapir protecting its baby from a hunting pack of creodonts. Footprints of both have been found in the Chuckanut Formation, most recently in the rubble of the Racehorse Creek landslide (where the Diatryma tracks came from, too), and the fossil tracks of both are mounted on the wall next to the new mural. (I’ll be featuring the WWU geology museum in my book, Geology Underfoot in Western Washington. The chapter is written, and has been reviewed by George Mustoe and Keith Kemplin).

More cool stuff in the WWU Geology Museum. This is a collection of petrologic microscopes. These are on the ground floor.

It’s a treat to visit Marlin’s  website to see what else this talented artist has done. Though he is traveling in Indonesia right now, having all manner of incredible adventures swimming with manta (ooooh, funny, MS Word tells me this should be ‘mantra’)  rays and barracudas and fighting leeches to climb volcanoes in the jungle, Marlin will eventually drag himself back to paint a gigantic wall mural in Tacoma featuring a daddy long legs spider. Scroll down on his website to read about the grant he received to do this, and to see an idea he has for the painting. Marlin has some great stuff posted on his website, be sure to scroll down further. The one that caught my eye was near the bottom, a painting of a monkey being carried across the Atlantic on a fallen tree back in the Oligocene (23-34 million years ago). Fascinating to read Marlin’s account of this theory for the radiation of “old” world monkeys to the “new”. Curious we still use those relativistic terms, when all the continents were once agglomerated into Pangea.

 

The WWU Geology Museum is in the corridors of the Environmental Studies building, on the Ground, First, and Second floors. It is open to the public 7 days a week while classes are in session. On weekends, you may need to enter on the First Floor off Haskell Plaza, at the building’s NW corner.

Additions to the Chuckanut fossil gallery at WWU Geology

Tracks of a heron-like bird in the Chuckanut Formation. Thanks to the anonymous woman who allowed me to use her finger for scale.

A number of new rock slabs with fossilized foot prints of Eocene animals have been added to the Chuckanut fossil display at WWU. Visit the webpage on Northwest Geology Field trips.

The exhibit contains new sets of tracks of the giant flightless bird Diatryma, carnivorous creodonts, herons, tapirs, and a goose-like bird, as well as a Diatryma skull reconstruction and two original Eocene dioramas by Marlin Peterson.

Go straight to the webpage.

Diatryma track now on public display at WWU

The track of the extinct giant flightless bird Diatryma is now on public display at Western Washington University. The track can be found just inside the main entrance to the Environmental Studies Building. Read about the exhibit here on Northwest Geology Field Trips.

Diatryma track discoverers George Mustoe (left) and Keith Kemplin at the new display in WWU's ES building. Click to enlarge.

Racehorse Landslide fossils

A fossil tree fern and a modern sword fern from the Racehorse Creek landslide.

Here’s a place to collect 50-million-year old plant fossils from the Chuckanut Formation. The Racehorse Creek landslide, which occurred in January of 2009, has left a lot of small, fossil-bearing rock slabs in the rubble. The field trip description is here on Northwest Geology Field Trips.

Visiting Korean earth science teachers hunt for fossils.

Samish Hill slab- a curtain call.

By Dave Tucker

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Grandson Alec Foote at the site Saturday 7/31/10. Click to enlarge any image.

Construction has nearly completely destroyed the glacially smoothed and striated slab on Samish Hill in Bellingham. The site was featured in a March posting. Now there is an 8-foot-deep pit blasted into coarse facies of the Chuckanut Formation; this will be the home of the new Temple Beth El synagogue. A few interesting sites remain to be seen: coal seams, curiously-textured very coarse-grained sandstone, some coalified fossil branches. If the big yellow tracked crusher is still there, that is worth a look-see. The erratics discussed in the previous story are still there, though getting overgrown by high field grass. TH SITE FEATURED ON THIS FIELD TRIP WILL LIKELY BE GONE WITHIN DAYS, SO DO NOT DELAY. It makes for a quick outing, an hour at most on a sunny day (well, it was sunny when I started this!) this weekend.

How to find the 'Samish Slab'. Click to enlarge

Getting there: These are new directions, as access through the construction entrance is less feasable now. Begin at a foot trail on City of Bellingham right of way at the south end of 47th Street. The trail, ‘paved’ with poorly sorted glacial drift, goes south through shaded and pleasantly cool second [third?] growth forest. Turn left at a T-junction after about 200 yards. The trail ascends slightly, and shortly comes to a nexus of several trails. The construction site is visible off to the left, but instead of crossing over the ‘no trespassing’ sign, continue straight on a trail with low bushes to the left between you and the construction site. You will see one or more faint tracks going left a few feet into the grassy construction clearing. Walk east (right) along the fence at the top of the pit. If there is no work going on, you’ll figure out how to get down into the pit.

The upper part of the drill hole is in competent, fine sandstone. When it entered the poorly cemented coarser sediment, the hole sheared.

Once in the pit, examine the SE corner to see the remnant of a blasting drill hole. At the top, it is smooth and half-round, but lower down, it enters a very friable coarse granule layer and becomes very distorted due to incompetence of the lower rock layer; the drill must have crushed its way through this layer before reentering solid sandstone beneath it. Just to the left are a couple of small coal seams. Walk along the south face of the pit wall and watch for some coalified wood. At the SW corner, a cross section reveals smooth glacial till overlying the ice-planed smooth surface of the slab- an unconformity representing around 50 million years of missing time. This smooth rock surface is about all that is left of the once very extensive striated surface of the Samish Slab.

Till overlies the glacially smoothed erosional surface of Chuckanut Formation sandstone. Alec's hand is on a 50 million-year unconformity

Fay, Alec's 1-foot-long pug, for scale at the coalified wood exposure.

I climbed up onto to the big, yellow, tracked, crusher beside the big pile of crushed rock. This heap is all that is left of the rock that filled the excavation. The climb up was not simple, but the big jaws are very impressive. If you have seen a rock crusher in a geology lab, you’ll be doubly impressed at the comparison.

The tracked crusher with Alec and Fay.

Jaw crusher

More on the Diatryma footprint

See the preceeding post for the world-premier announcement of this fossil find, and also go to the full story on this website, here.

The Bellingham Herald gave front page coverage to the discovery and airlift of the Diatryma foot track. Read it and see the photo gallery here.

Famed photographer John Scurlock was a member of our ad hoc Big Bird Rescue Committee, and his gallery of photos is here.

The Big Bird Herd and some friends. Top row, L to R: Scott Linneman, Dave Sonnen, Sue Madsen, Tom Borst, Dave Tucker. Bottom: Keith Kemplin, Don Hopkins, George Mustoe, Steve James, John Scurlock. Photo by J. Scurlock.

Giant Eocene bird footprint rescued!

FOSSIL FOOT PRINT OF GIANT EOCENE BIRD, DIATRYMA, FOUND IN CHUCKANUT FORMATION

The slab bearing the Diatryma and other bird tracks measures 28 x 26 cm. Click to enlarge any image.

The fossilized footprint of Diatryma, a giant flightless bird, has been found in the Eocene Chuckanut Formation in Whatcom County, northwest Washington State. Read the full story and see photos at Northwest Geology Field trips here.

No, this isn’t a field trip. But, you can make your own jaunt to see this remarkable, one-of-a-kind-in-the-world fossil when it goes on display at Western Washington University later this year.

This skeleton is in Helsinki, but came from Wyoming [reproduction?]

This skeleton is in Helsinki, but came from Wyoming