The First Year

The Wasatch-Uinta Summer Field Course

For many years the University of Minnesota operated its major summer field course in the Black Hills. There were smaller ones also in both southern and northern Minnesota. During its later years, the system was fraught with several difficulties, and it was finally abandoned in 1962.  The need remained to provide students with field training

During the following few years, students were placed in field courses maintained by other schools. But by 1965. the enrollment pressure on the well-established camps was so great that it was difficult to assure adequate field training for all the students who required it.

In 1966,  at the invitation of the University of Minnesota, representatives from seven Big Ten geology departments met to discuss the mutual problem of providing field training for their students. The meeting concluded that a cooperative field program was indeed feasible, and a committee to investigate possible sites was appointed (subsidized by the Committee on Institutional Cooperation), and it eventually chose Park City, Utah, as a base for operations. Robert C. Bright (University of Minnesota) and Richard A. Hoppin (University of Iowa) were appointed director and alternate director, respectively. After final organizational arrangements were completed, 34 students and seven staff members from Iowa, Purdue, and Minnesota (both Minneapolis and Duluth campuses) met in the summer of 1967  for the initial run of the Wasatch-Uinta summer field course.

The Park City area proved to be ideally suited as a camp site. Excellent lodging is provided for the students and staff in the Chateau Apres Ski Lodge, which also provides board and a large study hall. The geology of the area is highly varied. Good exposures of regional-metamorphic, contact-metamorphic, igneous, mineralized, and sedimentary rocks, in simple to complex structures, are located within a short driving distance from the town. There is also a cooperative local mining industry. The United Park City, New Park, and Kennecott companies provide useful trips through their various workings.

The course was a bit ragged the first year, but it has improved with experience, as the staff became more familiar with the area. In general, the course provides students with experience in mapping and observing in as wide a variety of terrains as possible. The course includes underground excursions. Each of the six weeks has a theme, such as "Structure," or "Metamorphic Rocks." Students are assigned projects that provide experience in detailed mapping and interpretation, and exposure to special problems of varying complexity. Reports on the problems are usually due at the end of the week, and are evaluated by the staff over the weekend. The last week is spent on a special mapping project that requires students to use the experience and information gained in the previous five weeks.

Hoppin (1968)  has described the course in detail in the Journal of Geological Education (Volume 16,  pp. 135-136),  and his closing statement is worth repeating here. He writes: "The cooperative program has established a strong rapport among the various faculties through similar philosophies regarding content, methods, and grading. Above all the departments agree that a strong program of field training is still one of the most important parts of a good geologic education."


Adapted from: R.C. Bright, The Wasatch-Uinta Summer Field Course, p 78-80, IN G.M. Schwartz (ed.), A Century of Geology (1872-1972) University of Minnesota.

Last revised January 2013