Archaeology and Geology of the Valles Caldera

Trip Leaders: Ana Steffen and Kirt Kempter

Field Trip, Trip is Full

Friday, August 15, 2014, 8:00 am–4:00 pm

Satellite image of Valles CalderaSatellite image of Valles CalderaBy Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon (NASA Earth Observatory) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsSatellite image of Valles CalderaBy Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon (NASA Earth Observatory) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Join us for an insightful and exclusive trip into the heart of the Valles Caldera National Preserve with cultural resources coordinator Ana Steffen and geologist Kirt Kempter. Known for its distinctive caldera rim, expansive grasslands with elk herds, and its cultural importance to local pueblos, the Valles Caldera has developed an allure that makes visitors want to return time and time again to seek out its solitude and beauty.

The Valles Caldera is a classic example of a resurgent caldera, making it famous in the world of volcanology. Since its catastrophic eruption 1.25 million years ago, it has hosted numerous fresh-water lakes and intracaldera volcanism. Obsidian from small eruptions within the caldera was used by some of the earliest inhabitants of North America. We will visit one of the large prehistoric quarries, which provide some of the best-quality obsidian for stone-making. We will also visit an Archaic campsite, examine features of the preserve’s volcanic past, witness the recent impact of forest fires on the landscape, and have an opportunity to observe elk herds.

Archaeologist Ana Steffen began working in the Jemez Mountains in 1990 and has led the inventory of cultural resources at the preserve since its creation in 2000. Her research has examined the effects of forest fires on archaeological resources, obsidian geochemistry, and obsidian hydration dating.

Kirt Kempter is a field geologist, teacher, and photographer, who has conducted numerous tours and geologic expeditions around the world, from Antarctica to Iceland. He has published numerous geologic maps and academic articles related to the geology of the Colorado Plateau and Rio Grande rift boundary in northern New Mexico.

Activity Level: Easy, includes limited walking and riding in vehicles to access near and far reaches of the preserve.

Cost (per person): $80, includes 4WD transportation from SAR, picnic lunch, guide honorarium, and entrance fees.

Trip Registration: You can register for an open field trip or be placed on the wait list for a filled trip by contacting Janie Miller at jmiller[at] or call (505) 954-7230. Please note, that placing your name on a trip wait list is a good way to get on a trip that is currently full, because we often get cancellations anywhere from a month to a day before the trip departs.

For more information, visit the Field Trips section.

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