The Montana-Yellowstone Geologic Field Guide Database
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Use this page to search our collection of educationally-useful geologic field guides and road logs in Montana and Yellowstone. You may search the database by entering a keyword to search or choosing one of the listed terms for geologic topic, geographic location, or geologic province.


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showing only Rocky Mountain Fold-Thrust Belt Show all Geologic Province

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Quaternary Geology and Faulting of the Helena Valley, Montana part of MT Field Guides
This field trip will give the participants an overview of the Quaternary deposits and late Cenozoic faulting which have shaped the Helena valley. The Helena valley is a NW-trending graben surrounded by bedrock highlands. Most of the western half of the valley is a young alluvial plain formed of coalescing alluvial outwash fans issuing from drainages flowing towards Lake Helena. The western valley is ringed by older pediment surfaces sloping gently down from the valley margins. The eastern half of the valley is underlain primarily by later Tertiary silts, sands and gravels uplifted and segmented by normal faulting. Atop these Tertiary deposits along the southern valley margin, early Quaternary alluvial deposits are preserved as hilltop remnants of a formerly much larger deposit. Late Cenozoic faulting shaped the Helena valley, creating the modern topography and influencing sedimentation patterns; however, only a few faults show evidence of late Quaternary offsets.

Topics: Fossils, Resources, Surficial geology, Igneous rocks, Metamorphic rocks, Structures
Geographic Location: Southwest Montana
Geologic Province: Rocky Mountain Fold-Thrust Belt

Economic Geology of the Greater Helena Area: Helena to Montana Tunnels Mine, Lump Gulch, Grizzly Gulch, Fort Harrison and Marysville part of MT Field Guides
The Helena area has a long history of base- and precious-metal production from the Corbin-Wickes District on the south to the Marysville gold district northwest of the Capitol City. Gold has also been mined from the placers along Last Change Gulch now within the city limits. This field trip examinations the volcanic-hosted ore body at the recently opened Montana Tunnels mine south of Helena. From this mine, participants will travel north to Helena through an area of numerous inactive base- and precious-metals mines at the northern margin of the Boulder batholith and then onto the Marysville district northwest of Helena where the gold deposits are related to the Marysville stock.

Topics: Hydrology, Resources, Structures, Sedimentary rocks, Igneous rocks
Geographic Location: Southwest Montana
Geologic Province: Rocky Mountain Fold-Thrust Belt

Sapphire Deposits of the Missouri River Near Helena, Montana part of MT Field Guides
Sapphires occur with gold, both in terrace deposits along the Missouri River and in the active river channel. Both of these minerals have been recovered from these deposits beginning with recovery of gold in the latter part of the 1800's. More recently, up until the early 1940's, sapphires were also recovered from these operations for industrial uses. In recent years recovery of sapphires by recreationists for faceting into gem stones has become important. Five deposits open for fee digging will be visited during this field excursion. They are situated on the French, Eldorado, Spokane and Gruell's bars. Also, exposures of a sapphire-bearing andesite sill close to the Missouri River and considered a source for some of the sapphires found in the gravels will be examined.

Topics: Resources, Structures, Sedimentary rocks, Igneous rocks
Geographic Location: Southwest Montana
Geologic Province: Rocky Mountain Fold-Thrust Belt

A Traverse Across the Northern Belt Basin From East Glacier Park, Montana to Bonners Ferry, Idaho part of MT Field Guides
This field guide examines differences between three segments of the Belt Basin along an east-west transect from East Glacier Park, Montana to Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Each segment is characterized not only by its structural style, but also by the suite of Belt rocks that comprise it. The easternmost segment consists of the Lewis thrust plate and associated thrusts as far west as Columbia Falls, Montana where it is terminated by the Rocky Mountain trench. This segment contains eastern Belt facies including: Altyn, Appekunny, Grinnell and Helena (Siyeh), Snowslip, Shepard, Mount Shields and McNamara formations. Fine sediments in these rocks, probably derived from a western continental source terrane, were deposited adjacent to the stable North American craton, where they were mixed with smaller amounts of coarse sand derived from an inferred coarse sand sheet that mantled the crystalline craton. The central segment extends from the Rocky Mountain trench to the Libby thrust system. It is characterized by broad, open folds that expose Belt rocks of the central part of the basin, including a thick section of Prichard, Burke, Revett, St. Regis, Empire, Wallace and Helena formations. These rocks are composed mostly of argillite, carbonate and fine-grained quartzite. The western segment includes the Libby thrust and Leonia fault system. It extends as far west as the Purcell trench. Exposed in this area are rocks from the Prichard through the Missoula Group. Rocks of the Ravalli Group and the Wallace Formation contain more fine-to medium-grained quartzite than those of the central segment, reflecting a western source. However, the Missoula Group rocks are finer grained and more calcareous than those of the type area, indicating that late in the Middle Proterozoic the western source terrane probably subsided and that the basin center shifted westward.

Topics: Surficial geology, Structures, Fossils, Metamorphic rocks, Igneous rocks, Sedimentary rocks
Geographic Location: Northwest Montana
Geologic Province: Rocky Mountain Fold-Thrust Belt

Volcanism and Plutonism at Shallow Crustal Levels: The Elkhorn Mountains Volcanics and the Boulder Batholith, Southwestern Montana part of MT Field Guides
The Upper Cretaceous Elkhorn Mountains Volcanics (EMV) and Boulder batholith of southwestern Montana provide an example of a large-volume, epizonal, volcanic-plutonic complex whose deep level of erosion has exposed the cogenetic intrusive rocks while preserving sizeable portions of the volcanic field. Such a volcanic-plutonic association provides a unique opportunity for evaluation of many aspects of the evolution of a shallow-crustal magmatic system, such as geochemical relations of both the volcanic and plutonic rocks and the nature of intrusive-extrusive relationships at the present level of exposure.

Topics: Metamorphic rocks, Structures, Igneous rocks
Geographic Location: Southwest Montana
Geologic Province: Rocky Mountain Fold-Thrust Belt

A Traverse Across the Eastern Belt Basin From Neihart to Townsend, Montana part of MT Field Guides
This road log focuses on Precambrian (Proterozoic) sedimentary rock deposited in the Helena embayment of the eastern Belt basin. It also includes a general description of the geology between exposures of Proterozoic strata, briefly describing occurrences of Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks, Paleozoic sedimentary rocks, and Tertiary igneous rocks. A stratigraphic column is provided for refeference.

Topics: Surficial geology, Fossils, Structures, Igneous rocks, Sedimentary rocks, Metamorphic rocks
Geographic Location: Northwest Montana
Geologic Province: Rocky Mountain Fold-Thrust Belt

Helena and the North Border Zone of the Boulder Batholith, Montana part of MT Field Guides
The geologic descriptions for this road log roughly follow the scalloped north edge of the Boulder batholith. The will be ample opportunity to examine the intrusive rocks, and to the north, the broad border zone of contact-metamorphosed Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary rocks. The route will follow the highway eastward, with a stop in granodiorite of the batholith. The log then detours to the south into the mountains along Colorado Gulch to view skarn and hornfels developed in the Madison Group and Three Forks Formation in a "septum" (or "screen") of country rock caught between two lobes of the batholith. The log returns to Highway 12 and continues east to Helena's Reeder's Alley and Grizzly Gulch. After a visit to a talc vein and teh unconformity between Precambrian (Belt) and Cambrian formations, the trip leaves Helena southbound on Interstate 15. Near Montana City are stops at an outcrop of hornfelsed, stromatolitic Helena Formation (Precambrian Belt Supergroup) and at the contact with the Boulder batholith. The final stop is to examine the complex of intrusions, wall- or roof-rock inclusions and structures in the batholith's border zone. In this area, Precambrian, Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary rocks dip southwest and south toward the intrusion. Within about one to two miles from the batholith, the sedimentary sequence is contact-metamorphosed, yet in most places sedimentary structures are remarkably well preserved.

Topics: Structures, Resources, Metamorphic rocks, Sedimentary rocks, Igneous rocks
Geographic Location: Southwest Montana
Geologic Province: Rocky Mountain Fold-Thrust Belt

A Traverse Across the Central Belt Basin From Bowmans Corner, Montana to East Hope, Idaho part of MT Field Guides
This road log highlights a variety of sedimentary rock types and structures along a transect of the Rocky Mountain Fold and Thrust Belt. The log follows Montana Highway 200, which crosses the central part of the Middle Proterozoic Belt basin from the Montana disturbed belt to Missoula, where it turns northwesterly into northern Idaho, traversing rocks of the western and northwestern Belt basin. The road log begins east of the Rocky Mountain front in the disturbed belt underlain by soft, Cretaceous shale and somewhat more resistant sandstone units. Next, the road log passes into the eastern thrust belt where thrust faults bring Belt rocks first over Cretaceous, then over Paleozoic rocks, and finally over Proterozoic rocks farther to the west. At Rogers Pass, the route crosses the Continental Divide and into the Ovando block where Cenozoic listric normal faults form the major structures. The leading edge of the western thrust belt is encountered at Bonner, MT. From Missoula, Highway 200 trends northwestward to northern Idaho and diagonally crosses the western part of the Belt basin. Changes in grain-size and sediment type observable from outcrops along this road log illustrate the evolution of sedimentary transport and facies tracts within the central part of the Belt basin.

Topics: Surficial geology, Structures, Fossils, Metamorphic rocks, Igneous rocks, Sedimentary rocks
Geographic Location: Northwest Montana
Geologic Province: Rocky Mountain Fold-Thrust Belt

Plutonism at Deep Crustal Levels: The Idaho Batholith, Montana and Idaho part of MT Field Guides
The Idaho batholith field trip traverses a well exposed cross-section of the northern Idaho batholith, briefly examines the broad aspects of this deep-seated granitoid batholith and its regionally metamorphosed country rocks, and considers the role of the synplutonic mafic magmas from the mantle in providing heat for melting of continental crustal rocks to form the more felsic main-phase units of the batholith.

Topics: Igneous rocks, Metamorphic rocks
Geographic Location: Southwest Montana
Geologic Province: Rocky Mountain Fold-Thrust Belt

Great Falls to Wolf Creek (Via I-15) part of MT Field Guides
Great Falls is underlain by the Lower Cretaceous Kootenai Formation (Aptian), a series of red sandstones and shales which is considered to have been deposited in a "mostly" nonmarine environment. The city is on a crest of a broad northwest-plunging anticline called the South Arch, which lies just east of the Montana Thrust Belt. As we drive southwestward towards the Montanta Thrust Belt today, we will travel off the northwest flank of the South Arch. This will take us gradually from Lower Cretaceous to Upper Cretaceous outcrops until we reach the edge of the mountain front.

Topics: Structures, Igneous rocks, Sedimentary rocks
Geographic Location: North-Central Montana
Geologic Province: Montana Plains, Central Rocky Mountains Foreland Province, Rocky Mountain Fold-Thrust Belt

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