McGee Creek Geomorphic History

Sarah R. Hall, College of the Atlantic

Calla Schmidt, University of San Francisco

Becca Walker, Mt. San Antonio College

Initial Publication Date: August 31, 2020


At the McGee Creek field site, students observe geomorphic features that provide evidence for at least 2 processes (one tectonic and one climatic) influencing this landscape as well as ongoing modification of this landscape through weathering and erosional processes.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

Content/Concept Goals:

Students will...

  • Illustrate the geomorphic expression of lake level changes for a selected field site.
  • Use field data to compare paleoshoreline and modern shoreline stratigraphy.

Higher Order Thinking Skills Goals:

Students will...

  • Interpret the depositional environment of a preserved sequence of sediments by making detailed field observations.

Context for Use


This activity was completed during the 2-week summer E-STEM Field Course with ~20 undergraduate students interested in environmental science.

Prerequisite Skills and Concepts:

By this point students will have mapped at Walker Lake and Mono Lake North. We can review those activities by asking students some questions about components needed on a map, strategies they used for making and recording observations, and connecting their research question, observations, and inferences for a given field locality.

How the Activity is Situated in the Course:

The students had already completed the Walker Lake and Mono Lake North activities in the collection (including elements of geomorphic mapping and stratigraphy) as well as made regular botanical observations. Students were familiar with the tectonic and volcanic setting of the region though visits or readings to other regional sites: Panum Crater, Obsidian Dome, Hot Dirt and Hot Creek, and observed the range-bounding normal fault from many vantage points throughout the area including Mono Lake (kayaking), the overlook/visita north of Mono Lake, and near the town of Lee Vining. View the E-STEM field course timeline for more information about how this activity is situated in the course.

Description and Teaching Materials

Student Handout

McGee Creek Student Handout (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 16kB Jun27 20)

Necessary Materials:

  • Printed base map (topographic and aerial image) McGeeCreekMaps.pdf (Acrobat (PDF) 6.3MB Jun15 20)
  • Tracing paper and tape
  • GPS (optional)
  • Colored pencils
  • Rock hammer
  • Hand lens
  • Pencil/eraser
  • Mapboard
  • Rulers
  • Measuring tape
  • Brunton compass

Teaching Notes and Tips

Other sites of interest include Earthquake Scarp in Independence, offset cinder cone near Poverty Hills, and the Hilton Creek Fault site.


Apply the following rubric to this activity: McGee geology and geomorphology rubric (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 16kB Jun27 20)