Top 10 Field Trip Destinations
300 kilometers of continuous exposure with an average height of 300 meters, this is the most well studied shallow-marine succession in the world. The arid climate of Colorado and Utah means that there is very little vegetation and everything is in clear view. The strata are nearly horizontal with very little structural deformation which means beds can be “walked” for kilometers. Numerous canyons allow close access which means you can walk right up and put your hand on a beach that now produces oil and gas in the sub-surface nearby.
2. Permian Basin, US
Carbonate mounds, a perfectly preserved rimmed attached platform and the best studied deepwater succession in the world – what’s not to love? As far as getting ‘more bang for your buck’ nothing beats the Permian Basin. Phylloid algal and Bryozoan mounds provide analogs for similar carbonates in the sub-surface and the Brushy Canyon deepwater sandstones have been the industry-standard for many years.
3. Karoo Basin, South Africa
Want to see how wide a deepwater channel gets? How about lateral and downdip facies changes on lobes? The Karoo Basin has you covered. The Karoo Basin is HUGE and while there on a field trip I often hassled the instructor about how these outcrops compared to other popular deepwater field trip localities, and patiently they explained that the Karoo is continuous outcrops and dwarfs outcrops such as the Ross, Pyrenees, Annot and others. It wasn’t until I had visited other outcrops that I truly developed an appreciation for the sheer-scale and quality of outcrops in South Africa.
4. South Carolina, US
They say the best geologist is the one who’s seen the most rocks. I would argue that the best geologist is one who’s devoted a significant amount of time looking at processes in recent depositional environments. The South Carolina coastline has been studied in a lot of detail and the field trip providers (Miles Hayes and now Jerry Sexton) have run this field trip literally hundreds of times. They have chosen areas that show no evidence of human activity and a boat transports you all the way from the fluvial system, down the delta plain and to the delta front. This is a must for anyone working on shallow marine sandstone reservoirs.
5. Trucial Coast, UAE
The Trucial Coast (call it the Arabian Gulf or the Persian Gulf) represents an inner ramp and is an excellent analogs for fields in the Middle East, North Africa and the Permian Basin. Trenches dug on the sabkha show evaporite textures and highlight their importance as lateral seals to grain-rich subtidal facies. Thanks to Christopher Kendall, this section is the best studied modern carbonate ramp in the world. Just make sure you’re not there in the summer!
6. Salt Range and the Potohar Plateau, Pakistan
The Salt Range exposes Pre-Cambrian through Early Tertiary strata along a series of thrust faults and uplifts the Potohar Plateau. The plateau itself hosts the Siwaliks – the longest continuous fluvial succession in the world. Six kilometers in thickness from the Miocene to the Pleistocene makes these the best studied fluvial strata anywhere. Several canyons allow close access to outcrops that not only record changes in alluvial architecture over time but vertebrate faunal turn-overs (Giraffes and Orangutans evolved here and migrated elsewhere).
7. Pyrenees, Spain
World-class deepwater channels situated between the most picturesque villages. The Ainsa, Banaston and Morillo systems have been used as analogs for many deepwater fields in the Gulf of Mexico, North Sea and West Africa. This is also one of the best places in the world to look at carbonate-rich sediment gravity flows. “Megaturbidites” as many like to call them (even though most are debris flows, but hey “megaturbidites” sounds so much cooler).
8. County Claire, Ireland
It literally rains side-ways here, but if you can put up with rain and wind you’ll be rewarded by amazing food, the super-friendly Irish and some amazing geological features some of which are best seen in County Claire. If you’re working deepwater systems in confined settings this is a fantastic place to be. The channels here develop wings instead of the West Africa-like giant external levees. This is also where hybrid beds were first described. Megaflutes here are similar to pockmarks one can see on sidescan sonar images of the Lucia Chica sub-marine channels off the coast of California.
9. Gironde and Arcachon Estuaries, France
If you’re working the Alberta Oil Sands, or any of the tide-influenced reservoirs on the Norwegian Continental Shelf this field trip is a must. Dr. Hugues Fenies has led it for the past twenty years as a one-man show. Two very different estuaries are explored by boat and high-resolution seismic along with several cores allow one to truly appreciate the depositional complexity associated with incised valley systems.
10. LaPopa Basin, Mexico
One of the few places in the world where salt diapirs actually reach the surface. Beds deformed by salt movement have been studied in detail and this is where the concept of J-hook sequences originated. The field trip is a fantastic combination between salt tectonics, and both siliciclastic and carbonate sequence stratigraphy. Transgressive and Highstand carbonates can be differentiated with ease in cliff faces and there are some beautiful examples of karstification.
These are my top ten based on the quality of outcrops which I think is very important. An excellent instructor cant make-up for crappy outcrops but spectacular outcrops can make up for a poor field leader. Many of these field trips are run by multiple instructors (Pyrenees, Ross Sandstone, Book Cliffs etc), so make sure you do your homework before planning your trip.