Tombstone Rocks! – Geology Weekend in Tombstone Park

From Thursday, August 3rd, until Saturday the 5th, we camped at Tombstone Mountain Campground, and attended a few of the events during “Tombstone Rocks”, a Tombstone Park Geology Weekend. There was some awesome hiking and I’ll be back for more next year, but next time, I’ll try to keep notes!

The first event that we attended was on Friday night, and it began with Leyla Weston, Outreach Geologist at the Yukon Geological Survey (YGS), showing us the basics of tectonic plate movement, using a box filled with layers of flour, jello, and I don’t know what else. The folds appeared in those materials pretty much as they have in the rocks around us, which I thought was really cool.

 Leyla Weston, Outreach Geologist at the Yukon Geological Survey
We then moved inside a picnic shelter with black-out curtains, for a Powerpoint presentation by Don Murphy, Geology Emeritus at YGS. It was great to see the room full.

The presentation started off on a sad note for me, and for some others including Don. I hadn’t heard that geologist Charlie Roots had died of ALS last year. He was a great help to me while I was researching and writing my book about mining on Montana Mountain, ensuring that my explanations of the complex geology were correctly simplified from his and other geologists’ work in the area. It was also Charlie who started this Tombstone Geology Weekend program.

Geologist Charlie Roots, 1955-2016
On with the program. Don and Leyla explained the basics of the formation of the mountains in the Tombstone area, and also described the physically demanding process of creating geology maps. A large
geology map of the Tombstone area is online – it’s a 124MB download. I went to bed that night with my head loaded with new information! 🙂

Goldensides Trail

On Saturday morning, about 15 people met at the picnic shelter and we car-pooled up to the Goldensides trailhead again. It was much nicer in the sunshine!!

Goldensides trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
The light was perfect for showing many of the features that Don and Leyla were talking about.

Tombstone mountains, Yukon
Way up on an outcropping of bedrock chert, the geological map came out and the explanations of what we were seeing got into much more detail. While I remember the basics, I want much more now.

Don Murphy on a geology walk in Tombstone Park, Yukon
Yukon Parks interpreter Olivia was on hand to explain some of the natural stuff beyond the rocks – including plants, animals, and glaciers. I hope that there’s a glacier section on this weekend next year.

Yukon Parks interpreter Olivia in Tombstone Park
The view to the northeast, with the sun reflecting off chert and slate slopes.

Goldensides trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
The variety in the terrain is quite incredible. In this photo, you can see both folding of sedimentary layers in the foreground, and igneous intrusions of syenite which date to 92 million years ago.

Geology in Tombstone Park
A lunch break at the top, with lots of talking.

Goldensides trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
I headed back down the trail at 12:45.

Goldensides trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
Assessing a block of chert alongside the trail. As I walked, I was watching for a similar block that had a layer that Don said was caused by an underwater avalanche, but couldn’t find it again.

Chert along the Goldensides trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
To the left is the outcropping of chert where we had our first major talk.

Goldensides trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon

Charlie Canyon Trail

The next hike was supposed to start at 2:00 pm, but we had run late on the Goldensides ones, so it was a bit late. This one was to Charlie’s Canyon, one of Charlie Roots’ favourites because it gives people a glimpse at what a geologist does while mapping, crashing through brush and hoping for a moose trail to ease the route.

Charlie's Canyon, Tombstone Park
The crossing of Charcoal Creek saw all sorts of answers to the problem, from barefoot crossing while carrying boots, to waterproofed boots, and attempts to jump it. Two of us were wearing sports sandals and just walked across 🙂

Charlie's Canyon, Tombstone Park
Charlie’s Canyon is a surprisingly complex location, in a geologic way. Complex enough that I can’t even attempt to pass any useful information on to you yet.

Charlie's Canyon, Tombstone Park
Most of the hikers had done the Goldensides trail, and everyone’s enthusiasm was still high. Don or Leyla never tired of explaining how a certain rock people found was formed.

Charlie's Canyon, Tombstone Park
Don somehow found the microscopic remains of some of the radiolarians that help create chert, on the 60-foot-high canyon walls. Most of us had a look at them with hand lenses – even Leyla had never seen them “in the wild” like this.

Charlie's Canyon, Tombstone Park

The final hike was the Grizzly Creek Trail, which is on the next post.


Tombstone Rocks! – Geology Weekend in Tombstone Park — 4 Comments

  1. Some stunning country you captured there. One of my all time favorite shots of this area was in a govt tourism book from about 10 years ago…have got to see it one day and soon, I hope. Thanks for sharing.

    • The plan for next year is to drive the entire Dempster Highway right to Inuvik, and the new road to Tuktoyaktuk right on the Beaufort Sea – it’s due to be open next spring.