USGS - science for a changing world

GMEG - Geology and Geophysics


Geology of Parks and Federal Lands of the Southwest

Project status is complete. Please check the project list for currently active projects

Project Home | Map Area | Task 1 | Task 2 | Task 3 | Task 4 | Task 5 | Task 6 | Task 7 | Project Staff

What is this project about?

The Science Strategy for the Geologic Division (USGS Circular 1172, p. 9) cites USGS’s special role, as the only science agency in the DOI, in meeting the scientific needs of other DOI agencies, such as the National Park Service (NPS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), as well as other federal agencies including the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in the Department of Agriculture. In addition, the Strategy specifically addresses opportunities for collaborative efforts with the NPS. Because the NPS employs few geologists, it relies heavily on the USGS for basic geologic research and geologic inventories (including geologic maps). The complexity of the NPS and other federal agencies requires a systematic effort by partners to link research needs with USGS research projects and to disseminate the research results widely and effectively. The Geologic Resources and Water Resource Divisions of the NPS have taken the lead within the NPS to help coordinate efforts, and they work with members of this USGS project to facilitate interagency coordination and information distribution. This project also works directly with the local NPS units on specific research and outreach needs. In addition, the USGS, through this project, is developing cooperative efforts with other agencies, such as the BLM, BIA, and USFS, with lands near or adjoining NPS-based efforts.

Colorado River in the Grand Canyon near Phantom Ranch
Colorado River in the Grand Canyon near Phantom Ranch
  Project History: This project builds on the previous ‘Geology of National Parks: National Park Service Support’ project, which was focused on transmittal of geologic research to NPS Resource Managers and Interpretive Specialists at a national level. The objectives of this project address mapping-based geologic research in areas in the Southwest, and although still focused on the NPS, are broadened to other federal agencies such as the USFS, BIA, and BLM. This refocusing and broadening is a response to requests from these federal agencies.


The main objective is to facilitate cooperative efforts between the USGS and NPS as well as other federal land management agencies. This project supports the development of geologic maps and reports in support of resource management and preservation of cultural, biologic, hydrologic, and geologic features. Associated research is focused on land management issues such as geologic controls on groundwater, soils, and vegetation, erosion of cultural sites, geologic hazards, and impact of active tectonics (project tasks 1-6). Another important component of this project is providing geologic expertise for outreach and education efforts by the local agencies. Each task in the project addresses specific federal agencies requests for assistance, and task 7 addresses outreach and education. For most tasks, NPS, BLM, USFS, and BIA are providing “in kind” services or some of the expenses. Geologic data are made available in digital and standard format for resource management and inventories and for public outreach education programs. Project geologists work directly with all federal agency staff to increase awareness of potential links between USGS research and federal public land management issues and to encourage communication of geologic information to the millions of annual visitors to public lands of the southwest region of the United States.

Relevance and Impact:
The National Park Service, one of USGS’s key partners, is responsible for preserving and interpreting the crown jewels of the U.S. Federal Lands. Increasingly, other federal land agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs are also responsible for preserving newly established National Monuments, Scenic Areas, Wilderness Areas, and other fragile public lands that adjoin NPS lands. The USGS research provides scientific data for all federal land Resource Managers to help make sound environmental decisions on critical environmental issues, especially water related issues. We strive to make that information accessible so that it will be incorporated into basic DOI and DOA databases and used for management planning and public interpretation of the natural resources.
  Cliff Palace Ruins in Mesa Verde National Park
Cliff Palace Ruins in Mesa Verde National Park
Intended users:
--NPS Geologists, Hydrologists, Resource Managers, Interpretative Specialists, Supervisors, and the General Public.
--BLM Geologists, Supervisors, Resource Managers, Range Managers, and the General Public.
--USFS Geologists, Biologists, Resource Managers, Range Management, Supervisors, and the General Public.
--BIA Officials, Local Native American Governments, Geologists, Supervisors, Range Management Specialists,
Engineers, and the General Public.
--Officials in FWS, BOR and other agencies that participate in the Lower Colorado River Multi Species Conservation Plan.
--Geologists in state agencies including Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, Arizona Geological Survey, Utah
Geological Survey, and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.
--Other public and non-profit agencies (see external organizations)

Project Tasks:
The project is subdivided into seven tasks (outline in greater detail as separate pages):

TASK 1 - Grand Canyon Regional Geologic Mapping
TASK 2 - Geologic framework of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and surrounding areas
TASK 3 - Geologic studies of selected areas in Mojave National Preserve, California
TASK 4 - Surficial geology of the Mesa Verde National Park area, Colorado
Task 5 - Geology of Federal Lands in the Eastern Sierra Region, southwestern Great Basin
TASK 6 - Geologic and geomorphic framework of the lower Colorado River valley
TASK 7 - Public outreach for National Parks

Statement of Outcome:
USGS Scientists have completed and published or have in press seven new geologic 30' x 60' quadrangles of the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead region encompassing an area of more than 12,000 square miles thus far (the Cameron, Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, Littlefield, Mount Trumbull, Peach Springs, and Valle quadrangles; Task 1 and 2). The Boulder City, Davis Dam, Glen Canyon Dam, Fredonia, and Tuba City 30’ x 60’ quadrangles are currently in progress (Tasks 1 and 2). Other project mapping areas include Mojave National Reserve, California (Task 3), Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado (Task 4), Mono Lake Basin, California and Nevada (Task 5), and the lower Colorado River, Arizona, Nevada, and California (task 6). Numerous web sites are being developed for each project task (Task 7). The geologic maps and databases published thus far are being used by NPS, Forest Service, BLM, and local external organizations such as municipalities, ranchers, and private resource managers for groundwater investigations, biological habitat characterization, and future mineral explorations. Uranium is currently in a high state of exploration in northwestern Arizona because the price of uranium has skyrocketed within the last year. The geologic maps are being obtained by private mining companies and the BLM is using these maps to help coordinate mineral exploration activities because they are the most current detailed geologic maps of this region since 1969. The recently published geologic map of Wupatki National Monument is already being used by USGS and NPS biologist for cryptoganic soil studies in reference to surficial and bedrock geology. The regional geologic maps of the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead area (Task 1 and 2) are being considered by the NPS interpretive staff to present a large geologic map display for both parks to illustrate the geologic difference between the layer-cake geology of the Colorado Plateau (Grand Canyon area) and the highly disrupted geology of the Basin and Range (Lake Mead area). Geologic mapping in the Lake Mead area is being used for groundwater studies driven by rapid urban growth in SE Nevada and NW Arizona.
Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River
Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, Page, Arizona
As this project winds down we propose a workshop in late FY1010 with project members and other interested scientists, as well as NPS and other cooperators on identifying future cooperating agency needs. With that input, we can assess whether it is viable to reshape the current project into a similar project with new objectives or look to new directions. Each task leader has listed future goals related to their task science interests, but those need to be melded with program and agency needs via the Science Plan. The last two years of this project will be focused primarily on completing scheduled geologic map products for first 6 of 7 Tasks, and secondarily any extra additional papers and reports generated in FY 2010 and 2011. Some published products may extend into 2012 pending backlog of USGS review and editing processes after log in date. Specific exit strategies for each task are listed under the Annual Narratives, FY2010 Statement of Work.

Geologic map, National Parks, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Navajo Nation, The Hopi Tribe, Grand Canyon Parashant NM, Mesa Verde NP, Grand Canyon NP, Pipe Spring NM, Wupatki NM, Vermilion Cliffs NM, Glen Canyon NRA, Lake Mead NRA, Mohave National Preserve, Mono Basin Wild and Scenic Area, Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, Black Canyon, Hoover Dam, Davis Dam, Topock Gorge, Topock Marsh, Providence Mountains, Old Dad Mountain, Cowhole Mountain, Long Valley Volcano Observatory, Upper Owens River system, southern Walker Lane Belt, Eastern California Shear Zone, hydrologic basin, paleohydrology, surficial geology, neotectonics, active tectonics, active faulting, active volcanoes, geothermal resources, hydrothermal activity, Quaternary, Pliocene, Inyo National Forest, Death Valley National Park, Death Valley, Saline Valley, Inyo County, Mono County

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: GMEG Webmaster
Page Last Modified: 13-Dec-2016@16:36