Skip to main content

GeoJourney Along the Colorado River

A male and female student jump for a photo opp in front of a canyon

Every year, students in the University Honors and Scholars Programs (UHSP) are invited to apply to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime geosciences field course exploring along the path of the iconic Colorado River. The course is led by Chester Brewer, the assistant director for UHSP who also facilitates the Outdoor Explorations trip series for the programs, and Karl Wegmann, a geology professor. 

This field course is the result of a collaborative partnership between the UHSP and NC State’s Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences (MEAS) and began with the aid of a National Science Foundation grant in 2017. The Outdoor Explorations trips offered by the UHSP get students off campus, unplugged, and experiencing the wild world around them in a variety of settings and allow them to pursue activities such as hiking, kayaking, cycling, backpacking, camping, sailing, and more. Previous Outdoor Explorations trips have included a week in the cloud forest of Costa Rica with sloths, whitewater rafting, and ziplining that featured a biological illustration mini-course facilitated by Jennifer Landin, a professor in biological sciences. Others have included sailing the crystal blue waters of the Bahamas with hikes on deserted islands, snorkeling with fish and sea turtles, and sleeping on the deck of a boat that introduced students to key elements of tropical ecology, which was facilitated by Liz Baird, director of the Pine Knolls Shore Aquarium. On GeoJourney, participants can also earn 3 credit-hours of introductory geoscience coursework that can be applied to their general education requirements. 

Group of students pose with the sign for the Continental Divide

GeoJourney takes place each summer in late July and into early August. Students register for the course in the second summer session and complete the bulk of coursework online. Then they meet on campus for a three-day crash course in outdoor living skills, community building activities, and coursework review before embarking on the trip. The trip follows the path of the mighty Colorado River from its source in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, all the way to the Hoover Dam near Las Vegas, Nevada. Along the way, the group has the opportunity to explore and learn hands-on in some of our nation’s most spectacular parks and public lands including: 

  • Measuring stream discharge at the headwaters of the Colorado River in Rocky Mountains National Park 
  • Taking in the stunning vistas of Grand Mesa in Colorado
  • Touching the impacts of erosion in Arches National Park
  • Hiking into the geologic past in Grand Canyon National Park
  • Camping in yurts at Dead Horse Point State Park
  • And experiencing the razorback trails of Angel’s Landing in Zion national park. 
Students canoe down the Colorado River

Each year, the trip begins with a group of eager individuals and ends with a core group of friends that have had an amazing experience exploring some of the most amazing wildlands in the United States. There is nothing else like it on our campus, and the UHSP and MEAS are proud to continue this tradition of experiential learning in the years to come.

Students hold the NC State banner on a scenic overlook