Annual Fall Field Conference
2016: Geology of the Belen Area,
September 14th - 17th

Every fall since 1950, the Society has held a field conference to some part of New Mexico and, in some cases, to border states. From the beginning, the conference has been accompanied by a guidebook with detailed road logs as well as peer-reviewed papers relevant to the region. These guidebooks remain as invaluable references to the geology of the conference study area and most are available for purchase.

Widespread enthusiasm for the Fall Field Conferences has led to receipt of many proposals for future conferences. Therefore, the schedule of upcoming field conferences is now outlined for the next several years. The field conference venues and names of organizers are listed below. All members are encouraged to volunteer assistance to the organizers or to contribute to the guidebooks. If you live near or are involved with the geology in the vicinity of the future conference sites, please consider contacting one of the organizers.

2016 Conference: Belen Area

The 2016 NMGS Fall Field Conference will focus on the area in and around the Rio Grande rift near Belen, New Mexico. The area has a rich 1.7-billion-year geologic history recorded by Precambrian basement exposures, Paleozoic and Mesozoic stratigraphy, Laramide structures, Rio Grande rift history, industrial minerals deposits, Tertiary volcanic activity, Quaternary geomorphology, and hydrologic/paleohydrologic features.

Pre-meeting Trips

Participants can choose to go on one of two pre-meeting trips (limited to 20 participants each) to geologically-significant areas of the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge – 1) travel west across pre-rift and rift-related volcanic and sedimentary rocks and structures to the travertine-capped West Mesa, or 2) travel east to examine the diverse Phanerozoic geology and geomorphology between the Rio Grande and Los Pinos Mountains.

Field Conference Overview

Day 1 leads participants southeast of Belen to Black Butte (Turututu) to discuss Rio Grande rift history, Tertiary volcanism, and geomorphic development in the area. Participants will then drive the most westerly railroad structures of Abo Pass to reach Sand Canyon in the southern Manzano Mountains to view the Montosa monocline and other evidence of the Laramide orogeny. The final stop of the day will involve a one-mile-long hike in Estadio Canyon to consider the complex Precambrian structural components of the canyon and the metamorphic and deformational aureole of the 1.45-Ga Priest pluton.

Day 2 focuses on the geology west of Belen with stops in Carrizo Arroyo to examine Paleozoic and Cenozoic stratigraphy and Laramide structures exposed in the rift flank; the day will end with a re-cap at an overlook of the Rio San Jose Gorge to talk about river incision, hydrology, and Tertiary and Quaternary volcanism.

Day 3 visits the travertine quarries west of Belen to investigate paleohydrology and paleoclimate, depositional environments, and the features found in travertine deposits. The conference will end with a hike to active travertine-depositing springs.

Conference organizers are:
Shannon Williams, Bonnie Frey, and Karl Karlstrom

The conference will be based out of the Holiday Inn in Belen. Dave Love, Karl Karlstrom, Spencer Lucas, Jason Ricketts, Richard Chamberlin, Laura Crossey, Dan Koning, and Alexandra Priewisch will be among the presenters.

Conference Schedule

Wednesday, September 14, 2016 — Pre-Meeting Field Trips at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge
8:00 am: Meet at the Refuge Headquarters
4:00 pm: Back at the Refuge Headquarters

  1. West: West Mesa – Mid-Cenozoic Rio Grande Rift history
  2. East: Cibola drainage of Los Pinos Mountains – Geomorphic features and Phanerozoic rocks, structures and fossils

Registration and Ice Breaker – Belen Harvey House
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm: Registration and Ice Breaker at the Belen Harvey House and with pizza and wine provided by Black Smuggler and Jaramillo Wineries.

Thursday, September 15, 2016 – Day 1: East Side
7:30 am: Caravan departs Holiday Inn Express
1:00 pm: Lunch in Estadio Canyon
6:00 pm: Matanza at Mechenbier Pecan Orchard
8:00 pm: Return to Holiday Inn Express

Friday, September 16, 2016 – Day 2: West Side
7:30 am: Caravan departs Holiday Inn Express
12 noon: Lunch in Carrizo Arroyo
5:30 pm: Return to Holiday Inn Express
6:30 pm: Banquet at Holiday Inn Express Ballroom

Saturday, September 17, 2016 – Day 3: NM Travertine
8:00 am: Caravan departs Holiday Inn Express
12 noon: Lunch in Travertine quarry
2:00 pm: Return to Holiday Inn Express


Registration will be available on July 21. Once registration opens, you can register online, by phone, and by mail. Registration is limited to 150 persons, so sign up early.


The Ice Breaker will be at the Belen Harvey House, and will feature pizza from Casa de Pizza and wine from Black Smuggler and Jaramillo Wineries starting at 6pm.

There are numerous hotels and motels in the Belen area. Participants are responsible for making their own lodging reservations.There are rooms blocked at discounted rates at the following hotels:

  • Holiday Inn Express (505-861-5000): all rooms, $89.95
  • Oak Tree Inn (505-861-3181): all rooms $42.99 ($49.99 if all 20 rooms aren’t reserved)
  • Super 8 (505-864-8188); 1 bed, $44.99; 2 beds, $49.99.
Please note that all rates are nightly; taxes not included.  Mention the New Mexico Geological Society to receive the conference rates.


Lunches, snacks, and beverages will be provided during the three days of the conference. Snacks and beverages at the icebreaker, and the meals at the barbeque dinner and banquet are also included in the registration charge. Participants are responsible for their own breakfasts.


For all three days, the conference will be traveling in passenger van caravans. The trip will start and end every day at the Holiday Inn Express (2110 Camino del Llano).  The registration fee includes the Ice Breaker, matanza dinner, and banquet dinner, as well as daily lunches, snacks, and beverages.  Participants are responsible for their own breakfasts.



The guidebook for the conference covers many aspects of the geology and history of the Belen area and includes 5 detailed road logs, 19 minipapers, and 28 research papers.

A full version of the 2016 Guidebook is included with registration. A spiral bound Guidebook containing roadlogs and minipapers only will be available for separate purchase at the conference.

We hope to make papers from the new guidebook available online for current members prior to the conference.

Future Conferences:

2017: Durango

2018: Las Cruces

2019: Raton

If you have an idea for a future field conference, please contact the President of the NMGS.

Photos From Past Fall Field Conferences

Everyone is invited to share their best digital photos of past conferences with the rest of the Society membership. Please contact the society webmaster via the 'comments' link below.