Photos of Pacific Coast, Cascades, Columbia Plateau
Geology of the Pacific Northwest


"My love of the Earth, the world that not only surrounds us but from which we derive, share substance and energy with, are altered by even as we alter it, and are sustained and inspired by, is a passion of mine, in terms of learning its truths through observing and measuring the Earth itself in all its forms and dimensions. I enjoy and am committed to sharing this passion, and the methods of fulfilling it, with those who want to study their own version of the Earth, scientifically and objectively, yes, but also locally and in terms of each person's own personal, familial, and cultural history."
--Dr. Dawes

Abstract (short summary)

Welcome to Geology of the Pacific Northwest. This is a completely online class, including laboratory credit. It does not meet in person.

Each week, you:

By the last week of the quarter you will complete your term project, testing hypotheses you proposed for a field site of your choice.

Note For Summer Quarter 2020: Revised term project instructions due to possible coronavirus impact on travel options

Due to the covid-19 pandemic there wile be a virtual (via the internet) option for studying your term project field site instead of having to visit it and research its geology, and photograph its geology, hands-on, yourself.

The Term Project's written instructions are not yet revised to fully reflect this, but will be within the first half of the quarter.

Course Description

This course is for those who enjoy looking closely at the world around them and want to learn the geology behind the beautiful landscapes of the Northwest. In this course you will examine the present-day geology as well as the geologic history of the Pacific Northwest. Lab work is included. In the labs you will learn by practicing how geological knowledge is deduced from field sites, rocks, sequences of rock layers, fossils, and geologic structures. Topics include plate tectonics, volcanism, rocks and minerals, faults and folds, age determination, map reading, mountain building, and glaciation. Successful completion of the course requires a field excursion to a site chosen by the student. The course includes lab work and counts as 5 credits in a standard Washington state community college academic term.

Instructor Information

Instructor: Dr. Ralph Dawes
Address: Note that materials sent by mail MUST say PNW to get through:
Ralph Dawes PNW
Wenatchee Valley College
1300 Fifth Street
Wenatchee, WA 98801

E-mail: Send email to me through the Canvas Inbox. Canvas email is under the "Inbox" tab.

Make sure you have entered your personal email address into your Canvas settings, so that Canvas Inbox email get forwarded to you.

In Canvas, open your personal "Settings" and add your email address(es) under "Ways to Contact."

Phone: Telephone number 509-682-6754. However, I may not be on campus this quarter. Contact me via email..

Instructor Biography: Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Washington, 1993. Born and raised in Edmonds, on Puget Sound north of Seattle in the state of Washington. Started teaching geology in 1985; started teaching at community college in 1992. Currently teaches earth sciences (geology, meteorology, astronomy) full time at Wenatchee Valley College, and part time at other selected colleges online. Actively involved since 1995 in using technology to help provide more wide-ranging and multidimensional, yet still highly interactive and personally engaging, opportunities for learning.

Material and Computer Requirements

Lab Kit: The Pacific Northwest Geology Rocks lab kit is required for this course. It contains 9 rocks and two copies of the Washington State geologic map.

You will need the lab kit by the end of the second week of the quarter.

You should be able to purchase the lab kit from your college bookstore, if you are at Wenatchee Valley or Lower Columbia College. The bookstore might be able to arrange to ship a lab kit to you. Call them and ask what the procedure is.

Wenatchee College Bookstore
1300 Fifth Street
Wenatchee, WA 98801

PHONE NUMBER (509) 682-6530

Lower Columbia College Bookstore
1604 Maple St, Longview, WA 98632

PHONE NUMBER (360) 442-2240

Textbook: No textbook is required for this course. The necessary text is provided in the form of web pages online.

You may choose to purchase the following optional book: Northwest Exposures: A Geologic Story of the Northwest, by David Alt and Donald Hyndman, Mountain Press, Missoula, Montana, ISBN 0-87842-323-0, paperback. This book can be purchased from the bookstore at Wenatchee Valley College or Lower Columbia Community College. See above.



Computer Requirements: Computer with reliable internet service connection and an up-to-date web browser such as a recent edition of Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox. Printer, preferably color.

Your are responsible for having regular internet access to the class.

If internet access fails, or if your computer fails to work, then it is up to you to go elsewhere to obtain internet access and use of a working computer.

Technical Support

If a web page will not open, if Canvas is not working, or if Canvas is not letting you post submissions, you should tell your instructor immediately.

To get the problem fixed, you should ask for technical help.

Need technical help? If you have a technical problem that your instructor could not help you resolve, and you are a student at Wenatchee Valley College:

  1. Go to the Wenatchee College web page for help with distance learning at

  2. For support from Canvas (and another link to the college's distance learning support):
    • From the login web page,, click on Help.
    • Or, after you've logged into your Canvas account, you can access support by clicking on the help icon, the question mark inside a circle.

If you are a student at Lower Columbia College:

  1. Go to the Lower Columbia College web page for help with online learning / elearning at

  2. For support from Canvas (and another link to the college's distance learning support):
    • From the login web page,, click on Help.
    • Or, after you've logged into your Canvas account, you can access support by clicking on the help icon, the question mark inside a circle.

Disability Services

Students of all abilities are welcome in this class. Appropriate efforts will be made to accommodate you. The goal is to provide access to appropriate learning resources and learning support for all registered students. If you have disability documentation and recommendations for accommodating your needs, contact your college disability services. In addition, please share that information with me and discuss how the class can work for you.

If you know you have, or think you may have, disability that affects your learning as a student, or your access to the college, please work with your college to arrange the accommodations and notifications you need.

For Wenatchee Valley College the web page is Disability Services. (

For Lower Columbia College the web page is Disability Support Services (

If there is any situation or issue that is preventing you from being successful, please let me know. This may be a learning disability, or it may be another kind of barrier. I am happy to listen, brainstorm, and do what I can to help.

FERPA and Confidentiality

FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Responsibility Act, is a federal law designed to protect the privacy of educational records by limiting access to these records, to establish the right of students to inspect and review their educational records and to provide guidelines for the correction of inaccurate and misleading data through informal and formal hearings.

Items that can never be identified as public information are a student’s social security number, citizenship, gender, grades, or class schedule. All efforts will be made in this class to protect your privacy and to ensure confidential treatment of information associated with or generated by your participation in the class.

Course Pre-Requisites

Before taking this class, you should have the following abilities.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, you will:

  1. Have a much greater awareness and understanding of the geologic origins and activities of the land around you.
  2. Be able to describe the geologic history of the Pacific Northwest, from Archean basement and Proterozoic Belt Supergroup, through terrane accretion, subduction, and mountain building, to Pleistocene glacial effects and recent geologic activity. (You will also know what all the specialized terms mean.)
  3. Be able to point out on a map all the landscape regions of the Pacific Northwest, such as the Columbia Plateau, Snake River Plain, and Rocky Mountains, and explain how they relate to Northwest geologic history,
  4. Be able to identify from hand samples several of the most common mineral and rock types.
  5. Be able to describe the origin of most common rock types, and explain how a rock reveals its origin.
  6. Be able to determine from stratigraphy and structure, and list in proper order, a relative geologic age sequence.
  7. Be able to correlate key aspects of Pacific Northwest geology with plate tectonic theory.
  8. Be able to correlate geologic features with how they are portrayed on a map, recognizing such basic fault and fold types as anticlines, synclines, and thrust faults.
  9. Be able to recognize and describe field evidence of continental glaciation and glacial lake outburst flooding.
  10. Be able to interpret geologic history from field evidence, as demonstrated in a report based on a field excursion that includes labeled drawings or photographs of geologic features observed in the field.
  11. Be able to use facts or observations to distinguish a valid hypothesis from an invalid one, and demonstrate this ability in lab work and written assignments.
  12. Upon visiting the different landscape regions of the Pacific Northwest in person, be able to recognize and summarize their geologic origins.

Course Schedule

Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters are 10 weeks, asynchronous. For details of weekly activities, go to the Course Schedule.

Note: Summer quarters are 8 weeks long. Nonetheless, you are required to cover as many topics and spend as much time studying and learning as during a 10-week quarter, because you are earning exactly the same credits. As a result, there may be two weeks during summer quarter in which you take two quizzes and perform two labs. You will be notified of this in the online classroom when it occurs.

Methods of Learning


Academic standards that you are expected to adhere to in this course are, to begin with, those published in the college Student Handbook. Pay attention to the policies and procedures in the handbook related to academic behavior and academic standards.

WVC's Student Handbook is at WVC Student Handbook (

Plagiarism is grounds for flunking a course. Among the several possible forms of plagiarism, copied images and paraphrased text (sections of text included within your text, or having only some of their words changed) count as plagiarism if not clearly credited to the sources from which they were taken. If you plagiarize, when it is first detected, you will be given a warning and opportunity to eliminate copying and paraphrasing, eliminate plagiarism in other words, from your work. Further such infractions of true, honest learning, by committing copying and paraphrasing, can then lead to the record of your plagiarism being put into your academic record along with an F for the class on your transcript.

Stay focused on the positive. Learning is a thrill and a privilege that we all get to enjoy, and the only work you submit that helps you learn is the work - word combinations, ideas, and images - that you create yourself.


There is no on-campus, physically-in-the-same-room tutoring currently available. However, the college (with help from your tuition) pays for etutoring, which can meet with you live online, review a document you submit for a writing review, and help with your math. Take advantage of the etutoring, you have a right to it and it's a good resource!

Wenatchee Valley College Advising Services,

Student support/advising services in Wenatchee are on the first floor of Wenatchi Hall. (509) 682-6830 (Wenatchee campus), Toll free in Washington state: (877) WVC-4YOU, ext. 6830

For information on student support/advising services at Omak, contact the Educational Planner. (509) 422-7849 (Omak campus), Toll free in Washington state: (877) WVC-4YOU, ext. 7849.


The college is committed to keeping your educational experience and interactions with or at the college free from discrimination, free from disruption by people, free from abusive language, and free from sexual harassment, among other freedoms we seek to preserve, all in accordance with state and federal law. As the current Student Handbook says:

"Wenatchee Valley College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, political affiliation, creed, disabled veteran status, marital status, honorably discharged veteran or Vietnam-era veteran status in its programs and activities, in accordance with state and federal laws."

"Copies of the WVC affirmative action, discrimination and harassment policies and the procedure for resolution of discrimination or harassment complaints may be obtained from the WVC Executive Director of Human Resources, (509) 682-6445 in Wenatchee, or Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources."

"Abusive Language
Any student who uses abusive language towards any person while on college facilities or participating in college-related programs may constitute disorderly conduct and shall be subject to disciplinary action. Examples of abusive language may include but are not limited to, maligning, coarse insulting speech, use of lewd, indecent and/or obscene language."

"Disorderly Conduct
Any student whose conduct obstructs or disrupts educational processes or other activities of the college shall be subject to disciplinary action. In the case of disorderly conduct in the classroom, the instructor may take reasonable action against any student and recommend disciplinary action by the vice president of student services."

"Sexual Harassment
Students must abide by the college’s Sexual Harassment Policy. Any student who engages in behaviors such as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct or written communication of a sexual nature directed toward another person shall be subject to disciplinary action. If you have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment or sexual violence please report it to the Title IX Coordinator at (509) 682-6445 or to a faculty or staff member on campus."

Wenatchee Valley College, and Your Instructor, Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

What do those words mean?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are promoted in order to overcome the history and present-day practice by society, by the system of higher education, by the disciplines of scholarship, by the professions of science, and by this college, of racism, sexism, LBGTQism, otherism, and disablism. (In this context, "...ism" means the empowered white majority and its institutions and systems acting to exclude, disempower, and subjugate others.)

Diversity means that all students are welcome, celebrated, recognized, appreciated, and free to be fully themselves. All students means students from anywhere, from every family or nonfamily, from every background, every religion or nonreligion, every color, every category, without any group being favored over any other, intentionally, unintentionally, or statistically.

Equity means all groups, all people, have equal opportunity, support, and treatment, as verified by statistics on the intake, progress, and outcomes of all specified groups of people.

Inclusion means everybody. Wenatchee Valley College, and your instructor, are required by law to not discriminate because of a person's race, creed, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, parental status or families with children, marital status, sex (gender), sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, genetic information, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any real or perceived sensory, mental or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability, or any other illegal, unethical discrimination.

Official Wenatchee Valley College Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (from

Wenatchee Valley College is proud of its diversity and works tirelessly to provide the best experience possible for all faculty, staff and students. The college is committed to diversity and inclusion; the regional student body is 55 percent students of color, including 44 percent Latino, and the college district includes part of the reservation of the Colville Confederated Tribes. Wenatchee Valley College is designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). 

Wenatchee Valley College is committed to the policy that all persons shall have equal access to college programs, facilities, admission and employment.  Furthermore, it is the policy of Wenatchee Valley College to maintain an academic and work environment free of discrimination, including harassment.  The college prohibits discrimination and harassment against any person because of race, creed, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, parental status or families with children, marital status, sex (gender), sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, genetic information, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability, or any other prohibited basis per RCW 49.60.030040 and other federal and laws and regulations.

All college faculty, staff and students must comply with this policy and are also expected to take appropriate measures to prevent discrimination or harassment.  Faculty, staff or students who believe they are being discriminated against or harassed for one of the reasons listed above or who witness potential discrimination or harassment are encouraged to report the offending conduct.  Prompt corrective measures will be taken to stop discrimination or harassment whenever and wherever it occurs.

The following persons have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies and Title IX compliance for both the Wenatchee and Omak campuses:

To report discrimination or harassment: Title IX Coordinator, Wenatchi Hall 2322M, (509) 682-6445,

To request disability accommodations: Director of Student Access, Wenatchi Hall 2133, (509) 682-6854, TTY/TTD: dial 711,

If in any way you feel discriminated against, harassed, abused, or not equally welcomed and accommodated, see the resources for help on this webpage,

Declaración oficial de política universitaria de no discriminación en español

Wenatchee Valley College está comprometido a una política de igualdad de oportunidades en el empleo y la matriculación de estudiantes. Todos los programas están libres de discriminación y acoso contra cualquier persona debido a raza, credo, color, origen nacional o étnico, sexo, orientación sexual, identidad o expresión de género, la presencia de cualquier discapacidad sensorial, mental o física, o el uso de un animal de servicio por una persona con discapacidad, edad, estatus o familias con niños, estado civil, religión, información genética, veterano descargado honorablemente o estatus militar o cualquier otra base prohibida conforme al RCW (Código Revisado de Washington) 49.60.030, 040 y otras leyes y regulaciones federales y estatales, o participación en el proceso de queja.

Las siguientes personas han sido designadas para atender consultas sobre las políticas de no discriminación y el cumplimiento del Título IX para los campus de Wenatchee y Omak:


Be polite in all online communications. Think carefully before referring to a person or a person's behavior. Do not use any derogatory names or judgmental terms. Avoid lumping people into political or ethnic groups.

The following email techniques help ensure that email communication is effective, personable, and successful. The key is to keep in mind the person to whom you are writing the email.

Methods of Assessment

See Grading Rubrics. Note that on the quizzes and lab answer forms, you are allowed a second attempt. If you submit a second set of answers, only the score from the second set of answers is kept in the grades. The highest score is not kept unless it is the score on the second attempt. Happily, the second score is the highest score in nearly all cases. The score from the two attempts is not averaged. Answers from the two attempts are not combined. If a second attempt at a weekly quiz or at a lab answer form is submitted, only the second attempt is taken into account. Also, and this is important, on a lab answer form that includes essay questions as well as machine-graded (usually multiple-choice) questions, the machine-graded questions cannot earn any credit unless a serious attempt at an answer is submitted on all the essay questions.

Late Policy

Regardless of the reason, work that is turned in late will not receive full credit. In addition, there is no guarantee that late work will receive any credit whatsoever. Work that is less than a week late might, by prior arrangement, receive partial credit, but never full credit, and again, there is no guarantee it will ever receive any credit once it is late, regardless of any discussions or correspondence with the instructor. Work more than a week late is not opened and therefore not graded.

Work that arrives after the scheduled last day of the online quarter is also not opened.

It is much better to turn in an imperfect paper on time than to turn in a perfect one late.

Quizzes and written lab answers that are not submitted the standard way through the online classroom will not be eligible for full credit.

Grading Policy

Grades will be based on point values assigned to the assessments described above, with an A grade for a total of 90% or more of all the possible points, B 80-85%, C 70-75%, D 58-65%. *

Plus (+) or minus (-) grades are assigned to values in-between those listed.

Students cannot be awarded an A+ grade, nor can they earn a D- grade, because those two grades are not allowed by the Wenatchee Valley College registrar.

Table of Points Used for Course Grade
total points
Weekly Discussion (prpn)


Weekly Quiz (Qz)
Weekly Summary (Sum)
Term Project Plan
Term Project Written Summary
Term Project*2
grand total

Note*1-- Labs 1, 2, 4, 6, and 8 are worth 35 points each.

Labs 3, 5, 7, 9, and 10 are worth 25 points each.

That averages out to 30 points per lab.

The labs that are worth 35 points are the labs that include maps and diagrams, which you are required to draw and label geologically.

Note*2-- Less than 60% of knowledge advancement points for the entirety of the class, AND not performing a term project, results in an F for the class.


Student Rights and Responsibilities


You have the right to expect that your instructor will:


As a student, you have the responsibility to:

Instructions for Using Course Content web pages

The content of this course contained in web pages organized into five categories-Home-Course Information, Lectures, Basics, Focus Pages, and Virtual Field Sites. As an aid to navigating the course website, links to the index of each category are included at the top and bottom of each page. The index page for each category provides direct links to each of the individual pages within that category. To make the most of these web pages, please read and follow the instructions below.

How to Use Basics Pages

The Basics Pages explain the essential topics of physical geology that are needed to understand the geology of the Pacific Northwest. For most students, especially those who have not had a previous college-level course in geology, the basics pages are a quick way to get up to speed on the basic geological knowledge that provides the foundation on which the rest of the course is built. If you have already taken a course in physical geology, then the basics pages will be a review. Either way, you should read and study them as instructed.

You will be referred to the relevant Basics Pages in the lectures as the quarter proceeds. Along with each week's lecture, read the referenced Basics Pages. As you study the Focus Pages and Virtual Field Sites, refer to the Basics Pages for any basic geological topic that you need to have clarified. Many of the Basics Pages provide links to outside websites that offer additional discussion of the topic.

How to Use Focus Pages

The Focus Pages explain the main geological themes in the geologic history of the Pacific Northwest. They provide detailed examples of places, rocks, and geologic structures in the Northwest and help you to understand how they originated. The Focus Pages also link things together. They link the geologic basics to examples of how they apply to the geology of the Northwest. They link the course website with outside websites that provide you with further information to explore.

The weekly lectures will refer you to the Focus Pages that will help you gain more insight into the weekly topics. Each week, read the focus pages to which you are referred. As time allows, study as much as you can of the information on the other, outside websites listed in the Focus Pages.

How to Use Virtual Field Sites

The Virtual Field Sites enable you to make geologic field trips while sitting at a computer. The geology of the earth itself is the source of geologic knowledge, and the best way to study it is to see it in place, in the field. That is what the Virtual Field Sites allow you to do.

Each Virtual Field Site consists of four parts.

  1. An introduction gives you a written summary of the key features of the site next to a representative photograph of the site.
  2. A sequence of thumbnail pictures is accompanied by detailed captions that describe what each thumbnail illustrates. To see a thumbnail picture as a larger picture and study it in detail, click on it.
  3. A location map shows you where the field site is located in the Pacific Northwest.
  4. A stratigraphic column summarizes the sequence of rock formations present at the field site.

The stratigraphic column is important because it represents the sequence of geologic history at the Virtual Field Site. The stratigraphic columns generally follow the tradition of starting with the oldest layer at the bottom and proceeding up to the youngest layer at the top. The causes of exceptions to this rule, such as a thrust fault causing older rocks to sit on top of younger rocks, will be made clear in the stratigraphic column. Be sure to examine the stratigraphic column at the end of each Virtual Field Site.

How to Use the Glossary

Geologic terms used in the course website are defined in the glossary web page. In each Basics page and Focus Page, the terms that appear in the glossary are linked to it, usually the first time they appear in the text. At the end of each Basics Page, Focus Page, and Virtual Field Site, the glossary terms used are listed and linked to the Glossary.

It is recommended that the first time you read through a course web page you not click on the linked glossary terms. The general meaning of many of the terms will be suggested by the context, and it is important to read each page completely.

After you have read all the way through the text, click on those terms you do not know and read their definitions. The second time you read through the text you can click on a linked term when it appears within the text. You also have the alternative option of referring to the complete list of linked glossary terms provided at the end of each page.

Finally, if you encounter a geologic term you are not sure of, but it does not appear linked to the glossary, you can open the glossary yourself and look up the term.

If you encounter what you think is an important geologic term and find that it is not in the glossary, please let the instructor know.

How to Proceed Through a Week of Pacific Northwest Geology

The course proceeds on a week-by-week basis. To successfully proceed through a week in the class, follow this guideline.

  1. Read the weekly agenda. The agenda lists the goals and learning activities for the week. It also gives you the weekly discussion question(s).
  2. Read the weekly lecture. The beginning of the lecture tells you which Basics Pages and Focus Pages to read. It is important to study them; they are the online textbook for the course. The lecture weaves together the main topics for the week.
  3. After reading the weekly lecture and the relevant Basics and Focus Pages, take the weekly online quiz. You are given two chances to answer each set of lab questions via the lab answer form.
  4. Send in your first contribution to the weekly discussion early in the week. Your participation in the weekly discussion is a key part of your participation and counts for a large part of your grade. Continue to make contributions to the weekly discussion as the week proceeds.

    The online discussion is a very effective method for you to improve your understanding and deepen your knowledge of the geology of the Pacific Northwest, working with, sharing with, and learning from other students in the discussion.

    You cannot pass the class without being involved in the weekly discussions. Failure to participate in weekly discussions for more than one week in a row will start to earn negative participation points in the weekly grade for discussion participation, bottoming out at -10 points per week after several weeks of absence from the discussions.

    Maximum performance in an online weekly discussion is achieved by being: EARLY: Make your first significant postings during the first half of the week.
  1. Complete the Lab Assignment for the week, which includes one or more assigned Virtual Field Trips. Labs sent in online are due by the last day of each week.

    Lab written answers must be submitted online, in the lab answer form(s) for that week, to receive credit.

  2. Take the weekly online quiz a second time after seeing which questions you may have missed on your first try. Submit your answers for automatic grading before the end of the online week. If you take the quiz a second time, it is the score from the second attempt that counts, regardless of whether it is a higher score than the first attempt or not.

  3. At the end of the week, after completing all your other work, write your weekly summary. Take the time to thoroughly reflect on what you learned and write a thoughtful summary. Your summary should be 150 to 250 words in length. It is also one more chance to ask questions about the learning topics. Your weekly summary is very important. It is a chance for you to summarize what you learned and use some of the terminology you learned during the week.

Geology of the Pacific Northwest
updated: 9/17/20