[Courtesy photo]

The Moab region is surrounded by stunning desert wilderness that carries millions of years of history. One way to explore that history is by participating in Green River Rocks, the annual free rock and mineral festival based out of Green River that invites scientists to lead a number of regional field trips. This year, the festival runs from Friday, March 31 to Sunday, April 2. 

“There’s so much of a barrier between the public and scientific researchers—especially researchers who have a very specialized job, like someone who works only in strange coal deposits or someone who specializes only in Barrier Canyon rock art,” said Alison Jean Cole, one of the festival’s founders. “So this is an opportunity for people to get out into those places they may know very well, or that may be brand new to them, and have an expert at their side who can tell them everything about the place they’re at. I think that’s such a rare opportunity, and it’s what makes this event so special.” 

Green River Rocks started in 2017, when Epicenter, a nonprofit based in Green River, received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to create an event that would bring economic stimulus to the town. Cole and her partner Lisa Ward, who are both artists, proposed the idea of a rock and mineral festival—the first ever Green River Rocks. The event has remained popular, prompting Epicenter to keep it going year after year. Now, the festival runs over three days, hosts 16 field trips, and hosts a vendor market with rocks, jewelry, and food on Saturday.

“A lot of the scientists and researchers who originally participated with us in that first year still participate in the event,” Cole said. “They’re the ones who email us every winter saying, ‘Have you picked the dates for the festival?’” 

[Courtesy photo]

The festival kicks off on Friday with an opening lecture by Joshua Lively, who will deliver a talk titled “New fossil discoveries from the Upper Cretaceous of the Book Cliffs.” Moabites may remember Lively from his Science Moab on Tap talk in December—Lively works as a curator of paleontology at the Prehistoric Museum in Price. 

On Saturday, there will be a vendor market outside of the John Wesley Powell River History Museum from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; this is also the location of the “festival HQ,” where people can sign up for field trips in person on a first-come, first-served basis. The festival HQ is also the departure point for field trips. All field trips are half-day to full-day trips (bring water and a sack lunch), and the group size is approximately 25 people. 

There are nine field trips scheduled for Saturday: a visit to Fossil Point—the site of dinosaur vertebrae and leg bones—with Greg McDonald; explorations to paleontology sites along Highway 191 with Jim Kirkland; and a visit to see Sego Canyon rock art with Geoff Smith. On Saturday night (weather permitting), there will also be an astronomy tour. 

Seven field trips are scheduled for Sunday, including a visit to Buckhorn Wash with Geoff Smith, a visit to the Mygatt-Moore dinosaur quarry with Julia McHugh, and a visit to the Crystal Geyser with staff from the John Wesley Powell River History Museum. 

“I love Green River,” Cole said. “It’s such a great little town, and it’s plunked down in some of the most spectacular geology in all of the West.” 

A full schedule of festival events can be found at www.GreenRiverRocks.com