Medano Creek

Colorado Field Institute 2017 Summer Field Trips


Medano Creek at the Great Sand Dunes National Park

June 3rd, 2017

Trip guides: Dr. Jim McCalpin and Andrew Valdez

Medano Creek is an unusual stream that wages a battle against Great Sand Dunes as it attempts to flow from the Sangre de Cristo to the San Luis Valley. It begins as a typical mountain stream, but once it reaches the dunes, the sand changes it. It becomes a broad, shallow channel that flows in waves. There have also been legal battles in water court that involved Medano. Why did these things happen and who is winning the battle? Come join us on our field trip to find out, and see how the waves of surge flow are generated.

This will be a joint trip with the Crestone Science Center. You must be a CFI member in good standing (i.e., dues paid), and the CFI folks are limited to 20 persons, so register early! The trip will go up the Medano Pass 4WD road, so bring a high clearance 4WD vehicle if you have one. If you don't, please plan to carpool with a field trip participant who does.

This trip will be begin on Saturday morning June 3rd at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The time and meeting place will be provided when you register for this field trip. If you have not purchased a 2017 CFI membership, please go the Membership Sign Up link above to join. Then follow the trip registration link below. Hope you can join us!

To register for for the Medano Creek Field Trip go to

Trip Leaders:

Jim McCalpin did his PhD work at Colorado School of Mines (1978-81) mapping the active traces of the Sangre de Cristo Fault. This lead to a career as a renowned paleo-seismologist (study of ancient earthquakes), capped by his publication of the 1st textbook in the field (1st edition 1996; 2nd edition, 2009; Russian edition, 2011). Jim was also involved with early (1990s) studies on Medano Creek that lead to the installation of stream gauges and a study on how infiltration from Medano Creek interacts with the local aquifers. It was during a time of water development proposals near Great Sand Dunes and such hydrology data didn't exist. Jim's work was important in helping the National Park Service in its quest to protect the dunes. Currently Jim is director of the Crestone Science Center (CSC).

Andrew Valdez has been a geologist at Great Sand Dunes for 22 years and has kept up the stream monitoring begun by Dr. McCalpin.

Dr. McCalpin and Andrew will write a guidebook for the trip to be “published” as Crestone Science Center Guidebook no. 14. It will then be posted along with the other CSC guidebooks at

The Colorado Field Institute is a nonprofit corporation organized in 2005 to promote greater stewardship of the natural and cultural resources within the San Luis Valley. For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.