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Geology: Walk Through Time

Wood Canyon Formation

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2,500 foot thick, 570+ million years old. Purple sandstone was deposited near shore. This formation contains early trilobites, indicators of a later Cambrian explosion of life.

Precambrian > Proterozoic eon > Neoproterozoic era > Ediacaran period

Fossil Notes

The trilobites are a major extinct class of marine arthropods with a calcite exoskeleton and a distinctively three-lobed form.

A few scattered olenellid trilobites and archaeocyathids in upper part of formation. Scolithus ? tubes.

Boundary Canyon Detachment Fault/Upper Plate

Geology: These are rocks of the upper plate of the Boundary Canyon detachment fault: The latest Precambrian Stirling formation and the Wood Canyon ...

Wood Canyon Formation Death Valley Region

The Wood Canyon Formation is another key geological formation in the Death Valley region of California. This formation is noted for its composition and its significance in understanding the geological history of this part of the North American continent.

Characteristics and Composition

The Wood Canyon Formation primarily consists of:

Sandstone and Conglomerate:

These are the dominant rock types, suggesting a high-energy depositional environment such as rivers or deltaic systems.

Siltstone and Shale:

These finer-grained sediments indicate quieter water conditions and are interspersed with the coarser materials.

Geological Significance


The Wood Canyon Formation dates to the Late Proterozoic to Early Cambrian, approximately 600 to 700 million years old. This period is critical as it precedes the Cambrian explosion, where there was a rapid diversification of life forms.

Paleoenvironmental Indicators:

The variety in sediment types suggests fluctuations in environmental conditions and possibly multiple transgressive-regressive cycles, which are changes in sea level that expose and then cover geological formations.

Fossil Content:

The formation contains important fossils that help elucidate the conditions before the Cambrian explosion. These include traces of early multicellular life and possibly some of the earliest complex organisms.

Research and Relevance

The Wood Canyon Formation provides valuable insights into sedimentary processes and the conditions that prevailed at a critical time in Earth’s history. Its study helps geologists understand how the region transitioned from being dominated by older Proterozoic rocks to more complex and diverse geological environments seen in the Phanerozoic eon. The formation is crucial for reconstructing past environments and understanding the early biological evolution that set the stage for later diversification of life on Earth.

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