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The River, Drifting Continents, Dinosaurs, and a Glacial Lake: Understanding the Amazing Stories Preserved in our Rocks and Landscape

The Connecticut River Valley is one of the best places to study geology in the world. It displays an amazing array of dramatic and even unique geologic events. The Valley’s geologic heritage also creates the environment for diverse human achievements. Waterfalls, due to glacial Lake Hitchcock that disrupted the Connecticut River’s natural course, became an essential part of the Valley’s famous industrial heritage. Glacial Lake Hitchcock also provided the Valley’s agriculture richness. Deerfield, Massachusetts is one of the best examples of this largess. It is fascinating and instructive to find ourselves in the middle of this geological, agricultural, and historical landscape.

During this 5-day program, you will learn how colliding plates enlarged North America to become part of the Pangea Supercontinent, and then split to create the early Connecticut River Valley as well as the Atlantic Ocean. Dinosaurs ruled this faulted valley landscape, and you will see abundant evidence of the history. Our boat trip on the Connecticut will explain the enigmatic 100-foot deep holes in the riverbed. There will be talks by experts in geology, paleontology, history, and culture, and we will explore the first person to bring dinosaur footprints into the scientific world, Deerfield’s Edward Hitchcock, an important figure of the mid-19th century who eventually became president of Amherst College.

This Historic Deerfield program will highlight how geology influences world history and local culture and development. You will learn how to read the history preserved in rocks and landscape, a language that is universal.


Richard Little is Professor Emeritus, Greenfield Community College, Greenfield, Massachusetts. Richard Little is the founder and owner of Earth View LLC, a geology education services and products company featuring lectures, videos, and tours. He was inducted into the Massachusetts Science Educator Hall of Fame in May 2004. His publications include: Dinosaur, Dunes, and Drifting Continents: The Geohistory of the Connecticut Valley; Exploring Franklin County: A Geology Guide; “A Trip Through Time in the Connecticut River Valley” in New England Intercollegiate Geology Conference Guidebook; “The Rise and Fall of Lake Hitchcock, New England’s Greatest Glacial Lake,” a 40-minute video; and “Overview of Connecticut Valley Geology” in Guidebook & Proceedings Volume, National Association of Geology Teachers, Eastern and New England Sections Meeting 1991. Mr. Little received his B.A. from Clark University and M.A. from the University of Southern California. He lives on the edge of a drumlin along the old Lake Hitchcock shoreline in Easthampton, MA.

Barbara A. Mathews joined Historic Deerfield’s staff as Public Historian in October 2012. Barbara is a graduate of Wesleyan University and holds a Ph.D. from Brown University in American History. Previously, she worked for the Pocumtuck Memorial Association, the Massachusetts Historical Society and Old Sturbridge Village. Barbara has a depth of knowledge about Deerfield and interpretive skills as an active academic historian who fully understands ‘sense of place.’ This experience gives her a broad understanding of the material culture and its social impacts on the history of early New England life. Barbara teaches a course in material culture at Smith College and has collaborated on several award-winning history websites, including Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704 and most recently, Impressions from a Lost World, a new site devoted to the impact of the discovery of fossil tracks in the Connecticut River Valley.

Harry Sharbaugh is a retired pathologist who has been a guide for Historic Deerfield since 2010 and has a special interest in Natural History. He has pursued his interest in Connecticut Valley geology for 30 years with a special interest in Jurassic fish fossils. His personal collection of rock specimens illustrates the broad range of ancient geological formations of the region. He lives in Erving, Massachusetts, in the geologic core of the (metamorphic) Pelham Dome.

Steven Winters is a trained hydrogeologist and geoscience educator. He has passion for geology and way of telling the stories hidden in rocks that make science come alive. Currently, Mr. Winters is an Associate Professor of Earth Science at Holyoke Community College where he teaches courses ranging from “The Dinosaurs of New England” to a course he calls “’Cli-Fi’: Stories & Science of the Coming Climate Apocalypse.”


Monday, July 15: Starting at 3:00 p.m. participants may check into rooms and the program at the Deerfield Inn. After dinner, the evening’s program will provide introductions to the program leaders (Richard Little and Julie Orvis), participants, and brief overview of the program.

Meals included: Dinner

Tuesday, July 16: Richard Little will start the day with his lecture, “Dunes, Dinosaurs, & Drifting Continents” that provides the broad geological history of the Connecticut River Valley. The lecture will be followed by a geology and nature walk in Old Deerfield. Participants will also learn about the history of the scientific discoveries found in the geology of the valley, especially the dinosaur footprint fossils.

Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner at the Deerfield Inn, Lunch at the Deerfield Lunch Box.

Wednesday, July 17: Participants will embark on the first field trip of the program to explore the river landscape and geology at the French King Bridge in Erving, the Gill Dinosaur Print outcropping along Rt. 2, and fossil waterfalls and rift valley rocks found at Barton Cove. In Turners Falls the group will explore and learn from the Connecticut River map and diorama exhibits at the Great Falls Discovery Center. After lunch on your own in Turners Falls, the group will travel to Greenfield and will hike along the base of Poet’s Seat to view the dramatic basalt column. The afternoon will also include time in Shelburne Falls to view and learn about the “Glacial” Potholes and the famous Bridge of Flowers. After dinner at the Deerfield Inn, the evening will conclude with a hands-on workshop to explore the collection of rocks and fossils with local amateur geologist, retired pathologist and Historic Deerfield guide, Harry Sharbaugh. He has collected fine specimens of rocks and fossils of the Valley for more than 30 years and has curated them into an interactive exhibit for the public.

Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner at the Deerfield Inn.

Thursday, July 18: The second field trip will bring participants 30 miles south to the Dinosaur Footprints in Holyoke, managed by Trustees of the Reservation. At this site participants will find footprint fossils maintained where they were found. Then, the group will explore the economic power of the river at the Holyoke Heritage State Park and Canal Walk and the Wistariahurst Museum. After lunch in Hadley, the group will travel to Amherst to visit the Beneski Natural History Museum at Amherst College, home of the largest collection of dinosaur footprint fossils in the world. Participants will have time to visit the Emily Dickinson Museum (3 blocks away) if they choose. On the bus returning to Deerfield, Richard Little will interpret stops at the Delta Sand and Gravel site that illustrates evidence of the river delta flow in the glacial Lake Hitchcock and at the Mill River Cemetery that has evidence of the Lake Hitchcock shoreline. The group will have a free evening (dinner is included) and may enjoy one of the annual Historic Deerfield Summer Lectures scheduled that evening.

Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner at the Deerfield Inn and Lunch in Hadley.

Friday, July 19: The program will conclude with a cruise on the Connecticut River from Riverside Park at Northfield Mountain, through the French King Gorge, to Barton Cove and back. After a picnic at Riverside Park, the group ill take a final look at the river at its confluence with the Deerfield River from the Franklin County Greenway Bike Bridge. The bus returns to Deerfield at 2:30 p.m. and the program concludes.

Meals included: Breakfast and picnic lunch

Registration Information

The cost of the program is $995/person including a double occupancy room at the Deerfield Inn for 4 nights (Monday, July 15 to Friday, July 19) and most meals (4 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 4 dinners). For a single room, add $350. If you would like to extend your stay at the Deerfield Inn through Friday night, July 19, leaving on Saturday, July 20, you may add a reservation for the extra night below for $200/inclusive. For local residents not staying at the Deerfield Inn, subtract $350. For more information and registration, contact Julie Orvis at or (413) 775-7179; download a PDF brochure or register online using the button below.

Cancellation Policy

A full refund of the registration fee can be obtained if you cancel before 4:30 p.m. on Friday, June 14, 2019.