Saturday, May 05, 2012

Drive through a Volcano!

Hwy 90 between Alpine and Marfa, the way most people see it but what travelers may not realize they're passing through a rich geological history!
Now with QR code-linked roadside exhibits, travelers can read the sign AND
view online resources (websites, videos, etc.) right on the spot!
Thanks to our visionary friends at the Brewster County Tourism Council, stopping along a roadside near Marathon, Terlingua/Study Butte, or Alpine and learning about the area may never be the same!

Just yesterday, five miles from Alpine at the rest stop along Hwy 90, an impressive new roadside exhibit was dedicated.  Stop there, get out your smartphone and in addition to reading about the geological history of this mountain pass, you can see video and view websites about it too!

Want to read the exhibit panel RIGHT NOW?  See the Visit Big Bend History Snapshot web site here:

So what happened here?  What about the volcano?
The blog of the Geological Society of America outlines the geological history of the Paisano Pass area:  

"The development of the Paisano Volcano (abridged): 35 million years ago basaltic lavas erupted from a pluton approximately 5 miles in diameter that rose slowly from deep within the mantle and lodged into the crust approximately 2 to 3 miles below the surface. Explosive pyroclastic eruptions driven by steam and carbon dioxide ensued, followed by subsequent lava flows. After a quiet period, pyroclastic flows again began to erupt, and a caldera crater collapsed during violent explosions that partially emptied a magma chamber under the volcano. Finally, more lavas erupted, followed by late mafic dikes and plugs and much younger nepheline syenite intrusions into the older volcanic strata.  Development of the broad shield complex was completed in 1 to 2 million years. Weathering and erosion continue to carve the different types of igneous rock into the colorful cliffs and wide valleys that seen around Paisano Pass today."

Want to see what the eruptions, collapses, and flows might have appeared?   The beauty of combining QR codes into the exhibit allows visitors to see online resources about the area, including cool video!  Click here to watch this video, which not only introduces the exhibit concept, but has great footage of volcanic activity. 

Background Information about the Visit Big Bend History Snapshot Project:

The Brewster County Historical Commission assisted in the development of historical information signs placed along the 400 plus miles of highways in Brewster County. Each historical sign is approximately 3 feet by 5 feet in size with display information including maps, photographs, diagrams text that describe the facts of the related subjects which include geology, biology, archaeology and history.
This is a joint project conducted with financial support provided from the Brewster County Tourism Council, hotel/motel tax. An agreement exists between Brewster County and Texas Department of Transportation for the placement of these signs within the county highway right-of-ways.  The selected locations are at existing traffic turnouts, roadside parks or at a position of access for tourists and educators traveling through the area.
A total of approximately 35 site locations will ultimately form a historical marker route through Brewster County with a road log to be prepared for the public and available on the Internet. These signs are in addition to the traditional existing Texas Historical Commission markers.
Here's a short Youtube movie about the Paisano Volcano exhibit here:

And the Geological Society of America Blog feature on the volcano exhibit here:

Installation of The Visit Big Bend History Snapshot Paisano Pass Volcano Exhibit On Highway 90.

More than thirty representatives of Brewster County, The City of Alpine, Sul Ross State University, Museum of the Big Bend, Bryan Wildenthal Library Archives, and friends of the Visit Big Bend History Snapshot Project gathered Friday morning at the Highway 90 Rest Area 5 miles west of downtown Alpine, to celebrate the installation of exhibit number 6 of 35 projected roadside panels: The Paisano Pass Drive Through Volcano.

This project is fortunate to have the support of many institutions and people, both local and far flung, in the production of these interpretive exhibits for the Visit Big Bend History Snapshot Project.

These include The Museum of the Big Bend, The Bryan Wildenthal Archives, The Center for Big Bend Studies, and The Science and History Departments of Sul Ross State University.  In addition the University of Texas Jackson School of Earth Sciences and leading professionals from many other Texas institutions have provided invaluable information, historical photographs, and expert scientific and historical advice and review for these exhibits.

First presented by invitation during the March, 2012 Geological Society of America Regional Conference hosted at Sul Ross State University, by Dr. Kevin Urbanczyk and Dr. James Witford-Stark, this roadside attraction features an entirely novel approach to outdoor education using the new QR Quick Response Code, to link smartphone viewers directly to the Visit Big Bend Web site.

This exhibit is currently featured on the GSA Blog Site and on Youtube.  The response from across the country has been exceptional.  So far Visit Big Bend is the only entity using this technology for outdoor education and traveler interpretation of the geology, biology and history of a Texas county.

Rondell Sanders is President of the Brewster County Tourism Council.  Mike Davidson, Alpine City Councilman, is Visit Big Bend Project Director.  Jim Bones is project photographer, and information compiler.  Chris Ruggia of Vast Graphics is principal exhibit designer.

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