By Shawn O’Brate

DUBOIS – Thursday afternoon the Dubois Museum put on their “Story in the Rocks” event at the Dennison Lodge with a special guest, Dr. Matthew Bruseke, who helped teach local Fremont County citizens all about the volcanic and geological structures of the land that they live on and visit often.

Bruseke, a professor at Kansas State University, has made Dubois a regular pit stop during his non-teaching Summers due to the volcanic activity that resided throughout the area over the past few million years. 

“There’s shield volcanoes, little volcanoes that aren’t too far South, they’re really just in this Dubois area and the Snake River plain towards Idaho Falls,” Bruseke said about the area, “But there are smaller volcanoes in the Jackson area that were active 7-9 million years ago, but these big stratovolcanoes like the Absaroka mountains are part of a bigger belt that goes South.” 

When he wasn’t explaining the volcanic activity around Dubois to the large group of 20-30 people he was explaining how the geology around Wyoming and Montana was formed throughout the millions of years of volcanic activity that ended as early as 1.6 million years ago. 

One of the more recent volcanic eruptions in human history, the Cleveland Volcano in Alaska, was the location of Bruseke’s most recent trip before traveling down to Wyoming and he was excited to see more of that type of scenery with the Dubois Museum’s Spring Mountain Trek on Friday morning. Sadly, due to weather conditions, the trek was canceled late Thursday night but Bruseke still knew what he wanted to see in Dubois.

“What we were going to do is go up to Spring Mountain where one of these young, 5 million-ish year old volcanoes exists, and it’s kind of neat because you can see where the volcano is, where the lava is, the basalt, you can see where the magma would’ve erupted from and there’s also faults up there where the magma was erupting through that have faulted and disrupted the other rock layers,” Bruseke explained. 

Just because the trek was canceled didn’t mean that Bruseke’s trip to Dubois was a waste, quite the opposite actually:

“With the National Science Foundation grant that we have that’s funding this research on these volcanoes and this volcanic story here in the Wind River Basin area, part of it is a broader impact outreach component so we’re trying to get out and tell people about geology and about Earth science.” 

The large group of adults that attended the Story in the Rocks seminar were proof that people want to learn more about the land around them, which only makes them and the rest of Fremont County citizens spend more time outside–something that Bruseke loves about Wyomingites.

“One of the things that I’ve always appreciated in this area, in Dubois and in Lander, is people are outside a lot. Whatever they’re doing they’re doing it outside,” Bruseke said, “you’re looking at things and you’re seeing geology, you may not know what you’re seeing or you may have an idea but you want to know more. So there’s always been a really good audience of interested people, because…they want to learn more about the geology of the scenery or the landscapes.”

Before leaving with his grad student and heading to Montana for more research prior to returning to Manhattan, Kansas, Bruseke made sure to explain just what might happen if the famous Yellowstone volcano actually erupted.

“You would see the big caldera collapsing and ash flows if and when that happens,” Bruseke explained, “in the Yellowstone area there’s not really a way to predict that, there’s not a good indication of any true cycle of that, so the biggest hazards in the park are smaller hydrothermal explosions–steam explosions–some of these smaller lava domes you would experience here.”

In any event, if that were to happen it would be a dangerous time to be a Wyomingite but that’s what makes living in such a beautiful place so much fun for the people that do so; those views that we all take for granted everyday are one of the main reasons why Bruseke chooses to visit the Wyoming Wonderland town every year.

“It’s a good place to see the geological history over the last 60-70 million years, and even older, in the region in one small area and you get good views over the basin,” Bruseke said as he left the Dubois Museum for the night.

If you’d like to learn more about these types of events, geological studies, or the mountains that you reside around you can find more of Dr. Bruseke’s work at