Field Station Property

Field Station property

Geologic setting

The overthrust belt, less than 50 miles west of the Field Station, is characterized by thin-skinned tectonics. It bends sharply to the east and also extends through the north end of the Tobacco Root Mountains, where the northernmost zone of basement-cored (“thick-skinned”) upthrusts of the Wyoming Province is found. The Field Station is located within a few miles of the intersection of these two major structural styles. Consequently, a remarkable array of both small–and large–scale structures associated with the two major tectonic styles is available for study, together with a sampling of basin-and-range or block faulted structures.

The area exhibits a great variety of geological features in a nearly complete section of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks that range in age from Precambrian to Pleistocene, and that are mildly to intensely deformed. The Field Station’s South Boulder location was originally chosen by Charles Deiss in 1948 because he felt that “the region offers more extensive and varied geologic phenomena than any area of equal size in the United States.”

The park-like setting of the Field Station property itself lies at the confluence of Carmichael Creek with the South Boulder River. Both streams flow through parts of the 60 acres that constitute the Field Station. Most of the buildings sit upon a flat terrace of the South Boulder, about 80 feet above stream level. The Field Station is 5,280 feet above sea level.

Field station main building
IUGFS classroom building 
interior of a large classroom
Inside the classroom building 
room with computers
Inside the computer lab 
main dining hall
The dining hall in the lodge 
Field station classroom
Here is one of the classrooms 
Field station main building
Here is the front entrance 
Computers on desks in a room
Inside the computer lab 
Field station main building with snow and mountain behind
The classroom in snow 
overview photo of housing with mountains in the background
Housing seen from Carmichael Creek 
Outdoor half moon building
The Lodge 
lodge with table tennis and large heater duct
Inside the Lodge 

Charles F. Deiss Lodge

The Deiss Lodge serves as the social heart of the field station. The west half of the Lodge includes a large open-on-all-sides fireplace, various types of seating for indoor recreation and work, a ping-pong table, and a piano. The east half is the dining hall and main kitchen. The dining hall can also be used as workspace except around mealtimes.

The Lodge is the focus for meals, recreation, study, and evening work sessions. It houses the dining hall and kitchen, which employs a staff of two cooks and three or four kitchen helpers. Students are not responsible for any aspect of Field Station maintenance or food preparation. Hot meals are provided for breakfast and dinner every day, and abundant and diverse choices are available for making your own lunch.

Mail is picked up Monday through Friday in Cardwell, Montana, and distributed to a mailbox in the lodge. During the summer, the Field Station assistant runs a small store for items such as pens and pencils, erasers, notebooks, postage stamps, and other simple necessities. The lodge is also the location of the two phones (one pay phone, one credit card phone) available to students. In addition, an extensive library of textbooks, theses, and reprints pertinent to Northern Rockies geology is found in the lodge.

Classroom & Geotechnology Center

The Lee and Virginia Suttner Classroom and Geotechnology Building – this includes a main classroom that seats up to 110 people, a workstation room with 15 high-end workstations plus printers and plotters, a smaller classroom with microscopes and a few computers, a low-toxicity wet lab, a seismograph, and a computer network server.

The new classroom building is located near the Charles F. Deiss Lodge, the heart of the Field Station. The lecture hall has a view up the South Boulder valley at the high peaks region of the Tobacco Root Mountain range.

Student housing & recreational facilities

While at the Field Station, students are housed in thirteen insulated dormitories of various sizes that sleep 4 to 24 people each, located on both the upper and lower properties. Smaller buildings and wood-frame cabins are usually used by the resident manager, head cook, workshops, and function as storage buildings. There are two large faculty housing buildings on the upper property as well.

Ample hot showers are available in two washrooms which are separate from the dormitories. Coin laundry facilities are available (including dryers) and clotheslines are also available for drying clothes on a sunny day. Many of these improvements are supported by our Maintenance Fund Endowment.

Recreational facilities in the Lodge include a piano and a ping-pong table. Outside, we have a volleyball court, paved basketball court, horseshoes, and plenty of room for frisbee. On especially hot days, hardy souls have been known to dip into the South Boulder River. More recreational options include taking a run up the Pony Road or hiking in the high peaks of the Tobacco Root Mountains.

The resident manager’s house, the Lee and Virginia Suttner Classroom and Geotechnology Building, the west half of the Deiss Lodge, and faculty housing are open 12 months of the year. All other parts of IUGFS are shut down from October through April.


The Judson Mead Geologic Field Station of Indiana University is in the Tobacco Root Mountains, 40 miles southeast of Butte, Montana, and 65 miles west of Bozeman.

Driving directions

The Geologic Field Station is 11 miles from the post office and gas station in Cardwell. Montana. Driving five miles south of Cardwell on Montana Highway 359 (which we call the “Big Oil,”) takes one to the South Boulder Road. This road (also known as “Little Oil,” or Forest Road 107) is paved for the first three miles; the final three-mile segment to the Field Station is gravel and dirt. Take a left turn from the South Boulder Road toward Pony and Harrison, across the new South Boulder bridge and up the hill, and you are driving into the Field Station. The address is 633 S. Boulder Rd., Cardwell MT 57921.