Insight/Onsite: The Geology of Fallingwater

A program of the Fallingwater Institute

Wright’s visionary design for Fallingwater grew from the ground up, based on his understanding and appreciation for the unique characteristics of the landscape at Bear Run. Wright’s decisions to construct Fallingwater using local sandstone from Bear Run, to form the house around large boulders, and to derive the overall shape of the house from naturally-occurring rock shelves are just a few of the ways that geology informed Wright’s design.

During this weekend workshop, view Fallingwater through the eyes of geologist, Fred Zelt. Zelt conducted the first-ever geological study of Fallingwater and will share his findings during guided tours, exploratory hikes, and scholarly discussions at Fallingwater and nearby Kentuck Knob and Ohiopyle State Park. During this workshop, learn how the naturally occurring stone at Bear Run served as the literal and figurative foundation for Wright’s design. With Zelt’s guidance, learn to “read” the geology of any landscape in order to better understand its natural history.


  • Exceptional access to Fallingwater, an international landmark included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, including special evening access
  • On-site housing at Fallingwater Institute’s educational facility, High Meadow
  • Guided hikes, tours, and scholarly discussions
  • Visits to nearby Kentuck Knob and Ohiopyle State Park

About the Instructors

Fred Zelt, Ph.D.

Earth Science Excursions, LLC

Western Pennsylvania native Fred Zelt started learning from rock outcrops at 17 years old, earned geology degrees at MIT and Princeton (Ph.D.), and served for 30 years as a researcher, explorer and executive with ExxonMobil that included assignments in Houston, Norway, England and New Orleans. In retirement, Fred returned to Western Pennsylvania and took up bicycling, pedaled across the USA, created a STEM and Cycling curriculum, created Earth Science Excursions, LLC and led more than 70 geology-themed hikes and bike rides. His informal YouTube videos about the geology and landscapes of Western Pennsylvania’s bike trails have accumulated several thousand views. In 2023, Fred led the first geologic study of Fallingwater and published the results in Geological Society of America Field Guide 66. Fred and his wife, Donna, have been married for 42 years and have four adult children and six grandchildren.


Participants will stay on the property at High Meadow, the Fallingwater Institute’s residency facility designed by AIA Gold Medalist architect Peter Bohlin, who is the founding principal of the firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson.  This property is situated adjacent to Fallingwater, and includes eight bedrooms, each with a private bath. This secluded site is surrounded by an amazing view of the Bear Run Nature Reserve – the 5,100-acre natural area that is home to Fallingwater.

Lectures and discussions are held at the Hillman Education Pavilion, and on site at Fallingwater. This is a casual and natural learning environment, where daily activities can inspire great things! All meals are provided.

For more information, contact


You must be at least 18 years old to participate. This workshop includes walking on gravel paths, on uphill and downhill inclines, and hiking on nature trails with uneven, dirt surfaces.

Program Sessions

Insight/Onsite: The Geology of Fallingwater

October 19 - October 20, 2024


$400 plus a 6% processing fee, per person. Tuition includes lodging, meals, instruction, materials, tours and access to Fallingwater. 

Register Now

For more information, contact

Cancellation and Refund Policy

If you cancel your registration for a one-day workshop any time up to 30 days before the day of the program, you will receive a refund minus a $25 processing fee.

If you cancel your registration for a multi-day program (residencies, Insight/Onsite, etc.) any time up to 30 days before the first day of the program, you will receive a refund minus a $50 processing fee and a $150 cancellation fee.

If you cancel less than 30 days before the first day of a Fallingwater Institute program, refunds are not available.