We use structure from motion–multiview stereo (SM) terrain models developed from ground-based images and images acquired from uncrewed aircraft (aka drones) as a base map for three-dimensional (3-D) mapping on the walls of a deep canyon in the Panamint Range of eastern California, USA. The ability to manipulate the 3-D model with views from arbitrary look directions and broad scale range revealed structures that were invisible to conventional two-dimensional (2-D) mapping because of both the scale of the structures and their exposure on vertical to near-vertical cliff faces. The analysis supports field evidence for four phases of ductile deformation, with only one of the younger phases documented on early geologic maps of the area. The oldest deformational event (D1) produced the main metamorphic fabric and pre-dates Late Cretaceous plutons. This deformation produced a 200–250-m-thick high-strain zone localized along marbles at the top of the Kingston Peak Formation and lower Noonday Formation. Geometric analysis from the model suggests strongly that large sheath folds at scales of 100–300 m are developed within these marbles. Large measured finite strains indicate displacement across this apparent shear zone of at least 4–5 km and displacements of tens of kilometers are allowable, yet the structure is invisible to conventional mapping because the high-strain zone is stratabound. The main fabric shows two clear overprints and a third that is likely an even younger deformation. D2 and D3 generated tight to close, recumbent folds and open to tight, upright folds, respectively, both folding the main foliation with localized development of crenulation cleavages axial planar to the folds. An additional overprint shows no clear cross-cutting relationship with D2 or D3 fabrics and could be a manifestation of either of those events, although the deformation is spatially limited to a narrow shear zone beneath a brittle, dextral-normal fault with the same kinematics as a mylonitic fabric in a Cretaceous granite in the footwall. This observation suggests an extensional, core complex–style deformation to produce this structure. We suggest that 3-D mapping has the potential to revolutionize geologic mapping studies, particularly where steep topography provides 3-D views that are virtually invisible on conventional 2-D maps. Previously bewildering geologic puzzles can be solved by the ability to visualize large cliff exposures from arbitrary angles and map the features in true 3-D at resolutions to the centimeter level. Although this study emphasized intermediate scales imaged by a drone, our methods here are easily extended to larger scales using a crewed aircraft for imaging. We suggest these methods should be used routinely in frontier areas with steep terrain where aviation is already in use for access, but the methods can be employed anywhere steep terrain “hides” major rock exposures on conventional 2-D maps.

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