Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fossils, fossils everywhere

Remember that trip I mentioned a while ago? It was to Fossil, Oregon. A wee little town near the John Day Fossil Beds. On a hillside behind their high school, members of the public can dig up fossils to take home.

I've collected fossils from private land before, but this is the only public fossil bed in the entire US. I've wanted to visit for a long time. So on a lark we set off one cold, rainy Saturday.

Once you get to the town, just drive around for a few minutes and you'll spot the high school. It has an informational sign that talks a little about the fossils found there. Anyone can walk up to the hill and start digging, year round. They ask for a $5 donation per person, that each person only take two handfuls of fossils and that everyone dig gently with small tools.

I didn't even bring any tools. I spent about 45 minutes sorting through the pieces of rock already on the surface of the dig site, and doing a little bit of digging with my fingers to pry new rocks out of the clay. Here's what I came home with:




Bagged me some metasequoia and alder leaves. I'm sure if I'd brought tools and dug down I would have found some even better.

If you ever get the chance to visit, do it! If you visit while it's raining, though, learn from our mistakes: wear boots. The soil is that special sticky clay that clings in giant clumps to shoes and dog fur like dinglehoppers on steroids.


Liz said...

Thanks for spreading the word. Very fun to do. There's a good one, too, near Florissant, Colorado.
Happy hunting.

Liz said...

I thought the quarry near Florissant was public, but it's private. Though a few bucks gets you the same opportunity:

Liz said...

Yikes, my memory can stink. It's $20, not a few, for an hour or a box of take-home shale... but the quarry owners supply tools, super cool.