Friday, August 9, 2013

Fossil Walk

Fossils are a big thing here in Indiana. Because we used to be an inland sea, basically our entire subsurface is bedrock that used to be ancient sea floor. You're probably not going to dig that far down in your yard, but any big roadwork around here tends to have a few fossil hunters sneaking around after hours, and nearly all the creek beds flow against that bedrock, so they're always fair game for finding fossils.

A couple of weeks ago we went on a guided hike through our Parks and Rec Department to a creek bed that isn't usually accessible to the public, all for fossil hunting:

We know pretty much all the common fossils to be found here, but it was nice to have our own tour guide there to help us identify the fiddly bits ("That's mud," he told Matt, who had just presented him with what he considered to be the Great Fossil Find of the Century). He also identified a salamander that we all thought was a snake, which is his fault since he'd just given us a lecture on the Dangerous Snakes of Indiana, although he did reassure us that nobody on one of his walks had ever been bitten by one (sitting on the ground and confronted by something slithery, I called out to him, "Hey, look at me! I'm about to become your first person to be bitten by a Dangerous Snake of Indiana!").

We were each allowed to choose two of our fossils to keep. I swear that Matt took his mud; I took two excellent examples of ancient sea floor:
See all the embedded fossils in those two sea floor fragments? And I didn't even notice that crinoid to the right!
 Will, who is a really great fossil hunter and has been since she was a toddler, took home a large segmented crinoid and a partial horn corral, the best that we've found in Indiana to date (we found better ones at Penn Dixie, but that's in New York). Sydney found loads of little crinoid segments (forgive me when I tell you that they are commonly called "Indian beads"... sigh), and then, with the clock ticking down, drove herself to near mania attempting to choose just two of these to take home. She solicited many opinions--

--narrowed the selection down some, got frustrated and nearly tossed the entire lot into the creek, declared that she was just going to steal them all, simply sat and contemplated them with grief in her heart--

--and then, thank the lord, finally chose two at random and had done with it.

Another benefit of the guided tour was learning some other great locations to search--roadcuts, railroad beds, side-of-the-highway embankments--the locations of which are mainly spread by word of mouth. If we can decipher the townie-style directions (off-road parking instructions, where to climb from there, etc.), hopefully we'll be taking some weekend day trips to visit a few of these places.

I hear they may have trilobytes!


Stephanie said...

Maddie is really, really good at finding them, too! Doesn't finding fossils make you so happy??? It does me!
We haven't done that yet, this summer... I was just thinking of that yesterday!

Tina said...

I've heard that there are pretty decent fossils here in Montana, but I haven't even looked into it yet. Maybe I should...

julie said...

Ooh, in Montana you probably get dinosaurs!!! And in Utah, yes? We had a glacier come through Indiana, so we really don't have dinosaur fossils to be found. We have a good collection of ice age fossils, though, and I've long wanted to ingratiate myself into one of those digs.