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North Sulfur River Fossil Hunting.
Pete Patterson Fossil Park
Finds for the day
Finally, someplace to go collecting near home!!!!!
On a drive through new territory for me, to meet a friend for a little fishing fun after work, I made a wrong turn. Yup- sure enough, I got to Ladonia, Texas and instead of turning left, I turned right. As it turns out, I could get there either way but on this particular trip, about two miles out of Ladonia, I saw a sign that immediately caught my attention. Right after crossing the North Sulfur River was a small parking lot and a sign that read “Pete Patterson Fossil Park- Ladonia, Texas, North Sulfur River Fossil Haven”. Interest peaked, I had to look it up on the internet when I got home.
As it turns out there is a LOT of information about this site. It is evidently known for all kinds of fossils including ammonites (also called Nautilus) , Baculites (kind of an Ammonite that got straightened out)Cretaceous fossils, giant oysters, sharks teeth, Mosasaur skeletons (big ugly mean sea creature with big teeth), and many other things. It was field trip time.
This week I decided to get an early start since it was predicted to exceed 100 degrees(again) for the day. The site said that there were stairs down to the river so I was a little confused when a fossil collecting coworker rolled her eyes when I mentioned it after she warned me to be careful. She wasn’t justa whistling Dixie!!! When I got there, I parked in one of the two covered parking places and headed down the path. Sure enough, there were the stairs. Each stair was roughly 18 to 24 inches high once you got halfway down. That would prove challenging coming back up.
But I did make it down. The web sites said to pick up any strange looking rocks so I began searching the gravel bars for likely prospects. I had NO IDEA what to look for but soon had an obvious old thick oyster shell in my hand. I could just see someone trying to crack one of these suckers with a shucking knife or worse yet some prehistoric river otter trying to break it open on his chest., definition of frustration.
There was very little water in the river and none was flowing. I understand that after a good rain people line up on the bridge waiting for the river to allow them down. Be aware though. Flash floods do occur here and you need to keep an eye on upstream weather because the banks are straight up and down and there would be no way out.
I continued to find portions of oyster shells for a while before I came across my first good find. (I figured this out after I got home.) It was about an inch long section of a Baculite, a straight Ammonite sometimes with oak leaf like designs on it. Later I discovered one of my finds, much different and larger, had the same designs. I’m still trying to figure out what it is. As I progressed down the river, I say the distinct curl of a shell. Turns out it is a large piece of Exogyra ponderosa also called Devil’s Toenail, another type of large oyster. Now I was feeling pretty good about my day. Two hours in, it is getting hot as ____, fill in the blank. I circled back to beat the high heat. As I walked along the edge of the creek, I noticed a flat semicircular stone. If it looks weird, pick it up, remember? As it turns out, it is half of a prehistoric fish vertebrae.
I worked my way back to the “stairs” and started up to the car. Halfway up, I had to catch my breath. These stairs are no easy feat. Plan on sitting on your butt and scooting down if you are under 6 feet!
As I panted back to my car and dumped part of my bottled water over my head, I swore “never again!! At least not til tomorrow.”
At home I sorted through stuff and as I researched online, got more and more pleased with my trip. I joined a fossil website forum called, interestingly enough, The Fossil Forum at http://www.thefossilforum.com to help find some hunting partners and learn what I am finding. I also ordered the Audobon and Smithsonian Guides to Fossils. I am really looking forward to the trips to come. We’re going to try sand sifting for teeth and such next trip COME ON RAIN!!!!
- The Fossil Forum
A forum for beginner, amateur, and professional paleontologists.