Fossil Plants Of The Ione Basin, California

The Eocene Ione Formation Project

Contents For--Fossil Plants Of The Ione Basin, California

 Geologic Background

 Legal Issues

Images Of Fossil Plants

Images Of Lignite (Coal)

Images Of Trace Fossils

 Days Of Discovery

Field Trip 10-19-1999

Field Trip 8-19-2000

Field Trip Summer 2002

Field Trip 10-14-2002

Field Trip 10-22-2002

Field Trip 10/25-27/2002

Field Trip 6-3-2003

Field Trip 3-8-2004

Field Trip 3-11-2004

Links To The Eocene

The Ione Chaparral

Links To Amador County

Web Pages I've Created

My Email Address

Geologic Background

The Ione Basin lies within Amador County and northern Calaveras County in the western foothills of California's Sierra Nevada. It's a scenic and economically important geophysical province roughly 30 miles long by four to seven miles wide whose primary surface exposures of Cenozoic sedimentary rocks include the Middle Miocene Mehrten Formation, the Lower Miocene Valley Springs Formation and what geologists and stratigraphers alike call the Middle Eocene Ione Formation (around 49 to 45 million years old); indeed, the Ione is a most-famous geologic rock unit that yields world-renowned commercial deposits of extraordinarily pure silica sand and high-grade kaolinite clays--in addition to extensive accumulations of the rare and valuable Montan Wax-rich lignite, which is mined commercially at only two places in the world--the other Montan Wax site is in Germany; lignite is classified as a type of low-grade coal whose alteration of original vegetation has proceeded further than in peat, but obviously not as great as anthracite coal. Montan Wax occurs quite rarely in the geologic record when the waxy substance which once protected the original plant leaves from extremes of climate did not deteriorate, but instead enriched the coal. Commercial applications for Montan Wax include polish, carbon paper, road construction, building, rubber, lubricating greases, fruit coating, water proofing and leather finishing. All of these mineral commodities--silica sands, kaolinite clays and Montan Wax-yielding liginites--have been mined in the Ione Basin by open-pit methods for many decades. As a matter of fact, today the Ione Basin lignites remain California's only actively mined coal resources.

Geologically speaking, the Ione Formation in the Ione Basin was deposited in floodplains, estuaries, lagoons, deltas, mashes-swamps and marine waters (based on very, very rare occurences of unquestioned marine mollusks) along the eastern shores of a vast inland sea during Middle Eocene times--a sea that had flooded, transgressed, what is now California's Great Central Valley during the early portions of the Eocene, approximately 53 million years ago; but, in a curious display of geological, marine cyclicity, sea waters had actually receded, regressed, from the vicinity of the ancestral Ione Basin many millions of years earlier, specifically during the early Tertiary Period, roughly 60 million years ago. For approximately seven million succeeding years, through most of the Paleocene Epoch of the Cenozoic Era, the area now recognized as the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California, was left "high and dry," exposed directly to an unrelenting hot, humid tropical environment that left behind distinctive deposits of laterite--which is an iron and aluminum-rich, deep-red soil zone that forms today only in tropical environments capable of leaching away soluble minerals (feldspar, biotite and chlorite, among others), clays (kaolinite, illite and montmorillonite) and silica--places such as India, for example, that experience cycles of hot-dry winters combined with monsoon tropical rainfall, high humidity and extreme temperatures.

When marine waters began to encroach once again throughout the ancestral Central Valley during early Eocene times, the prevailing climate had already become less severely tropical than the environment that helped create the laterite soil profiles--although most scientists agree that conditions would still be classified as subtropical--that is, quite hot and humid, with frequent, substantial amounts of precipitation. Now, with sea waters rising again in the neighborhood of present-day Ione Basin--transgressing, as geologists describe the process--the numerous rivers and streams whose sources existed in the ancestral Eocene Sierra Nevada to the immediate east began to "back up;" gradients slackened; and the rivers proceeded to wander in great braided, anastomozing courses along the floodplains. Deposition of the Middle Eocene Ione Formation had begun.

Those rocks deposited earliest in the local Ione geologic section (hence, they are the oldest)--strata that have proved the most amenable to commercial mining--typically consist of reddish-brown-colored kaolinite-rich clays and shales and brilliant white quartz (silica)-dominated sandstones, plus dull-brownish to black-hued Montan-Wax-bearing lignites that accumulated in a semi-tropical climate of rather intense chemical and physical weathering--a process that leached away all but the more-resistant mineral constituents--quartz and kaolinite clay. Probably the paleoclimate resembled modern-day southern Florida in the southeastern United States. Occasionally, lignite miners in the Ione Basin report finding huge fossil logs buried with the more massive-beds of fossil peat. Higher in the Ione section, in rocks of younger geologic age, the exposed clays, sandstones and shales bear a greater percentage of feldspar, biotite and chlorite. Such a dramatic change in mineral composition signifies a major shift in paleoclimate during middle Eocene times. Although conditions during deposition of the younger Ione sediments were still dominated by extreme humidity, high rainfall and warm semi-tropical temperatures, the once-rigorous climatic regime of intense weathering had subsided considerably and a general cooling trend began to prevail.

It was within these younger sedimentary rocks of the Ione Formation that the paleobotanically invaluable suites of fossil leaves were preserved. Approximately 49 to 45 million years ago, on occasion, the great system of braided rivers that ran to the inland sea became engorged and overran their banks, resulting in episodes of catastrophic, widespread flooding. The high-energy rushing waters carried with them enormous quantities of fine-grained sediments, plus abundant leaves torn from the plants that inhabited the watercourses along the wide alluvial floodplains. When flooding eventually subsided, many of the leaves that had been swept along for the ride became winnowed, concentrated, in overbank, backwater pools and within the many broad alluvial mudflats, having been covered rapidly by feldspar and quartz-rich sediments eroding from the ancestral Sierra Nevada. There, the leaves remained protected between muddy, oxygen-depleted sedimentary layers, vegetable tissues that were impervious to immediate decay due to the high water table along the Eocene floodplain. Eventually, geologic forces lithified--that is, hardened--the plant-bearing ooze, preserving within, in stunning detail, the numerous fossil leaves now stained a striking reddish brown (due to the presence of iron minerals) on the brilliant white shales and reddish-brown sandstones of the Ione Formation--abundant Eocene leaves only awaiting eager fossil seekers to reveal them to their first light of day in some 45 million years.

Indeed, here is one of the great fossil leaf-bearing districts in all of California--an extensive fossil field which is at last providing paleobotanists with their first detailed look at the kinds of ancient plants that inhabited an essentially sea-level floodplain paleoenvironment along the western border of the ancestral Sierra Nevada mountains approximately 49 to 45 million years ago. It is an as-yet completely undescribed fossil flora, relatively new to science--but one that will surely provide lots of invaluable scientific information on the paleobotany of the ancient Ione Basin.

The Low-Down On Legal Issues

OK, here's the part of this Web Site that I really dislike having to include, but it's a necessary thing to do in this particular instance. Let's talk about legal issues regarding fossil collecting activities in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, California--the specific regions discussed here where fossil plants occur in the Ione Basin of Amador County...I know, I know, in an ideal world, most paleontology enthusiasts would rather not have to worry about such dreary and distracting concerns. We'd rather roam the countryside for fossiliferous outcrops without having to fret about whether we need permission to collect fossils at any given locality.

So, without any additional "fanfare," let's explore the legalities of collecting fossils in the areas discussed at this Web Site: First of all, every fossil plant locality mentioned here is completely off limits to unauthorized fossil collecting. In the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, each recently discovered paleobotanical site in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Amador County, California, occurs on private property; one needs explicit permission from the land owners in order to collect fossil plants in the Ione Formation. That same edict also holds true for all the other fossil plant-yielding sites in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada--they're all off-limits if you don't have permission from the land owners. There's no use belaboring the fact, I reckon. That's just the way reality works in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, California.

Images Of Fossil Plants From The Ione Basin, Amador County, California

Click on the image for a larger view. This is an essentially complete undescribed fossil leaf from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, California; reddish coloration is caused by iron oxide residues in the rocks. The roughly 45 million-year-old leaf came from a recently discovered locality on private property in Amador County--a specific site currently under formal paleobotanical study by Dr. Jack A. Wolfe (retired member of the United States Geological Survey) and Howard E. Schorn (retired Collections Manager of Fossil Plants at the University California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley), among others, who hope to use the fossils to help approximate the paleoelevation of the ancestral Sierra Nevada region during the geologic past. The fossil plants from the Ione Basin constitute a completely undescribed flora--they await formal identification by paleobotanists.

Please note: All fossil localities in the Ione Formation of the Ione Basin presently occur on private property; explicit permission from the land owners must be secured before collecting fossils there.

  • Image #1--Fossil leaf from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #2--Fossil leaf from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #3--Fossil leaf from a climbing fern, Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #4--Fossil leaf from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #5--Fossil leaves: leaf and climbing fern, Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #6--Fossil leaf from the,Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #7-- Fossil leaf from a climbing fern, Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #8--Fossil leaf from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #9--Fossil leaf from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #10--Fossil fan palm frond from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #11--Fossil leaf from a climbing fern, Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #12--Fossil leaf from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #13--Fossil leaves from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #14--Fossil leaf from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #15--Fossil leaves and a climbing fern from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #16--Fossil leaf from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #17--Fossil leaf from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #18--Fossil leaf from a climbing fern, Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #19--Fossil leaf from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #20--Fossil leaf and a climbing fern from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #21--Fossil leaf from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #22--Fossil leaf from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #23--Fossil leaf from a climbing fern, Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #24--Fossil leaf from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #25--Fossil leaf from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.

Images Of Montan Wax-Bearing Lignite From The Ione Basin, California

Click on the image for a larger image. This is a chunk of high-grade, Montan Wax-bearing lignite from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, California. It came from the walls of California's only active coal mine, where lignites bearing the rare Montan Wax have been mined for several decades now. Only two places in the world produce commercially minable deposits of Montan Wax--the Ione Basin, California, and Amsdorf, Germany. Lignite from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation of the Ione Basin is a low-grade coal which has not been subjected to great forces of heat and pressure through geologic time--hence, the waxy substance of the original vegetal constituents has not been obliterated, or altered.

Montan Wax occurs quite rarely in the geologic record when the waxy substance which once protected the original plant leaves from extremes of climate did not deteriorate, but instead enriched the coal. Commercial applications for Montan Wax include polish, carbon paper, road construction, building, rubber, lubricating greases, fruit coating, water proofing and leather finishing.

  • Image #1--A chunk of high-grade Montan Wax-bearing lignite (low grade coal) from California's only active commercial coal mine; also an image of California's only active commercial coal mine----it's been processing lignites from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation of the Ione Basin for several decades now.
  • Image #2--A chunk of high-grade Montan Wax-bearing lignite (low grade coal) from California's only active commercial coal mine, Ione Basin, California.
  • Image #3--A chunk of high-grade Montan Wax-bearing lignite (low grade coal) from California's only active commercial coal mine, Ione Basin, California.
  • Image #4--A chunk of high-grade Montan Wax-bearing lignite (low grade coal) from California's only active commercial coal mine, Ione Basin, California.

Images Of Ophiomorpha Trace Fossils From The Ione Basin, California

Click on the image for a larger view. This is an ichnofossil (trace fossil), called scientifically Ophiomorpha, from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada. It is the fossilized burrow of a species of shrimp-like animal, most likely a callianassid shrimp. Here is a comprehensive description of just what Ophiomorpha represents from the web page at http://www.envs.emory.edu/ichnology/Ophiomorpha.htm:

"Ophiomorpha is a branching burrow with either horizontal, oblique, or vertical box-like networks; the burrow exterior is characterized by a knobby texture formed by a pelletal lining, but in some cases only an internal mold of the burrow is evident. Ophiomorpha is interpreted as a combined dwelling and feeding burrow made by a shrimp-like animal; modern callianassid shrimp show the same burrow geometry and pelletal reinforcement of their burrows."

  • Image #1--A trace fossil called Ophiomorpha, a combined dwelling and feeding burrow of a callianassid shrimp from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #2--A trace fossil called Ophiomorpha, a combined dwelling and feeding burrow of a callianassid shrimp from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #3--A trace fossil called Ophiomorpha, a combined dwelling and feeding burrow of a callianassid shrimp from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #4--A trace fossil called Ophiomorpha, a combined dwelling and feeding burrow of a callianassid shrimp from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #5--A trace fossil called Ophiomorpha, a combined dwelling and feeding burrow of a callianassid shrimp from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #6--A trace fossil called Ophiomorpha, a combined dwelling and feeding burrow of a callianassid shrimp from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #7--A trace fossil called Ophiomorpha, a combined dwelling and feeding burrow of a callianassid shrimp from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #8--A trace fossil called Ophiomorpha, a combined dwelling and feeding burrow of a callianassid shrimp from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #9--A trace fossil called Ophiomorpha, a combined dwelling and feeding burrow of a callianassid shrimp from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.
  • Image #10--A trace fossil called Ophiomorpha, a combined dwelling and feeding burrow of a callianassid shrimp from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, California.

Images Of "Days Of Discovery" In The Ione Basin, California

Click on the image for a larger view. Here is a late afternoon view to the Discovery Site in the Ione Basin, Amador County, California--the specific locality, marked by the blue backpack at lower right, where I first found fossil plants in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation on July 21, 1991. This is pretty high up in the local Ione Formation geologic section. Take a look at the pale-brown, brush covered slopes along the skyline. The overlying Upper Oligocene to Lower Miocene Valley Springs Formation begins at the dramatic, distinctive vegetation break along that hillside in the distance--the exact geologic contact between the Valley Springs above and the Ione Formation below lies at the obvious break between the green manzanita brush below and the pale-brown, grass-covered, tree-studded slope above; rocks above the patch of green manzanita, to the skyline, belong to the Valley Springs Formation.

What follows is a series of images depicting several of the original fossil leaf localities I discovered in the Ione Basin during my "Days Of Discovery"-- my periodic explorations--in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation.

  • Image #1--The Discovery Site, the exact locality where I first found fossil plants in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, on July 21, 1991.
  • Image #2--An image of a second major fossil leaf horizon in the Ione Basin, a locality I discovered on June 19, 1992.
  • Image #3--My third major discovery of a prolific fossil leaf-bearing locality in the Ione Basin--a site I found on May 4, 1993.
  • Image #4--A scenic vista from an especially fossiliferous locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin; found during a trek in the mid 1990s.
  • Image #5--An image showing where I found in the mid 1990s the first convincing, undeniable fossil palm reported from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation of the Ione Basin--a specimen I donated to the University California Museum Of Paleontology in Berkeley.
  • Image #6--One of the amazingly prolific fossil leaf localities I discovered in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation of the Ione Basin during one of my treks in the mid-1990s.
  • Image #7--An image a fossil leaf locality I discovered in 1992 in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin--a specific horizon later known to paleobotanists as Lygodium Gulch.
  • Image #8--An especially productive fossil leaf locality I discovered during the mid 1990s in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation of the Ione Basin; a locality that has never been scientifically quarried due to its occurrence on rather environmentally sensitive property.
  • Image #9--A major fossil leaf horizon I discovered in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation of the Ione Basin during the mid-1990s. Although the site has never been quarried scientifically, I did donate all of the specimens I found there, during several successive visits, to the archival paleobotany collections at the University California Museum Of Paleontology in Berkeley.
  • Image #10--A view of a major fossil leaf horizon I discovered during one of my hikes in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, in the mid-1990s.
  • Image #11--One of the better-exposed fossil leaf-bearing sections in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin--a place I found during a hike in the mid-1990s. It's a site that should be scientifically quarried--though it probably never will be due to its occurrence on property that is environmentally sensitive.
  • Image #12--One of the all-time great fossil leaf-bearing horizons in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin; I discovered it during a hike sometime in 1992. It is an extension of the same ultra-prolific horizon that produces an abundance of plants at a famous locality now known as Lygodium Gulch.

Images From Field Trip To Ione Basin--October 19, 1999

Click on the image for a larger view. This is a view to a very productive fossil leaf locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation--a photograph snapped on October 19, 1999, during a field trip to the Ione Basin with my late father (red plaid shirt, an Engineering Geologist) and paleobotanists Dr. Diane Erwin (blue-jeans); Collections Manager of Fossil Plants at the University California Museum Of Paleontology in Berkeley) and Howard Schorn (retired Collections Manager of Fossil Plants at UCMP).

I had discovered this site during one of my excursions to the Ione Basin in the mid 1990s. After I'd donated numerous fossils from the Ione Basin to the archival paleobotany collections at UCMP in late 1998, Howard Schorn and Dr. Erwin wanted to field-check, personally, several of the specific fossil sites I had discovered. And so we arranged a day's visit to the Ione Basin for October 19, 1999--Images from that field trip follow.

  • Image #1--My father (an Engineering Geologist) and paleobotanists Howard Schorn and Dr. Diane Erwin visit a major fossil leaf-bearing horizon in the Middle Eocene Ione Formtion, Ione Basin. Photograph taken October 19, 1999.
  • Image #2--Paleobotanists Howard Schorn and Dr. Diane Erwin examine on a map one of the fossil localities I had plotted in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin. Photograph taken October 19, 1999.
  • Image #3--Paleobotanists Howard Schorn and Dr. Diane Erwin examine on a map one of the fossil localities I had plotted in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin. Photograph taken October 19, 1999.
  • Image #4--My father (an Engineering Geologist) and paleobotanists Dr. Diane Erwin and Howard Schorn at a dramatic overview in the Ione Basin. Photograph taken October 19, 1999.
  • Image #5--A dramatic, scenic overview in the Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Photograph taken October 19, 1999.
  • Image #6--My father (an Engineering Geologist) and paleobotanists Howard Schorn and Dr. Diane Erwin at the Discovery Site--the specific locality where I had first found fossil plants in the Ione Basin on July 21, 1991. Photograph taken October 19, 1999.
  • Image #7--My father (an Engineering Geologist) and paleobotanists Dr. Diane Erwin and Howard Schorn examine the rich fossil-bearing outcrops at what later became known as Lygodium Gulch. During the summer of 2002, Howard Schorn and I opened up a major quarry here in order to gather the first formal, systematic, scientific collection of fossil leaves from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation of the Ione Basin, California. Photograph taken October 19, 1999.
  • Image #8--Paleobotanist Dr. Diane Erwin collecting fossil plants from perhaps the most prolific locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation of the Ione Basin, California. I discovered this particular site during one of my excursions to the Ione Basin in 1992. It has since become known to paleobotanists as "Lygodium Gulch," named after the rather common to abundant remains of a fossil climbing fern found there, Lygodium kaulfussi, whose closest modern equivalent is Lygodium palmatum now native to the southeastern and eastern United States; it has been recorded from Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia north to New England--along with a site in Oregon's Eocene Clarno Formation, the only known locality west of the Rocky Mountains to yield climbing fern fossils now housed in a museum. Photograph taken October 19, 1999.
  • Image #9--A photograph of famous Loreta's restaurant in the historic town of Ione. This is a supplemental image, snapped on November 1, 2002. After our visits to fossil localities in the Ione Basin on October 19, 1999, we all headed to Loreta's for a late-afternoon snack of lemon pie.

Images From Field Trip To Ione Basin--August 19, 2000

Click on the image for a larger view. This is a photograph snapped on August 19, 2000, at famous Lygodium Gulch in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin. The late paleobotanist Dr. Jack A. Wolfe is kneeling, examining a fossil leaf specimen before he wraps it in newspaper for safe transport to the archival paleobotanical collections at the University California Museum Of Paleontology in Berkeley. My late father, an Engineering Geologist, looks on in the blue plaid shirt behind Dr. Wolfe, while paleobotanist Howard Schorn (with the walking stick in hand), gazes to the scenic countryside all around us.

To help professional paleobotanists prepare for their proposed project to study the numerous Eocene fossil floras of the Sierra Nevada region, to determine the paleoelevations and paleoclimate of the ancestral Sierra Nevada roughly 50 to 45 million years ago, my father (an Engineering Geologist) and I took paleobotanists Howard Schorn, Dr. Jack A. Wolfe and Dr. Bruce Tiffney on a day's tour of some significant fossil leaf localities in the Ione Basin. Images from the visit follow.

  • Image #1--Paleobotanists Dr. Jack A. Wolfe and Howard Schorn, and my father (an Engineering Geologist), visit famous fossil leaf locality, Lygodium Gulch in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin. Image taken August 19, 2000.
  • Image #2--Paleobotanist Howard Schorn examines a fossil plant specimen at the famous "Lygodium Gulch" locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, while paleobotanist Dr. Jack A. Wolfe wraps specimens in newspaper for safe transport to the archival paleobotanical collections at the University California Museum Of Paleontology in Berkeley. Image taken August 19, 2000.
  • Image #3--Paleobotanist Howard Schorn examines a fossil plant specimen at the famous "Lygodium Gulch" locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, while paleobotanist Dr. Jack A. Wolfe refers to his field notes; my father (an Engineering Geologist) observes the proceedings. Image taken August 19, 2000.
  • Image #4--A photograph of four scientists at the famous Lygodium Gulch locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, California: Paleobotanist Dr. Bruce Tiffney (professor at the University of California Santa Barbara) splits a chunk of shale in search of fossil plants; paleobotanist Dr. Jack A. Wolfe (retired member of the United States Geological Survey) examines a fossil leaf specimen; paleobotanist Howard Schorn looks at a fossil leaf; my father (an Engineering Geologist) observes the situation. Image taken August 19, 2000.

Images Of Field Trip To Ione Basin--July 27-August 2, 2002

Click on the image for a larger view. Paleobotanist Howard Schorn (retired Collections Manager Of Fossil Plants at the University California Museum Of Paleontology in Berkeley) supervises a backhoe operator at a famous fossil plant locality, Lygodium Gulch. The backhoe operator is exposing for ease of collecting a trench at the primary fossil horizon. Image taken on July 30, 2002.

A proposed National Science Foundation grant to study the Eocene fossil floras of California's Sierra Nevada region had finally been approved. This was unexpected, but wondrously exciting news, indeed. Only a year earlier, I had learned that the NSF project had been denied by the "powers that be," as it were. Now, Howard Scborn invited me to accompany him to Lygodium Gulch, the most prolific and easily accessible fossil plant locality in the Ione Basin, to spend a week collecting leaf fossils for the NSF study. Images from the field trip follow.

  • Image #1--Paleobotanist Howard Schorn (retired Collections Manager Of Fossil Plants at the University California Museum Of Paleontology in Berkeley) supervises a backhoe operator at a famous fossil plant locality, Lygodium Gulch, in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin. Image taken on July 30, 2002.
  • Image #2--Two images of paleobotanist Howard Schorn at Lygodium Gulch, Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, California. At this point, we've yet to call in the backhoe operator to help us more efficiently expose the supremely fossiliferous horizon here. Image taken on July 28, 2002.
  • Image #3--Paleobotanist Howard Schorn greets the backhoe operator at Lygodium Gulch, Ione Basin, California. This image was snapped during the late morning of July 30, 2002.
  • Image #4--Paleobotanist Howard Schorn supervises the "first crunch" of the backhoe at wondrously fossiliferous Lygodium Gulch, Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, California. Our equipment operator used superior expertise to entrench the leaf-bearing layer, ripping up plentiful huge blocks of potentially fossiliferous shales for us to split apart. Image snapped on July 30, 2002.
  • Image #5--The backhoe plunges with dynamic power and efficiency into the highly fossiliferous, leaf-bearing shales of the Middle Eocene Ione Formation at Lygodium Gulch, Ione Basin, California. Image snapped on July 30. 2002.
  • Image #6--Our backhoe operator scoops up great quantities of fossiliferous, plant-bearing shale at Lygodium Gulch, Middle Eocene Ione Formation, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Ione Basin, Amador County, California. Image snapped on July 30, 2002.
  • Image #7--Paleobotanist Howard Schorn looks on as our backhoe operator gears up for another plunge into the ever-expanding fossil trench, Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, California. Image snapped on July 30, 2002.
  • Image #8--Paleobotanist Howard Schorn stands in the newly dug fossil quarry in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California--our backhoe operator, with great skill and expertise, entrenched the fossiliferous horizon, carefully dumping in the process enormous quantities of large blocks of leaf-bearing shales all around the perimeter of the dig. Image snapped on July 30, 2002.
  • Image #9--A closeup of the alternating fossiliferous shales and sandstones exposed at the fossil quarry at famous Lygodium Gulch, in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation; the best fossil leaves occur in the thin-bedded, brilliant white, feldspar and biotite-rich shales which are here interbedded with coarser-brained reddish brown sandstones. Image snapped on July 30, 2002.
  • Image #10--The aftermath of our week's collecting expedition. In the distance, paleobotanist Howard Schorn is packing away fossil leaf specimens, readying them for transport back to the archival paleobotanical collections at the University California Museum Of Paleontology in Berkeley. Image was snapped in the mid afternoon of August 1, 2002--our last day of digging at Lygodium Gulch in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation during our week's visit to the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California.

Images Of Field Trip To Ione Basin--October 14, 2002

Click on the image for a larger view. This is a classic, scenically striking geologic contact in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Ione Basin, Amador County, California. The whitish layer in the exposure is a massive, coarse sandstone that represents turbulent floodplain conditions some 48 million years ago during Eocene geologic times. Above that massive white sandstone is a more thinly bedded deposit of feldspar-rich reddish-brown sandstones and shales; probably this too was deposited by rivers that periodically flooded their banks, but the mineral contact of the shales and sandstones is dramatically different than the essentially pure quartz content of the massive white sandstone below. Picture taken October 14, 2002.

I had long-wanted to get father, an Engineering Geologist, out to Lygodium Gulch, to observe first-hand the stratigraphy and geology of the area after paleobotanist Howard Schorn and I had quarried the fossil locality earlier that year, in late July and early August of 2002. Also, I wanted to take some photographs of the local flora. Images from that October 14, 2002, visit follow.

  • Image #1--A classic, scenically striking geologic contact in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Ione Basin, Amador County, California. Image taken October 14, 2002.
  • Image #2-- A typical scrub oak of the Quercus berberidifolia variety growing near the Lygodium Gulch fossil leaf locality, on the harsh, acidic alkaline soils of the Middle Eocene Ione Formation. Image taken on October 14, 2002.
  • Image #3--A close-up of the distinctive foliage and acorns of Quercus berberidifolia, a small, brush-sized variety of scrub oak growing near the Lygodium Gulch fossil leaf locality, on the harsh, acidic alkaline soils of the Middle Eocene Ione Formation. Image taken October 14, 2002.
  • Image #4--A nice specimen of a Digger Pine (also called the Foothill Pine), Pinus sabiniana near the Lygodium Gulch fossil leaf locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Amador County, California. Image snapped on October 14, 2002.
  • Image #5--A brushy clump of Sticky white-leaf manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida, observed near the famous Lygodium Gulch fossil leaf locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation. Image snapped on October 14. 2002.
  • Image #6--A typical, distinctive clump of the rare, protected Ione manzanita, Arctostaphylos myrtifolia observed near the famous Lygodium Gulch fossil leaf locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation. Image snapped on October 14, 2002.
  • Image #7--Several low-lying, distinctive dark-green clumps of the rare, protected Ione manzanita, Arctostaphylos myrtifolia observed near the famous Lygodium Gulch fossil leaf locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation. Image snapped on October 14, 2002.
  • Image #8--My father, an Engineering Geologist, examines a fossil leaf specimen at the Lydodium Gulch quarry in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image snapped on October 14, 2002.

Images Of Field Trip To Ione Basin--October 22, 2002

Click on the image for a larger picture. Close-up of the foliage of the rare, protected Ione manzanita, Arctostaphylos myrtifolia, observed near the famous Lygodium Gulch fossil leaf locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation. The Ione manzanita grows nowhere else on Earth in the wild, save on the extraordinarily harsh, acidic soils weathered from the Eocene Ione Formation within the unique Ione Chaparral botanic association, Ione Basin, Amador County, California. Image snapped on October 22, 2002.

In preparation for a field trip with paleobotanist Howard Schorn and student crews from a Community College and a university, scheduled for October 25-27, 2002, I wanted to return to Lygodium Gulch to clear entangled brush from the path to the fossil locality. Also, I wanted to snap some photographs of the two dominant, local species of manzanitas. Images from that visit on October 22, 2002, follow.

  • Image #1--Close-up of the foliage of the rare, protected Ione manzanita, Arctostaphylos myrtifolia observed near the famous Lygodium Gulch fossil leaf locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation. Image taken October 22, 2002.
  • Image #2-- An overview of the two major varieties of manzanita that inhabit the Ione Chaparral, observed near the famous Lygodium Gulch fossil leaf locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation. Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California: the rare, protected Ione manzanita and the Sticky white-leaf manzanita. Image taken on October 22, 2002.
  • Image #3--Bushy shrubs of the Sticky white-leaf manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida, observed near Lygodium Gulch, one of the great fossil leaf localities in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Ione Basin, Amador County, California. Image taken October 22, 2002.
  • Image #4-Another view of the dramatic, striking geologic contact in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, seen in the previous image--here, brilliant white, massive fluvial (river-deposited) sandstones (mined for their commercial grade content of silica elsewhere in the Ione Basin) underlie thinly bedded reddish-brown shales and sandstones that contain a higher percentage of biotite and feldspar than the white sandstones below. Image snapped on October 22, 2002.
  • Image #5--A look at the two dominant varieties of manzanita in the Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California--as observed in the vicinity of Lygodium Gulch, one of the most significant fossil leaf localities in all of California. Image snapped on October 22. 2002.

Images Of Field Trip To Ione Basin--October 25-27, 2002

Click on the image for a larger view. Students from a Community College and a university help collect fossil leaves from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation at famous Lygodium Gulch during a weekend field trip to the Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. The combined student forces helped increase the numbers of fossil leaves available for a fascinating paleobotanical project sponsored by the National Science Foundation--to study the Eocene floras of the Sierra Nevada district, in order to determine the paleoelevations and paleoclimate of the ancestral Eocene Sierra Nevada. Image taken on October 27, 2002.

Images from the field trip with the combined College-university collecting crews on October 25-27, 2002, follow.

  • Image #1--Students from a Community College and a university help collect fossil leaves from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation at famous Lygodium Gulch during a weekend field trip to the Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image taken October 27, 2002.
  • Image #2--A backhoe operator expands the fossil trench at famous Lydodium Gulch, in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California.Nevada--all in preparation for a joint field trip with student collecting crews from a Community College and a university on October 26 and 27, 2002. Image taken on October 25, 2002.
  • Image #3--A backhoe operator, hired by paleobotanist Howard Schorn, expands the fossil trench at famous Lydodium Gulch, in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California.Nevada--all in preparation for a joint field trip with student collecting crews from a Community College and a university. Image taken October 25, 2002.
  • Image #4--The backhoe in action, expanding dramatically and efficiently the fossil trench at famous Lydodium Gulch, in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California.Nevada--all in preparation for a joint field trip with student collecting crews from a Community College and a university on October 26 and 27, 2002. Image taken on October 25, 2002.
  • Image #5--The collecting crews arrive. Paleobotanist Howard Schorn (right side of image) directs professors and their students from a Community College and a university to the staging area near famous fossil leaf-yielding locality, Lygodium Gulch, Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image taken October 26, 2002.
  • Image #6--Students from a Community College and a university, along with their respective professors, assemble at Lygodium Gulch, a classic fossil leaf-bearing locality in the Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image taken October 26, 2002.
  • Image #7--Students from a Community College and a university, along with their respective professors, assemble at the fossil trench at Lygodium Gulch, a classic fossil leaf-bearing locality in the Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image taken October 26, 2002.
  • Image #8--Students from a Community College and a university, along with their respective professors, get down to business at Lygodium Gulch, one of the great fossil leaf-bearing localities in the Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image snapped October 26, 2002.
  • Image #9--A professor from a university, along with a student and a playful youngster, insects a piece of shale at Lygodium Gulch, one of the great fossil leaf-bearing localities in the Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image snapped October 26, 2002.
  • Image #10--Paleobotanist Howard Schorn, retired Collections Manager Of Fossil Plants at the University California Museum Of Paleontology, observes an eager college student down in the fossil trench at Lygodium Gulch, one of the great fossil leaf-bearing localities in the Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image snapped October 26, 2002.
  • Image #11--Students and their professors from a Community College and a university spread out at famous Lygodium Gulch, one the truly great fossil leaf-bearing localities in the Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image snapped October 26, 2002.
  • Image #12--Students and their professors from a Community College and a university collect fossil plants at famous Lygodium Gulch, one the truly great fossil leaf-bearing localities in the Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image snapped October 26, 2002.
  • Image #13--Students from a Community College and a university begin to wrap for safe transport the abundant fossil plants they had found during the final day of the dig at famous Lygodium Gulch, one the truly great fossil leaf-bearing localities in the Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image snapped October 27, 2002.

Images Of Field Trip To Ione Basin--June 2-3, 2003

Click on the image for a larger picture. Paleobotanist Howard Schorn, retired Collections Manager Of Fossil Plants at the University California Museum Of Paleontology in Berkeley, and geologist Robinson Cecil observe significant outcrops of the Middle Eocene Ione Formation in the Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image snapped on June 3, 2003.

Howard had invited me on the field trip to help Robinson, then a geology student at the University Of Arizona in Tucson, familiarize herself with some leaf-bearing Eocene geologic sections she planned to measure for a National Science Foundation project (co-led by the late paleobotanist Dr. Jack A. Wolfe) to determine the paleoelevations and paleoclimate of the Sierra Nevada during Eocene geologic times, roughly 50 to 45 million years ago. Images from that visit on June 3, 2003, follow.

  • Image #1--Paleobotanist Howard Schorn, retired Collections Manager Of Fossil Plants at the University California Museum Of Paleontology in Berkeley, and geologist Robinson Cecil observe significant outcrops of the Middle Eocene Ione Formation in the Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image snapped on June 3, 2003.
  • Image #2--Paleobotanist Howard Schorn and geologist Robinson Cecil examine outcrops at the Discovery Site (the locality where I first found fossil leaves in the Ione Basin, on July 21, 1991), Middle Eocene Ione Formation, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image taken on June 3, 2003.
  • Image #3--Paleobotanist Howard Schorn, retired Collections Manager Of Fossil Plants at the University California Museum Of Paleontology in Berkeley, and geologist Robinson Cecil examine outcrops of the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image taken June 3, 2003.
  • Image #4--Two well-exposed and prominent rhyolite volcanic "plugs" in the Lower Miocene Valley Springs Formation, Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image snapped on June 3, 2003.
  • Image #5--Geologist Robinson Cecil and paleobotanist Howard Schorn study the fossil quarry at Lygodium Gulch in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image snapped on June 3, 2003.

Images Of Field Trip To Ione Basin--March 8, 2004

Click on the image for a larger picture. Close-up of pinkish flowers on the Sticky white-leaf manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida, growing in the vicinity of Lygodium Gulch, a classic fossil leaf locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image snapped on March 8, 2004.

In early March, 2004, I had heard news reports that the manzanita blooms in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada were especially abundant. That was quite an enticement all by itself, of course. Also, it was undeniably obvious that I had not visited the Ione Basin in roughly 9 months, not since the fabulous field trip on June 3, 2003, with paleobotanist Howard Schorn and geologist Robinson Cecil. Needless to report, I was itching to return to the Ione Basin. For my day's visit on March 8, 2004, I planned to document not only the manzanita blooms in the vicinity of famous Lygodium Gulch, probably the most prolific and accessible of the great fossil leaf localities in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation of the Ione Basin, but also a few of the other fossiliferous sites in the immediate area, as well. Images from that visit on March 8, 2004, follow.

  • Image #1--Close-up of pinkish flowers on the Sticky white-leaf manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida, growing in the vicinity of Lygodium Gulch, a classic fossil leaf locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. . Image snapped on March 8, 2004.
  • Image #2--A close-up of white flowers and leaves on the Sticky white-leaf manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida, growing in the vicinity of Lygodium Gulch, a classic fossil leaf locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image taken on March 8, 2004.
  • Image #3--Blooms and foliage on the rare and protected Ione manzanita, Arctostaphylos myrtifolia, which grows nowhere else in the wild on Earth, except on the harsh, acidic soils developed in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation of the Ione Basin, California. Image taken March 8, 2004.
  • Image #4--Close-up of blooms on the rare and protected Ione manzanita, Arctostaphylos myrtifolia, which grows nowhere else in the wild on Earth, except on the harsh, acidic soils developed in the Ione Formation of the Ione Basin, California. Image snapped on March 8, 2004.
  • Image #5--A close-up of blooms on the Sticky white-leaf manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida, one of the two primary varieties of manzania that inhabits the Ione Chaparral (the other is the rare and protected Ione manzanita, Arctostaphylos myrtifolia)--a unique botanic association of plants which grows nowhere else in the wild on Earth, except on the harsh, acidic soils developed in the Ione Formation of the Ione Basin, California. Image snapped on March 8, 2004.
  • Image #6--A close-up of blooms and foliage on the Sticky white-leaf manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida, one of the two primary varieties of manzania that inhabits the Ione Chaparral (the other is the rare and protected Ione manzanita, Arctostaphylos myrtifolia)--a unique botanic association of plants which grows nowhere else in the wild on Earth, except on the harsh, acidic soils developed in the Ione Formation of the Ione Basin, California. Image snapped on March 8, 2004.
  • Image #7--One of many brilliant blue ponds in the Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. This one lies in a brilliant white, fluviatile (river-deposited), silica-rich sandstone of the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, situated in the vicinity of Lygodium Gulch. Image snapped on March 8, 2004.
  • Image #8--Two views of the same prolific fossil horizon in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image snapped on March 8, 2004.
  • Image #9--A view to a fossil leaf horizon in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image snapped on March 8, 2004.
  • Image #10--A view to a fossil leaf horizon in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Amador County, California. Image snapped on March 8, 2004.

Images Of Field Trip To Ione Basin--March 22, 2004

Click on the image for a larger picture. Exposures of the Middle Eocene Ione Formation in the vicinity of the Discovery Site--so-named because that's where I first found fossil plants in the Ione Basin on July 21, 1991. Grayish-white, unfossiliferous carbonaceous mudstones outcrop below plant-bearing reddish-brown sandstones (roughly middle of picture). At upper left to upper-center, the grass-covered, tree-studded slopes belong to overlying Lower Miocene Valley Springs Formation. Image taken on March 11, 2004.

After my enjoyable day's return to the Ione Basin on May 8, 2004, while the weather still held, I wanted to revisit the vicinity of The Discovery site, to document outcrops of the Middle Eocene Ione Formation. Several of the exposures out that way yielded common to abundant fossil leaves--fossilferous horizons I wanted to examine and photograph, naturally--but, in addition, I also had in mind to document with a camera a number of the representative rock lithologies of the Middle Eocene Ione Formation. Images from that visit on March 11, 2004, follow.

  • Image #1--Grayish-white, unfossiliferous carbonaceous mudstones outcrop below plant-bearing reddish-brown sandstones in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin. Image taken on March 11, 2004.
  • Image #2--A nice outcropping of conglomerate in the Ione Formation. Local gravel beds such as these in the Ione Basin resemble the world-famous auriferous, gold-bearing gravels that occur higher up the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, in the neighborhood of Grass Valley/Nevada City. Image taken on March 11, 2004.
  • Image #3--A prolific fossil leaf locality in the Ione Formation--a specific paleobotanical site that has not yet been scientifically quarried, primarily because of its relative inaccessibility and its occurrence on environmentally sensitive terrain. Image taken on March 11, 2004.
  • Image #4--Close-up of blooms on the wildflower called Indian Paintbrush., growing on exposures of the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin. Image snapped on March 11, 2004.
  • Image #5--An outcrop that demonstrates to great advantage the clay-rich properties of the Ione Formation. Elsewhere in the Ione Basin, several beds in the Ione Formation are mined for their commercial-grade quantities of kaolinite clay. Image taken on March 11, 2004.
  • Image #6--A characteristic outcrop of rather massive sandstones in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, observed in the neighborhood of The Discovery site--so-named because that's the specific locality where I first found fossil plants in the Ione Basin back on July 21, 1991. This particular geologic exposure is unfossiliferous, but does show quite nicely a common kind of rock lithology one often encounters in the Ione Formation of the Ione Basin. Image taken on March 11, 2004.
  • Image #7--One of many peaceful, pastoral ponds, privately owned, that can be found throughout the Middle Eocene Ione Formation of the Ione Basin. Image taken on March 11, 2004.
  • Image #8--An exposure of one of the most prolific leaf-bearing localities in all the Middle Eocene Ione Formation of the Ione Basin. Image taken on March 11, 2004.
  • Image #9--A foot-long geology rock hammer lends perspective to a distinctive and typical outcropping of the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin. Image taken on March 11, 2004.
  • Image #10--A view eastward from the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, Amador County, to the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Image taken on March 11, 2004.
  • Image #11--A highly fossiliferous section of the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin; here occur many well-preserved fossil leaves in grayish-white mudstones and in reddish-brown shales. Several large blocks of shale and mudstone here yielded whole, complete leaves plastered along the bedding planes--specimens that now reside in the archival paleobotany collections at the University California Museum Of Paleontology in Berkeley. Image taken on March 11, 2004.
  • Image #12--One of many peaceful, pastoral, private ponds that can be found throughout the Middle Eocene Ione Formation of the Ione Basin. The owners of this property come here on occasion for family outings. Image taken on March 11, 2004.

Links To The Eocene Epoch Of The Cenozoic Era

It's The Same Division Of Geologic Time During Which The Ione Formation Accumulated

Links To Pages About The Ione Chaparral, Ione Basin, California

It's A Unique Botanic Association That Grows In The Wild Nowhere Else On Earth

Please Note: Some Of These Links Have "Been Around" For Years--Please Let Me Know If You Find A Bad Link

Links To Amador County, California

Places Of Interest On The Net That Pertain To A Great County In California

Links To Pages I Have Created

Paleontology-Related Pages

Web sites I have created pertaining to fossils

  • Fossils In Death Valley National Park: A site dedicated to the paleontology, geology, and natural wonders of Death Valley National Park; lots of on-site photographs of scenic localities within the park; images of fossils specimens; links to many virtual field trips of fossil-bearing interest.
  • Fossil Insects And Vertebrates On The Mojave Desert, California: Journey to two world-famous fossil sites in the middle Miocene Barstow Formation: one locality yields upwards of 50 species of fully three-dimensional, silicified freshwater insects, arachnids, and crustaceans that can be dissolved free and intact from calcareous concretions; a second Barstow Formation district provides vertebrate paleontologists with one of the greatest concentrations of Miocene mammal fossils yet recovered from North America--it's the type locality for the Bartovian State of the Miocene Epoch, 15.9 to 12.5 million years ago, with which all geologically time-equivalent rocks in North American are compared.
  • Fossils At Red Rock Canyon State Park, California: Visit wildly colorful Red Rock Canyon State Park on California's northern Mojave Desert, approximately 130 miles north of Los Angeles--scene of innumerable Hollywood film productions and commercials over the years--where the Middle to Late Miocene (13 to 7 million years old) Dove Spring Formation, along with a classic deposit of petrified woods, yields one of the great terrestrial, land-deposited Miocene vertebrate fossil faunas in all the western United States.
  • Fossil Plants Of The Ione Basin, California: Head to Amador County in the western foothills of California's Sierra Nevada to explore the fossil leaf-bearing Middle Eocene Ione Formation of the Ione Basin. This is a completely undescribed fossil flora from a geologically fascinating district that produces not only paleobotanically invaluable suites of fossil leaves, but also world-renowned commercial deposits of silica sand, high-grade kaolinite clay and the extraordinarily rare Montan Wax-rich lignites (a type of low grade coal).
  • Trilobites In The Marble Mountains, Mojave Desert, California: Take a trip to the place that first inspired my life-long fascination and interest in fossils--the classic trilobite quarry in the Lower Cambrian Latham Shale, in the Marble Mountains of California's Mojave Desert. It's a special place, now included in the rather recently established Trilobite Wilderness, where some 21 species of ancient plants and animals have been found--including trilobites, an echinoderm, a coelenterate, mollusks, blue-green algae and brachiopods.
  • A Visit To Ammonite Canyon, Nevada: Explore one of the best-exposed, most complete fossiliferous marine late Triassic through early Jurassic geologic sections in the world--a place where the important end-time Triassic mass extinction has been preserved in the paleontological record. Lots of key species of ammonites, brachiopods, corals, gastropods and pelecypods.
  • Late Triassic Ichthyosaur And Invertebrate Fossils In Nevada: Journey to two classic, world-famous fossil localities in the Upper Triassic Luning Formation of Nevada--Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park and Coral Reef Canyon. At Berlin-Ichthyosaur, observe in-situ the remains of several gigantic ichthyosaur skeletons preserved in a fossil quarry; then head out into the hills, outside the state park, to find plentiful pelecypods, gastropods, brachiopods and ammonoids. At Coral Reef Canyon, find an amazing abundance of corals, sponges, brachiopods, echinoids (sea urchins), pelecypods, gastropods, belemnites and ammonoids.
  • Fossils From The Kettleman Hills, California: Visit one of California's premiere Pliocene-age (approximately 4.5 to 2.0 million years old) fossil localities--the Kettleman Hills, which lie along the western edge of California's Great Central Valley northwest of Bakersfield. This is where innumerable sand dollars, pectens, oysters, gastropods, "bulbous fish growths" and pelecypods occur in the Etchegoin, San Joaquin and Tulare Formations.
  • Field Trip To The Kettleman Hills Fossil District, California: Take a virtual field trip to a classic site on the western side of California's Great Central Valley, roughly 80 miles northwest of Bakersfield, where several Pliocene-age (roughly 4.5 to 2 million years old) geologic rock formations yield a wealth of diverse, abundant fossil material--sand dollars, scallop shells, oysters, gastropods and "bulbous fish growths" (fossil bony tumors--found nowhere else, save the Kettleman Hills), among many other paleontological remains.
  • A Visit To The Sharktooth Hill Bone Bed, Southern California: Travel to the dusty hills near Bakersfield, California, along the eastern side of the Great Central Valley in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, to explore the world-famous Sharktooth Hill Bone Bed, a Middle Miocene marine deposit some 16 to 15 million years old that yields over a hundred species of sharks, rays, bony fishes, and sea mammals from a geologic rock formation called the Round Mountain Silt Member of the Temblor Formation; this is the most prolific marine, vertebrate fossil-bearing Middle Miocene deposit in the world.
  • Middle Triassic Ammonoids From Nevada: Travel to a world-famous fossil locality in the Great Basin Desert of Nevada, a specific place that yields some 41 species of ammonoids, in addition to five species of pelecypods and four varieties of belemnites from the Middle Triassic Prida Formation, which is roughly 235 million years old; many paleontologists consider this specific site the single best Middle Triassic, late Anisian Stage ammonoid locality in the world. All told, the Prida Formation yields 68 species of ammonoids spanning the entire Middle Triassic age, or roughly 241 to 227 million years ago.
  • Fossil Bones In The Coso Range, Inyo County, California: Visit the Coso Range Wilderness, west of Death Valley National Park at the southern end of California's Owens Valley, where vertebrate fossils some 4.8 to 3.0 million years old can be observed in the Pliocene-age Coso Formation: It's a paleontologically significant place that yields many species of mammals, including the remains of Equus simplicidens, the Hagerman Horse, named for its spectacular occurrences at Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument in Idaho; Equus simplicidens is considered the earliest known member of the genus Equus, which includes the modern horse and all other equids.
  • Fossil Plants At Aldrich Hill, Western Nevada: Take a field trip to western Nevada, in the vicinity of Yerington, to famous Aldrich Hill, where one can collect some 35 species of ancient plants--leaves, seeds and twigs--from the Middle Miocene Aldirch Station Formation, roughly 12 to 13 million years old. Find the leaves of evergreen live oak, willow, and Catalina Ironwood (which today is restricted in its natural habitat solely to the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California), among others, plus the seeds of many kinds of conifers, including spruce; expect to find the twigs of Giant Sequoias, too.
  • Fossils From Pleistocene Lake Manix, California: Explore the badlands of the Manix Lake Beds on California's Mojave Desert, an Upper Pleistocene deposit that produces abundant fossil remains from the silts and sands left behind by a great fresh water lake, roughly 350,000 to 19,000 years old--the Manix Beds yield many species of fresh water mollusks (gastropods and pelecypods), skeletal elements from fish (the Tui Mojave Chub and Three-Spine Stickleback), plus roughly 50 species of mammals and birds, many of which can also be found in the incredible, world-famous La Brea Tar Pits of Los Angeles.
  • Field Trip To Pleistocene Lake Manix, California: Go on a virtual field trip to the classic, fossiliferous badlands carved in the Upper Pleistocene Manix Formation, Mojave Desert, California. It's a special place that yields beaucoup fossil remains, including fresh water mollusks, fish (the Mojave Tui Chub), birds and mammals.
  • Trilobites In The Nopah Range, Inyo County, California: Travel to a locality well outside the boundaries of Death Valley National Park to collect trilobites in the Lower Cambrian Pyramid Shale Member of the Carrara Formation.
  • Ammonoids At Union Wash, California: Explore ammonoid-rich Union Wash near Lone Pine, California, in the shadows of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States. Union Wash is a ne plus ultra place to find Early Triassic ammonoids in California. The extinct cephalopods occur in abundance in the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, with the dramatic back-drop of the glacier-gouged Sierra Nevada skyline in view to the immediate west.
  • A Visit To The Fossil Beds At Union Wash, Inyo County California: A virtual field trip to the fabulous ammonoid accumulations in the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, Inyo County, California--situated in the shadows of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States.
  • Ordovician Fossils At The Great Beatty Mudmound, Nevada: Visit a classic 475-million-year-old fossil locality in the vicinity of Beatty, Nevada, only a few miles east of Death Valley National Park; here, the fossils occur in the Middle Ordovician Antelope Valley Limestone at a prominent Mudmound/Biohern. Lots of fossils can be found there, including silicified brachiopods, trilobites, nautiloids, echinoderms, bryozoans, ostracodes and conodonts.
  • Paleobotanical Field Trip To The Sailor Flat Hydraulic Gold Mine, California: Journey on a day of paleobotanical discovery with the FarWest Science Foundation to the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada--to famous Sailor Flat, an abandoned hydraulic gold mine of the mid to late 1800s, where members of the foundation collect fossil leaves from the "chocolate" shales of the Middle Eocene auriferous gravels; all significant specimens go to the archival paleobotanical collections at the University California Museum Of Paleontology in Berkeley.
  • Early Cambrian Fossils In Western Nevada: Explore a 518-million-year-old fossil locality several miles north of Death Valley National Park, in Esmeralda County, Nevada, where the Lower Cambrian Harkless Formation yields the largest single assemblage of Early Cambrian trilobites yet described from a specific fossil locality in North America; the locality also yields archeocyathids (an extinct sponge), plus salterella (the "ice-cream cone fossil"--an extinct conical animal placed into its own unique phylum, called Agmata), brachiopods and invertebrate tracks and trails.
  • Fossil Leaves And Seeds In West-Central Nevada: Take a field trip to the Middlegate Hills area in west-central Nevada. It's a place where the Middle Miocene Middlegate Formation provides paleobotany enthusiasts with some 64 species of fossil plant remains, including the leaves of evergreen live oak, tanbark oak, bigleaf maple, and paper birch--plus the twigs of giant sequoias and the winged seeds from a spruce.
  • Ordovician Fossils In The Toquima Range, Nevada: Explore the Toquima Range in central Nevada--a locality that yields abundant graptolites in the Lower to Middle Ordovician Vinini Formation, plus a diverse fauna of brachiopods, sponges, bryozoans, echinoderms and ostracodes from the Middle Ordovician Antelope Valley Limestone.
  • Fossil Plants In The Dead Camel Range, Nevada: Visit a remote site in the vicinity of Fallon, Nevada, where the Middle Miocene Desert Peak Formation provides paleobotany enthusiasts with 22 species of nicely preserved leaves from a variety of deciduous trees and evergreen live oaks, in addition to samaras (winged seeds), needles and twigs from several types of conifers.
  • Early Triassic Ammonoid Fossils In Nevada: Visit the two remote localities in Nevada that yield abundant, well-preserved ammonoids in the Lower Triassic Thaynes Formation, some 240 million years old--one of the sites just happens to be the single finest Early Triassic ammonoid locality in North America.
  • Fossil Plants At Buffalo Canyon, Nevada: Explore the wilds of west-central Nevada, a number of miles from Fallon, where the Middle Miocene Buffalo Canyon Formation yields to seekers of paleontology some 54 species of deciduous and coniferous varieties of 15-million-year-old leaves, seeds and twigs from such varieties as spruce, fir, pine, ash, maple, zelkova, willow and evergreen live oak
  • High Inyo Mountains Fossils, California: Take a ride to the crest of the High Inyo Mountains to find abundant ammonoids and pelecypods--plus, some shark teeth and terrestrial plants in the Upper Mississippian Chainman Shale, roughly 325 million years old.
  • Field Trip To The Copper Basin Fossil Flora, Nevada: Visit a remote region in Nevada, where the Late Eocene Dead Horse Tuff provides seekers of paleobotany with some 42 species of ancient plants, roughly 39 to 40 million years old, including the leaves of alder, tanbark oak, Oregon grape and sassafras.
  • Fossil Plants And Insects At Bull Run, Nevada: Head into the deep backcountry of Nevada to collect fossils from the famous Late Eocene Chicken Creek Formation, which yields, in addition to abundant fossil fly larvae, a paleobotanically wonderful association of winged seeds and fascicles (bundles of needles) from many species of conifers, including fir, pine, spruce, larch, hemlock and cypress. The plants are some 37 million old and represent an essentially pure montane conifer forest, one of the very few such fossil occurrences in the Tertiary Period of the United States.
  • A Visit To The Early Cambrian Waucoba Spring Geologic Section, California: Journey to the northwestern sector of Death Valley National Park to explore the classic, world-famous Waucoba Spring Early Cambrian geologic section, first described by the pioneering paleontologist C.D. Walcott in the late 1800s; surprisingly well preserved 540-510 million-year-old remains of trilobites, invertebrate tracks and trails, Girvanella algal oncolites and archeocyathids (an extinct variety of sponge) can be observed in situ.
  • Fossils From The Savage Canyon Formation, Nevada: Images of fossil plants and an insect from a classic Middle Miocene geologic rock formation in Nevada.
  • Petrified Wood From The Shinarump Conglomerate: An image of a chunk of petrified wood I collected from the Upper Triassic Shinarump Conglomerate, outside of Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado.
  • Fossil Giant Sequoia Foliage From Nevada: Images of the youngest fossil foliage from a giant sequoia ever discovered in the geologic record--the specimen is Lower Pliocene in geologic age, around 5 million years old.
  • Some Favorite Fossil Brachiopods Of Mine: Images of several fossil brachiopods I have collected over the years from Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic-age rocks.

United States Geological Survey Papers (Public Domain)

Online versions of USGS publications

Return To Fossils In Death Valley National Park

 Geologic Background

 Legal Issues

Images Of Fossil Plants

Images Of Lignite (Coal)

Images Of Trace Fossils

 Days Of Discovery

Field Trip 10-19-1999

Field Trip 8-19-2000

Field Trip Summer 2002

Field Trip 10-14-2002

Field Trip 10-22-2002

Field Trip 10/25-27/2002

Field Trtp 6-3-2003

Field Trip 3-8-2004

Field Trip 3-11-2004

Links To The Eocene

The Ione Chaparral

Links To Amador County

Web Pages I've Created

My Email Address