Fossils At Red Rock Canyon State Park, California

Explore the paleontology, geology, and natural wonders of Red Rock Canyon State Park

Contents for Fossils At Red Rock Canyon State Park, California:

 Image: Red Cliffs  Text: Introduction Images: Fossil Bones   Images: Petrified Wood

 Images: Visitor Center  Images: Redrock Canyon  Images: The Badlands Images: Ricardo Campground 

Images: Last Chance Canyon Images: Hagen Canyon Images: Wildflowers Text: Webber Report

 Widgets: Desert Weather Links: My Music Links: My Fossils Pages  Email Address

The world-famous Red Cliffs along Highway 14, at Red Rock Canyon State Park, Kern County, California, backdrop for many Hollywood movies, television shows, videos and commercials. The dramatically colored, geologically sculpted strata belong to the late Miocene Dove Spring Formation of the Ricardo Group, roughly 10 million years old; at the very top is a resistant volcanic tuff breccia. Along the cliff-face, the prominent red bands are channel sandstones, deposited in ancient stream and river channels; the whitish bands represent tuffaceous sandstones, sedimentary material that was subjected to contaminants from volcanic eruptions, ash ejecta; the grayish bands are beds of sandstone that were deposited along great floodplains.

Introduction

Come along on a cyber-visit to world-famous Red Rock Canyon State Park on California's Mojave Desert, which lies roughly 130 miles north of Los Angeles (30 miles north of the town of Mojave)--a noted backdrop for many Hollywood movies, television shows, videos and commercials, including of course an early scene in the first Jurassic Park film by Steven Spielberg (there are clearly no dinosaur remains anywhere near Red Rock Canyon, but Spielberg obviously liked the great desert setting and used it in place of a genuine dinosaur-producing region, such as the badlands of Montana).

Red Rock Canyon State Park in California's El Paso Mountains is a classic desert district of badlands and outrageously colored geologically sculpted strata some 12.5 to 8 million years old, a paleontologically invaluable place that happens to yield the best late Middle Miocene through middle late Miocene (Early Clarendonian through early Early Hemphillian Stages of the Miocene Epoch) vertebrate fossil succession in all the western United States. Some 88 species of fossil plants and animals have been documented from Red Rock Canyon State Park, all collected from what geologists call the Dove Spring Formation of the Ricardo Group. An older, obsolete designation for the fossil-rich strata was the Ricardo Formation. The Dove Spring Formation was deposited primarily by streams, floodplains, lakes, ponds, alluvial outwash, and periodic volcanic activity, which left some 18 distinct layers of volcanic ash and a two basalt flows interbedded in the predominantly sedimentary section.

The fossil floral list from Red Rock Canyon State Park includes eight species of plants known from beautifully preserved petrified woods in what's called the Ricardo Flora (in some cases the wood has been opalized)--a classic late Miocene paleobotanical association roughly 10 million years old whose closest modern representatives now live in the Upper Sonoron zone of the San Jacinto Range between San Jacinto Peak and Santa Rosa Mountains, southern California. From the finer-grained, lake-deposited beds in the Last Chance Canyon district of Red Rock Canyon State Park paleobotanists have identified from the Ricardo Flora such specimens as Black Locust, Mexican pinyon pine, cypress, California live oak, red-root (New Jersey Tea), acacia, desert thorn, and palm (which may have been allied with the modern Washingtonia palm).

Among the vertebrate fossils identified from the late Miocene Dove Spring Formation, abundant skeletal elements have been recovered from animals that lived in diverse paleohabitats. For example, lake and water-loving critters collected from the Ricardo badlands include a small fish (sucker), frogs, toads, three kinds of salamanders, a pond turtle, an extinct goose, an otter and a beaver. Dove Spring Formation animals that would typify a plains-like habitat include ten species of horse, four kinds of camels, two varieties of rhinos, three prongbuck antelopes, a vulture, a pika, two species of ground squirrels, rabbits, deermice and two kinds of extinct proboscidean gomphotheres. Representatives of a brush-land habitat include a peccary, two extinct sheep-like animals called oreodonts, a species of extinct three-toed browsing horse, one ring-tailed cat, a small skunk, a species of short-legged camel, a wolverine, two kinds of weasel-like animals, two varieties of foxes, four different kinds of spiny lizards, a night lizard, a rosey boa, racer snakes, a chipmunk, a hedgehog, two species of gopher-like rodents, two kinds of pocket mice, a bat and three species of small perching birds. Animals that probably frequented areas near permanent bodies of water include two alligator lizards, one species of mole, one kind of small rear-fanged snake and four different types of shrews. And then there are several animals that likely ventured into any kind of habitat they chose to investigate: a very large bear-like animal, six different species of dog, and three large cats, including a saber-tooth.

Today, of course, fossil collecting is not allowed within the boundaries of Red Rock Canyon State Park--except by special permit from the California State Parks authorities, a permit issued solely to individuals with a minimum B.S. degree from an accredited university whose research projects can be verified as authentic by independent investigators.

Please Note: All fossil specimens figured at this web page were spotted well outside the boundaries of Red Rock Canyon State Park on Public Lands, long before the boundaries of Red Rock Canyon were eventually expanded, an act that assimilated into the state park system rich fossil sites that had once existed outside the borders of Red Rock Canyon State Park.

And now for the obligatory words of caution. Endemic to the Mojave Desert of California, including the Las Vegas, Nevada, region by the way, is Valley Fever. This is a potentially serious illness called, scientifically, Coccidioidomycosis, or "coccy" for short; it's caused by the inhalation of an infectious airborne fungus whose spores lie dormant in the uncultivated, harsh alkaline soils of the Mojave Desert. When an unsuspecting and susceptible individual breaths the spores into his or her lungs, the fungus springs to life, as it prefers the moist, dark recesses of the human lungs (cats, dogs, rodents and even snakes, among other vertebrates, are also susceptible to "coccy") to multiply and be happy. Most cases of active Valley Fever resemble a minor touch of the flu, though the majority of those exposed show absolutely no symptoms of any kind of illness; it is important to note, of course, that in rather rare instances Valley Fever can progress to a severe and serious infection, causing high fever, chills, unending fatigue, rapid weight loss, inflammation of the joints, meningitis, pneumonia and even death. Every fossil enthusiast who chooses to visit the Mojave Desert must be fully aware of the risks involved.

Vertebrate Fossils

Here are several images of vertebrate fossils from the late Miocene Dove Spring Formation, El Paso Mountains, Kern County, California. All specimens were spotted a number of years ago on Public Lands in exposures of the Dove Spring Formation that at those dates existed well outside the boundaries of Red Rock Canyon State Park.

Vertebrate fossils from the late Miocene Dove Spring Formation are of legendary paleontological proportions. The fossil list is amazingly diverse: a small fish (sucker), frogs, toads, three kinds of salamanders, a pond turtle, four different kinds of spiny lizards, a night lizard, a rosey boa, racer snakes, two alligator lizards, one kind of small rear-fanged snake, an extinct goose, a vulture, three species of small perching birds, a pika, two species of ground squirrels, rabbits, deermice, a chipmunk, a hedgehog, two species of gopher-like rodents, two kinds of pocket mice, a beaver, an otter, one ring-tailed cat, a small skunk, a wolverine, a bat, ten species of grazing horses, a browsing horse, five kinds of camels, two varieties of rhinos, three prongbuck antelopes, two kinds of extinct proboscidean gomphotheres, a peccary, two extinct sheep-like animals called oreodonts, two kinds of weasel-like animals, two varieties of foxes, a very large bear-like animal, six different species of dog, and three large cats--including a saber-tooth.

A jaw from a Prongbuck Antelope, late Miocene Dove Spring Formation of the Ricardo Group, El Paso Mountain, Kern County, California; in actual size, the specimen is 94mm long. Identified by vertebrate paleontologist Dr. David Whistler.

Petrified Wood

Several images of petrified Black locust wood and palm roots from the late Miocene Dove Spring Formation, El Paso Mountains, California. All specimens were collected from exposures on Public Lands that then existed well outside the boundaries of Red Rock Canyon State Park, Kern County, California. All of the classic, world-famous plant-bearing beds now lie within the expanded borders of Red Rock Canyon State Park and are completely off-limits to all unauthorized collectors who lack a special use permit from the California State Parks authorities, a permit issued solely to individuals with a minimum B.S. degree from an accredited university, whose research projects can be verified as authentic by independent investigators.

The fossil floral list from Red Rock Canyon State Park includes eight species of plants known from beautifully preserved petrified woods in what's called the Ricardo Flora (in some cases the wood has been opalized)--a classic late Miocene paleobotanical association roughly 10 million years old whose closest modern representatives now live in the Upper Sonoron zone of the San Jacinto Range between San Jacinto Peak and Santa Rosa Mountains, southern California. From lake-deposited sandstones in the El Paso Mountains paleobotanists have identified from the Ricardo Flora such specimens as Black Locust, Mexican pinyon pine, cypress, California live oak, red-root (New Jersey Tea), acacia, desert thorn, and palm (which may have been allied with the modern Washingtonia palm).

This is a natural cross-section of a petrified palm root from the late Miocene Dove Spring Formation of the Ricardo Group, collected in Last Chance Canyon on public lands long before that area was assimilated by the expanded borders of Red Rock Canyon State Park. The species of palm from which the specimen came is called scientically, Palmoxylon mohavensis. It reveals excellent preservation of the epidermis (the thin, whitish outer "rind") , cortex (yellowish-orange area) and vascular cylinder (stele--the circular, dark area in roughly the center of the root, with many lighter-colored oval structures). 5mm in actual diameter.

Visitor Center 

Photographs of the Visitor Center at the entrance to Ricardo Campground, Red Rock Canyon State Park, Kern County, California. The center features several dioramas that help to explain the geologic story behind the rocks one sees at Red Rock Canyon State Park; included are display cases that contain actual vertebrate fossils that paleontologists have collected from the late Miocene Dove Spring Formation in the Red Rock Canyon district. Other displays showcase the rich American aboriginal heritage of the El Paso Mountains area. The center is also a great place to purchase books, maps and various brochures that pertain to the Mojave Desert and nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains. The rangers there are very helpful and enthusiastic, eager to share their knowledge of the natural wonders at Red Rock Canyon State Park.

The view is roughly southeast to the Visitor Center complex at Red Rock Canyon State Park, northwestern Mojave Desert, El Paso Mountains, Kern County, California.

Red Rock Canyon

Images of Red Rock Canyon State Park, El Paso Mountains, Kern County, California, as seen along Highway 14 during drives through the park.

A view from a moving vehicle while traveling northbound along Highway 14 through Red Rock Canyon State Park, California. Here, at the turnoff to Ricardo Campground, a resistant volcanic basalt flow caps stratified sedimentary rocks: reddish layers are channel sandstones depositled in streams and rivers; the narrow whitish bands are tuffaceous sandstones that were subjected to volcanic ash airfalls; greenish-gray layers are sandstones that were deposited along great floodplains. The entire exposure lies within the late Miocene Dove Spring Formation of the Ricardo Group.

The Badlands 

Scenes from the 10 million year-old bone-bearing badlands of the late Miocene Dove Spring Formation, El Paso Mountains, Kern County, California.

Here is a view roughly southeastward to typical fossil bone-bearing badlands in the upper portions (youngest phases) of the late Middle to Upper Miocene Dove Spring Formation, El Paso Mountains, Red Rock Canyon State Park, Kern County, California. The fossiliferous strata consist of lacustrine (lake-originated) clay shales, siltstones, sandstones, and limestones with admixtures of volcanic tuff and alluvial gravels. Some 88 species of vertebrate animals have been recovered from the Dove Spring Formation of the Ricardo Group--including fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and scores of mammals. As a matter of fact, the Dove Spring Formation at Red Rock Canyon State Park, California, yields the most complete Early Clarendonian through through Early Hemphillian (roughly 12.5 to 8 million years ago) vertebrate fossil succession in the western United States.

 Ricardo Campground

Scenes from Ricardo Campground at Red Rock Canyon State Park, El Paso Mountains, Kern County, California.

Massive, fantastically eroded fluviatile (river and stream-deposited) sandstones of the late Middle Miocene Dove Spring Formation form a dramatic backbround to the campground at Red Rock Canyon State Park, El Paso Mountains, Kern County, California.

Last Chance Canyon

Images from Last Chance Canyon Last Chance--one of the more famous fossil-bearing exposures of the late Miocene Dove Spring Formation, which has yielded to paleobotanists a classic fossil plant deposit known as the Ricardo Flora. Fossil collecting of any kind in Last Chance Canyon is not permitted, of course, except by special permit issued by the California State Parks authorities, a permit issued solely to individuals with a minimum B.S. degree from an accredited university whose research projects can be fully verified as authentic by independent investigators.

A desert explorer stops along the dirt trail in Last Chance Canyon, Red Rock Canyon State Park, El Paso Mountain, Kern County, California. The wonderfully weathered sandstones of the late Middle Miocene Dove Spring Formation yield enormous quantities of beautifully preserved, silicified and even opalized petrified woods--particularly chunks of wood from a Black Locust (Robinia alexanderi) and palm roots from an extinct palm called scientifically Palmoxylodon mohavensis. Some eight species of fossil plants have been identified from the lacustrine (lake-deposited) geologic facies of the Dove Spring Formation in Last Chance Canyon, including Black Locust, pinyon pine, cypress, evergreen live oak, red-root (New Jersey Tea), acacia, desert thorn and palm.

Hagen Canyon

Images from Hagen Canyon, a major tributary of Red Rock Canyon, proper. Hagen Canyon contains some of the most representative scenery in all the Red Rock Canyon district. The hiking trail begins just west of Highway 14 along the route to Ricardo Campground.

Sandstones and volcanic tuffs of the Middle Miocene Ricardo Group (roughly 10 million years old) are wonderfully exposed in Hagen Canyon, Red Rock Canyon State Park, El Paso Mountain, Kern County, California. Dark rubble at top of image weathers from the remnants of a volcanic basalt flow during Miocene times.

 Wildflowers

California's Red Rock Canyon State Park and the surrounding El Paso Mountains, in general, have long been a favorite place to view wildflowers on the Mojave Desert.

The Mojave Aster, Xylorhiza tortifolia. Photographed during an early Spring visit to Red Rock Canyon State Park, northwestern Mojave Desert, El Paso Mountains, Kern County, California.

The Webber Report

Read pertinent passages from a classic scientific paper by Irma E. Webber, Woods From The Ricardo Pliocene Of Last Chance Gulch, California, Contributions To Paleontology, Carnegie Institute Of Washington Publication 412, issued in September 1933. This is the definitive paleobotanical study of the fossil woods from Last Chance Canyon, Red Rock Canyon State Park, Kern County, California. Many thanks to the Carnegie Institute of Washington for allowing me to include portions of Webber's paper here.

Western Mojave Desert Weather:

Find more about Weather in Mojave, CA
Click for weather forecast

Weather for the town of Mojave. Red Rock Canyon State Park in Kern County lies roughly 25 miles north of Mojave along Highway 14 in the northwestern sector of the Mojave Desert.

Find more about Weather in Ridgecrest, CA
Click for weather forecast

Weather for the community of Ridgecrest, which is about 35 miles northeast of Red Rock Canyon State Park.

Find more about Weather in Palmdale, CA
Click for weather forecast

Weather for the city of Palmdale, which lies around 45 miles south of Red Rock Canyon State Park.

My Other Pages

Music Pages I Have Created

  • The Acoustic Guitar Solitaire Of Inyo: A Cyber-CD: Listen to me play 30 covers of some of my favorite songs on an acoustic 6-string guitar; it's all free music.
  • Beyond The Timberline--A Cyber-CD: Listen to me play 32 selections comprised of covers and original tunes on acoustic 6 and 12-string guitars; it's all free music.
  • The Distant Path--A Cyber-CD: Listen to me play 32 acoustic guitar covers and original compositions; it's all free music.
  • Inyo And Folks--A Musical History--A Cyber-CD: My parents and I play 110 selections; it's all free music.
  • Acoustic Stratigraphy--A Cyber-CD: Listen to me play 34 covers of some of my favorite songs on 6 and 12-string guitars; it's all free music.
  • Back To Badwater--A Cyber-CD: Listen to me play 32 covers and original compositions on 6 and 12-string guitars; it's all free music.
  • For an all-text page that includes all 332 of my guitar mp3 files placed on the Internet, go to All Inyo All The Time. That's where you'll find access to all of my musical selections, in order of their appearance on the Web--from my first Cyber-CD ("The Acoustic Guitar Solitaire Of Inyo") to the last, "The Rarities And Alternate Recordings Of Inyo."
  • Inyo 7--A Cyber CD Listen to me play 30 covers of some of my favorite songs, plus originals (all free music).
  • The Rarities And Alternate Recordings Of Inyo--A Cyber-CD Listen to me play 32 seldom-heard, rare, alternate recordings of some of my previously released tracks.
  • Jump on over to my page It's A Happening Thing--Music From The Year 1967. Includes YouTube (and other sources) links to all songs that charted US Billboard Top 100 in year 1967 (close to a thousand, as as matter of fact), plus links to records that bubbled under US Billboard's Hot 100 charts that year (releases that placed #101 to #135); peruse, too, my extensive personal database of year 1967 music.

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.
  • A Visit To Fossil Valley, Great Basin Desert, Nevada: Take a virtual field trip to a Nevada locality that yields the most complete, diverse, fossil assemblage of terrestrial Miocene plants and animals known from North America--and perhaps the world, as well.
  • 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.
  • Late Pennsylvanian Fossils In Kansas: Travel to the midwestern plains to discover the classic late Pennsylvanian fossil wealth of Kansas--abundant, supremely well-preserved associations of such invertebrate animals as brachiopods, bryozoans, corals, echinoderms, fusulinids, mollusks (gastropods, pelecypods, cephalopods, scaphopods), and sponges; one of the great places on the planet to find fossils some 307 to 299 million years old.
  • 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.
  • Early Cambrian Fossils Of Westgard Pass, California: Visit the Westgard Pass area, a world-renowned geologic wonderland several miles east of Big Pine, California, in the neighboring White-Inyo Mountains, to examine one of the best places in the world to find archaeocyathids--an enigmatic invertebrate animal that went extinct some 510 million years ago, never surviving past the early Cambrian; also present there in rocks over a half billion years old are locally common trilobites, plus annelid and arthropod trails, and early echinoderms.
  • 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.
  • Fossils In Millard County, Utah: Take virtual field trips to two world-famous fossil localities in Millard County, Utah--Wheeler Amphitheater in the trilobite-bearing middle Cambrian Wheeler Shale; and Fossil Mountain in the brachiopod-ostracod-gastropod-echinoderm-trilobite rich lower Ordovician Pogonip Group.
  • Paleozoic Era Fossils At Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California: Visit a productive Paleozoic Era fossil-bearing area near Independence, California--along the east side of California's Owens Valley, with the great Sierra Nevada as a dramatic backdrop--a paleontologically fascinating place that yields a great assortment of invertebrate animals.
  • 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.
  • In Search Of Fossils In The Tin Mountain Limestone, California: Journey to the Death Valley area of Inyo County, California, to explore the highly fossiliferous Lower Mississippian Tin Mountain Limestone; visit three localities that provide easy access to a roughly 358 million year-old calcium carbate accumulation that contains well preserved corals, brachiopods, bryozoans, crinoids, and ostracods--among other major groups of invertebrate animals.
  • 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.
  • Field Trip To A Vertebrate Fossil Locality In The Coso Range, California: Take a cyber-visit to the famous bone-bearing Pliocene Coso Formation, Coso Mountains, Inyo County, California; includes detailed text for the field trip, plus on-site images and photographs of vertebrate fossils.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • For information on what can and cannot be collected legally from America's Public Lands, take a look at Fossils On America's Public Lands and Collecting On Public Lands--brochures that the Bureau Of Land Management has allowed me to transcribe.
  • In Search Of Vanished Ages--Field Trips To Fossil Localities In California, Nevada, And Utah--My fossils-related field trips in full print book form (pdf). 98,703 words (equivalent to a medium-size hard cover work of non-fiction); 250 printed pages (equivalent to about 380 pages in hard cover book form); 27 chapters; 30 individual field trips to places of paleontological interest; 60 photographs--representative on-site images and pictures of fossils from each locality visited.

United States Geological Survey Papers (Public Domain)

Online versions of USGS publications

Return To Fossils In Death Valley National Park, California