Fossils From The Kettleman Hills, California

It's the place to find abundant 4.5 to 2.5 million-year-old fossils

Click on the image for a larger picture. A Google Earth street car perspective (snapped in June, 2016) that I edited and processed through photoshop. Here, a vehicle heads west through the Kettleman Hills, which lie along the western side of California's Great Central Valley, roughly 80 miles northwest of Bakersfield. Fantastically fossiliferous Pliocene-age strata some 4.5 to 2.5 million years old occur along both sides of the road.

The Kettleman Hills Contents:

Introduction  Field Trip: Kettleman Hills Images: Kettleman Hills Fossils  Images: Tulare Fm. Fossils
 Tulare Public Domain Scans Images: San Joaquin Fm. Fossils  San Joaquin Public Domain Scans Etchegoin: Fossils and Scans
Images: Representative Fossils  UCMP YouTube Video  Links: My Pages Bonus Fossils Email Address


Extraordinarily productive Pliocene-age (roughly 4.5 to 2.5 million years old) fossil-bearing beds can be found in the Kettleman Hills, situated along the western side of California's San Joaquin Valley approximately 80 miles northwest of Bakersfield in Kings County. Here, three remarkable geologic rock deposits--the Etchegoin, San Joaquin and Tulare Formations, in ascending order of geologic age (oldest to youngest)--produce a world-famous supply of paleontological treasures, including abundant perfectly preserved sand dollars, gastropods and pelecypods--all of them entombed in sediments deposited within the last great inland sea that periodically inundated California's ancestral Great Central Valley during the Tertiary Period, 66 to roughly 2.5 million years ago--a complex intergrading of marine, estuarine, and fresh water paleoconditions.

Please Note: Unauthorized fossil collecting in the Kettleman Hills is mostly verboten, prohibited. For localities that lie on private property and land held by a well-known oil company, visitors must first secure in writing formal permission from the land owners.

Health Advisory: And now for the obligatory words of caution. Endemic to the Kettleman Hills and the southern San Joaquin Valley of California, in general, 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. 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. All persons who choose to visit the Kettleman Hills and southern San Joaquin Valley must be fully aware of the risks involved.

Here are two representative fossil specimens collected from the Pliocene San Joaquin Formation in the Kettleman Hills. Left to right: A sand dollar, Dendraster coalingaensis; and a pecten, Pecten coalingensis.

Images Of Fossils From The Kettleman Hills

Tulare Formation Fossils

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The Tulare Formation is the youngest of the three geologic rock deposits exposed in the Kettleman Hills; it is predominantly a nonmarine sedimentary accumulation that yields some 33 species of fresh water mollusks--more species of Pliocene fresh water mollusks, as as matter of fact, than any other Pliocene-age nonmarine rock deposit on the Pacific Coast: it produces 23 gastropods and 10 pelecypods, in addition to 136 species of diatoms (a microscopic single-celled variety of algae), two kinds of ostracods, a horse, and miscellaneous fish remains, including the curious "bulbous fish growths"--fossilized bony tumors that afflicted such fresh and estuarine varieties as the weak fish, angel fishes, cod and catfish during Upper Pliocene Tulare times; identical fossil fish growths occur in the underlying San Joaquin and Etchegoin Formations, but they are nowhere as abundant or as well preserved as those recovered from the Tulare. Such "bulbouos fish growth" remains have been found only in the Pliocene strata exposed in the Kettleman Hills of Kings County, California. Click here for a complete faunal list of invertebrate fossil species identified from the Pliocene Tulare Formation in the Kettleman Hills; and go here to check out the complete diatom fossil list from the Tulare.

  Gastropods Fish Growths Pelecypods

 Fossil Snail Image #1

 Bulbous Fish Growth #1

 Fossil Pelecypod #1

 Fossil Snail Image #2

 Bulbous Fish Growth #2

 Fossil Pelecypod #2

 Fossil Snail Image #3

 Bulbous Fish Growth #3

 Fossil Snail Image #4

 Bulbous Fish Growth #4

 Fossil Snail Image #5

 Bulbous Fish Growth #5

 Bulbous Fish Growth #6

 Bulbous Fish Growth #7

Images Of Fossils From The Tulare Formation

In The Public Domain

Here is a series of scans of Tulare Formation fossils originally figured in United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 195, Geology Of The Kettleman Hills Oil Field--Stratigraphy, Paleontology And Structure by W.P. Woodring, Ralph Stewart and R.W. Richards, a classic report originally published in 1940. These are moderately high resolution scans of the original photographs (600dpi), so please be patient while the images load.

And please note that the drop-down menu might not work if Java is disabled on your computer.

San Joaquin Formation Fossils

The Pliocene San Joaquin Formation is one of the most fossiliferous units in all of California: A predominately marine deposit (a few beds, though, do contain nonmarine molluscan and fish remains) that has been subdivided into nine distinct submembers, or units, each of which yields its own distinctive suite of paleontological wealth. From youngest to oldest, the units consist of: (1), the Upper Mya Zone (named for the most distinctive fossil present, the pelecypod Genus Mya)--contains 17 species of fossils, including a bryozoan, five gastropods, nine pelecypods, a barnacle and a horse tooth fragment (view the complete faunal list from this member); (2) strata between Upper Mya Zone and the Acila Zone--yields nine species of fossils, including two sand dollars, a bryozoan, five pelecypods, and a barnacle (check out the compete fauna list from this member); (3) the Acila zone, named for an abundant variety of pelecypod--contains 35 species of fossils--three sand dollars, 15 gastropods, 15 pelecypods, a barnacle, and unidentified shark teeth; (4) Strata Between the Acila Zone and Pecten Zone--yields four species of pelecypodal bivalves, plus horse teeth fragments (click here to see the entire faunal list); (5) Pecten Zone (that's the formal name for unit 5, but the Trachycardium Zone is also usually associated with the Pecten Zone, since both members occur in such close stratigraphic proximity)--contains one of the most amazing accumulations of Cenozoic fossils on the West Coast: yields 80 species of fossils, including a coral, worm tubes, four sand dollars, an unidentified bryozoan, a brachiopod, 24 gastropods, 35 pelecypods, an unidentified ostracod, a barnacle, fish remains (sharks, bony fish teeth, "bulbous fish growths," and sting ray caudal spines), a turtle, a bird (cormorant), a beaver teeth, mastodon post cranial skeletal elements and molars, distal end of a peccary humerus, horse teeth, camel astragalus, distal end of a deer cannon bone, plus two kind of unidentified bones (view the entire fossil faunal list); (6) Strata Between Pecten and Neverita Zones--yields 11 species of invertebrate fossils: four gastropods and 7 pelecypods, plus three kinds of terrestrial plants (a willow, pepper wood, and a sycamore)--view the complete faunal list at this link-- and 78 species of diatoms, a variety of single-celled, microscopic algae (take a look at the fossil diatom list); (7) Neverita Zone, named for a distinctive and beautiful variety of gastropod--yields 29 species of invertebrate and vertebrate remains: three sand dollars, two bryozoans, 8 gastropods, 12 pelecypods, "bulbous fish growths," a porpoise, a whale, and an eared seal (check out the entire fossil faunal listing)--in addition to 56 species of diatoms (see the complete diatom list); (7) Strata Between Neverita Zone and Cascajo Conglomerate--contains 14 species of fossils, including a sand dollar, two gastropods, 8 pelecypods, two ostracods, and unidentified fish bones (check out the entire faunal listing); (9) Cascajo Conglomerate, the oldest recognized member of the Pliocene San Joaquin Formation--yields 45 species of invertebrate and vertebrate remains: a coral, four sand dollars, a brachiopod, 12 gastropods, 18 pelecypods, two barnacles, "bulbous fish growths," fish plates-spines-and vertebrae, a horse tooth, a porpoise and an eared seal (view the whole faunal list)--in addition to some 22 species of terrestrial plants derived from a delta-floodplain paleoenvironment, a flora that includes such types as avocado, sycamore, cottonwood, oak, willow, alder, elm and hackberry.

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 Clams  Oysters  Pectens  Snails Sand Dollars
 Fossil Clam #1

 Fossil Oyster #1

 Fossil Pectens #1

 Fossil Snails #1

 Sand Dollars #1
 Fossil Clam #2

 Fossil Oyster #2

 Fossil Pectens #2

 Sand Dollars #2
 Fossil Clam #3

 Fossil Oyster #3

 Fossil Pectens #3

Sand Dollar #3
 Fossil Clam #4  

 Fossil Pectens #4

 Fossil Pectens #5

Images Of Fossils From The San Joaquin Formation

In The Public Domain

Here is a series of scans of San Joaquin Formation fossils originally figured in United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 195, Geology Of The Kettleman Hills Oil Field--Stratigraphy, Paleontology And Structure by W.P. Woodring, Ralph Stewart and R.W. Richards, a classic report originally published in 1940. These are moderately high resolution scans of the original photographs (600dpi), so please be patient while the images load.

And please note that the drop-down menu might not work if Java is disabled on your browser.

Etchegoin Formation Fossils

The Lower Pliocene Etchegoin Formation (roughly 4.5 to 3.5 million years old) is certainly the oldest geologic rock deposit exposed at the surface in the Kettleman Hills, a predominantly marine section, although there are a few horizons that reveal fresh to brackish water fossil faunas; and it's a world-class producer of abundant, perfectly preserved sand dollars of the Dendraster gibbssi variety--an attractive, striking echinoid type that finds its way into the inventories of commercial fossil companies world-wide (except for roadcoats, of course, much of the fossiliferous geologic section in the Kettleman Hills is privately owned by a well-known petroleum company, whose explicit permission must be secured prior to stepping on their property); but that's not all, naturally. In addition to an almost inexhaustible supply of beautiful echinoids, the Etchegoin Formation produces stunning pectens, huge intact pelecypodal bivalves of numerous varieties, prolific gastropods of exquisite preservation, bryozoans, barnacles, corals, fish remains, marine mammal bones, and even terrestrial mammalian remains, among others.

Geologists have subdivided the Etchegoin exposed in the North Dome area (that porton of the Kettleman Hills which extends from a short distance north of Avenal south to roughly State Route 41) into several members, or zones, based primarily on the distinctive fossil remains recovered from each successive level of strata. The youngest member, just below the overlying San Joaquin Formation, is called "Strata Overlying Littorina Zone," which yields stunning, huge shells of the pelecypod Mya preserved upright in their original growth positions; also present are layers of fresh water gastropods and pelecypods (Amnicola and Adodonta, respectively), in addition to fossil leaves of a willow, called Salix coalingensis Dorf. Underlying that horizon is the Littorina Zone, which yields three species of gastropods and six varieties of pelecypods (take a look at the complete faunal listing). The third youngest zone is called "Strata between Littorina Zone and Upper Pseudocardium Zone," a rather thin section of sandy silt and silty clay that bears a gastropod (Calytraea) and two pelecypods (Mya and Pseudocardium)--it is not sensationally fossiliferous, though, at least not when compared with the geologic unit that immediately underlies it, the famous "Upper Pseudocardium Zone (Upper Mulinia Zone)," the first outrageously fossiliferous deposit in the Etchgoin, which yields an echninoid, 10 species of gastropods, and 16 species of pelecypods, including the stunning Pseudocardium, a huge clam that occurs in wild abundance (check out the entire faunal list). Underlying that unit is what geologists have named the "Strata Between Upper Pseudocardium Zone And Siphonella Zone, which consists of about 45 to 80 feet of generally nonfossilferous sandstone, although such remains as Pseudocardium, sand dollars and even mastodon bones have been recovered from a blue conglomerate that locally cuts out this particular member in the exposed geologic section. Below that layer is another Kettleman Hills world-class fossil-producing unit, the much-investigated (by both amateurs and professional paleontology enthusiasts) Siphonalia Zone, a member that contains two species of sand dollars (the highly prized Dendraster gibbsii, in particular), 18 kinds of gastropods, 30 types of pelecypods, a barnacle, the curious "bulbous fish growths," land mammals (mastodon and horse), miscellaneous bones from marine mammals, and even six species of terrestrial plants (take a look at the entire faunal and floral listing). Next oldest horizon, or member, is the Macoma Zone, named for a distinctive and very attractive type of pelecypod; the member yields a sand dollar, 6 species of gastropods, 14 varieties of pelecypods, a barnacle, decopod crustaceans, turtle fragments, a small horse, and such marine mammals as a porpoise, sea lion and a whale (for a look at the complete faunal list, click here). Directly below the Macoma Zone lies what geologists call the Patinopecten Zone, named for a very attractive, large species of scallop shell--it is yet another world-class deposit, yielding innumerable fossil specimens in what can only be termed a practically perfect state of geologic preservation; among the fossils recovered from the zone are two species of echinoids, 10 kinds of gastropods, 24 types of pelecypods, two barnacles, the unusual "bulbous fish growths," horse and deer bones, and various marine mammal skeletal elements (check out the whole faunal listing). Lying directly below that layer is a geological unit called "Strata Underlying Patinopecten Zone", which consists of about 100 feet of brown silt and sand that contains a fauna similar to that found in the horizon immediately above it, but also includes prominent barnacle reefs; it is the oldest unit exposed in the North Dome region.

In the Middle and South Domes (which extend several miles south of State Route 41), the Etchegoin has again been subdivided into distinct subunits, or members--the youngest of which has been termed the "Strata Overlying Pseudocardium-Anadara Zone," a unit consisting of about 50 feet of silt and silty clay that contains locally abundant Mya and Macoma shells. Directly below that horizon is a member termed the Pseudocardium-Anadara Zone, which produces two species of gastropods and four kinds of pelecypods (see the entire faunal listing). Older still is the member, "Strata Underlying Pseudocardium-Anadara Zonem," which bears a gastropod, six pelecypods, a mastodon, horse, an Artiodactyl, a camel, and an eared seal, plus 42 species of diatoms (take a look at the whole faunal and floral listing). The oldest section of the Etchegoin in the Middle and South Dome region has been named the "Lower Part Of The Etchegoin Formation" (that's appropriate enough, one must conclude)--it yields a bryozoan, six types of gastropods, 14 pelecypods, a barnacle, in addition to 29 species of diatoms (examine the entire faunal and floral list).

Etchegoin Formation Fossils

Sand Dollar




Images Of Fossils From The Etchegoin Formation

In The Public Domain

Here is a series of scans of San Joaquin Formation fossils originally figured in United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 195, Geology Of The Kettleman Hills Oil Field--Stratigraphy, Paleontology And Structure by W.P. Woodring, Ralph Stewart and R.W. Richards, a classic report originally published in 1940. These are moderately high resolution scans of the original photographs (600dpi), so please be patient while the images load.

And please note that the drop-down menu might not work if Java is disabled on your browser.

Bonus Paleontological Material

Fossils from the vicinity of the Kettleman Hills

Water Beetle 

 Sand Dollars

 Giant Oyster

Turritellas; Barnacles

 Turritella Snails

University California Museum of Paleontology YouTube Video
For an excellent overview of several fossil faunal zones in the Kettleman Hills, California, visit a YouTube presentation by Dr. Lisa White of the University California Museum of Paleontology: Kettleman Hills Geologic Formations and Zones. Used here under the terms of the Creative Commons license.

My Other Pages

Music-Related Pages

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 Barstovian 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. Yields insects, leaves, seeds, conifer needles and twigs, flowering structures, pollens, petrified wood, diatoms, algal bodies, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, bird feathers, fish, gastropods, pelecypods (bivalves), and ostracods.
  • 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.
  • Cambrian And Ordovician Fossils At Extinction Canyon, Nevada: Visit a site in Nevada's Great Basin Desert that yields locally common whole and mostly complete early Cambrian trilobites, in addition to other extinct organisms such as graptolites (early hemichordate), salterella (small conical critter placed in the phylum Agmata), Lidaconus (diminutive tusk-shaped shell of unestablished zoological affinity), Girvanella (photosynthesizing cyanobacterial algae), and Caryocaris (a bivalved crustacean).
  • 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).
  • Ice Age Fossils At Santa Barbara, California--Journey to the famed So Cal coastal community of Santa Barbara (about a 100 miles north of Los Angeles) to explore one of the best marine Pleistocene invertebrate fossil-bearing areas on the west coast of the United States; that's where the middle Pleistocene Santa Barbara Formation yields nearly 400 species of pelecypod bivalve mollusks, gastropods, chitons, scaphopods, pteropods, brachiopods, bryozoans, corals, ostracods (minute bivalve crustaceans), worm tubes, and foraminifers.
  • 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.
  • Fossil Plants In The Neighborhood Of Reno, Nevada: Visit two famous fossil plant localities in the Great Basin Desert near Reno, Nevada--a place to find leaves, seeds, needles, foilage, and cones in the middle Miocene Pyramid and Chloropagus Formations, 15.6 and 14.8 to 13.3 million years old, respectively.
  • Dinosaur-Age Fossil Leaves At Del Puerto Creek, California: Journey to the western edge of California's Great Central Valley to explore a classic fossil leaf locality in an upper Cretaceous section of the upper Cretaceous to Paleocene Moreno Formation; the plants you find there lived during the day of the dinosaur.
  • 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.
  • Plant Fossils At The La Porte Hydraulic Gold Mine, California: Journey to a long-abandoned hydraulic gold mine in the neighborhood of La Porte, northern Sierra Nevada, California, to explore the upper Eocene La Porte Tuff, which yields some 43 species of Cenozoic plants, mainly a bounty of beautifully preserved leaves 34.2 million years old.
  • 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.
  • Fossil Plants At The Chalk Bluff Hydraulic Gold Mine, California: Take a field trip to the Bluff hydraulic gold mine, western foothills of California's Sierra Nevada, for leaves, seeds, flowering structures, and petrified wood from some 70 species of middle Eocene plants.
  • Field Trip To The Alexander Hills Fossil District, Mojave Desert, California: Visit a locality outside the southern sector of Death Valley National Park to explore a paleontological wonderland that produces: Precambrian stromatolites over a billion years old; early skeletonized eukaryotic cells of testate amoebae over three-quarters of billion years old; early Cambrian trilobites, archaeocyathids, annelid trails, arthropod tracks, and echinoderm material; Pliocene-Pleistocene vertebrate and invertebrate faunas; and late middle Miocene camel tracks, petrified palm wood, petrified dicotlyedon wood, and permineralized grasses.
  • 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.
  • Fossil Plants, Insects And Frogs In The Vicinity Of Virginia City, Nevada: Journey to a western Nevada badlands district near Virginia City and the Comstock Lode to discover a bonanza of paleontology in the late middle Miocene Coal Valley Formation.
  • 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.
  • High Sierra Nevada Fossil Plants, Alpine County, California: Visit a remote fossil leaf and petrified wood locality in the Sierra Nevada, at an altitude over 8,600 feet, slightly above the local timberline, to find 7 million year-old specimens of cypress, Douglas-fir, White fir, evergreen live oak, and giant sequoia, among others.
  • 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.
  • Late Miocene Fossil Leaves At Verdi, Washoe County, Nevada: Explore a fascinating fossil leaf locality not far from Reno, Nevada; find 18 species of plants that prove that 5.8 million years ago this part of the western Great Basin Desert would have resembled, floristically, California's lush green Gold Country, from Placerville south to Jackson.
  • 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

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