Ammonoids At Union Wash, California

248 million year-old fossils in the shadows of Mount Whitney


 Field Trip: Union Wash

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  Images: Ammonoids

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One of the great Early Triassic (roughly 248 million years old) ammonoid localities in North America can be visited at Union Wash near Lone Pine, California, in the shadows of Mount Whitney--at 14,505 feet, the highest point in the contiguous United States. Here can be found roughly two to three dozen species of extinct Ceratites ammonoids (forms that bear a suture pattern intermediate between simple goniatites types and the more complex ammonites varieties) in the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation--cephalopods that in the context of geologic time lived "only" three to four million years after the greatest mass extinction in geologic history, the Permian Period end times of some 252 million years ago when fully 96 percent of all life on Earth died out.

Please Note: Most of the prime fossil localities at Union Wash lie within the federally designated Southern Inyo Mountains Wilderness. This means that, at present, only surface collecting is allowed by the Bureau of Land Management at Union Wash: even under the most lenient of BLM fossil collecting regulations, one must not dig into the strata within a wilderness region (in not a few such federally protected areas, fossil collecting is not permitted to begin with)--only freely eroded, loose fossil specimens may be kept. Also, please understand that the collecting status at Union Wash is subject to sudden change without notice. Always check the local Bureau of Land Management office before attempting to collect fossils at Union Wash; this is an absolute must--permits may soon be required to collect fossils at Union Wash.

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. Union Wash just happens to lie within a northern sector of the Mojave where Valley Fever spores have likely been detected. 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.

BLM Collection Guidelines

If you're planning a visit to the area and want to find out what can and can't be done on Public Lands, check out these two links: Fossils On America's Public Lands and Collecting On Public Lands--they're on-line versions of two handy brochures published by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which graciously granted permision to transcribe the information for use at my web pages.

On-Site Images

Click on the image for a larger picture. Looking eastward to the western slopes of the Inyo Mountains along the route to Union Wash. The reddish-brown rocks along the middle and upper ground belong to the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation (lower slopes) and the Permian Lone Pine Formation of the Owens Valley Group (which yields fusulinids, corals, crinoids, brachiopods and molluscan material farther south in the Darwin area, just west of the Death Valley National Park boundary). Darker rocks seen near the crest of the Inyo Range consist of limestones of the Pennsylvanian Keeler Canyon Formation (bears abundant fusulinds and crinoidal debris).

Click on the image for a larger picture. A view back west to the Sierra Nevada skyline from the boundary with the southern Inyo Wilderness, within which the fabulous Meekoceras beds locality in the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation occur--one must not dig into the strata within a designated Wilderness region; only surface collecting is permitted; the only items that may be kept are loose, freely eroded ammonoids, or chunks of ammonoid-bearing carbonates that have already eroded off of bedrock.

Click on the image for a larger picture. Seekers of Early Triassic paleontology arrive at the parking area at the boundary with the Southern Inyo Wilderness. The view is eastward up Union Canyon Wash. Brownish hills in the immdediate middleground of image are composed of shales and limestones representing the middle member of the Union Wash Formation; distant high peaks at skyline are carved in the Middle to Upper Pennsylavanian Keeler Canyon Formation.

Click on the image for a larger picture. Adventurers of the Early Triassic experience a late afternoon hike near the boundary with the Southern Inyo Mountains Wilderness; view is back westward to the Sierra Nevada skyline.

Click on the image for a larger picture. A collector searches for ammonoids in the classic Meekoceras beds in the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation. The gray limestone bed at the base of the middle member of the Union Wash Formation yields common to locally abundant ammonoids. Because the fossil locality lies within the designated, federally protected Southern Inyo Wilderness, one must collect only loose, freely weathered ammonoids, or chunks of ammonoid-bearing limestones that have already eroded off the bedrock. No digging for specimens is allowed: BLM rules and regulations which must be fully obeyed, or the productive ammonoid area will surely be closed to all unauthorized amateur visitors.

Click on the image for larger pictures. Here is famous Meekoceras beds ammonoid locality at Union Wash. The view is to the prominent ammonoid-bearing limestone "rib" at the base of the Middle Member of the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, where a Meszoica Era cephalopod enthusiast examines fossiliferous carbonate rocks. Strata above and to the left of the fossiliferous grayish limestone hump, which stretches from lower left to upper center of photograph, consist of the Permian Lone Pine Formation of the Owens Valley Group, unfossilferous here, but in the Darwin district farther south the Owens Valley Group produces abundant fusulinids and huge coral heads. Rocks to the right of the Meekoceras limestone "rib" (a bed that averages roughly three to fifteen feet in thickness) belong to the Middle Member of the Union Wash Formation. At this locality, the lower member of the Union Wash Formation is not present--it was either cut out by faulting, or perhaps was never deposited here to begin with.


Click on the images for a larger picture. Left--The view is westward across Owens Valley to the Sierra Nevada skyline. A Triassic Period visitor stands atop one of the thicker sections of the Meekoceras carbonate layer. The Meekoceras beds at Union Wash were discovered in 1896 by pioneering paleontologist Charles Doolittle Walcott during one of his epic expeditions to the Western states in search of fossiliferous Early Cambrian exposures. He eventually donated his collection to cephalopod "guru" James Perrin Smith, who determined that the ammonoids were of Early Triassic geologic age, or approximately 248 million years old by current calibrations of Triassic geo-chronology. Based on the presence of Meekoceras gracilitatus in the fossil collections from Union Wash, Smith assigned the entire fauna to the then recognized Meekoceras zone, a zonation/designation that some ammonoid specialists tried to "ban" in favor of the so-called Tardus and Romunderi Zones. Thankfully, that "idea" fell flat on its proverbial face. Smith published his scientific examination on the ammonoid fauna at Union Wash in 1932 in USGS Professional Paper 167, Lower Triassic Ammonoids of North America. He noted that the most distinctive variety recovered from the limestone layers was Meekoceras gracilitatus. Other genera Smith described include Owenities (four species); Ophiceras (four species); Xenodiscus (four species); Anasibirites (three species); Sturia (two species); Lanceolites (two species--this species is now called Dienoroceras); Clispoceras (two species); Lancanites (two species); and six addtional species of Meekoceras.

Right--This is a view to Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation strata at Union Wash, the noted Parapopanoceras ammonoid zone occurs in this area. Note fossil seeker, for scale, at lower right.

Ammonoid species described from the Parapopanoceras zone include Parapopanoceras haugi, Hungarites vatesi, Paranannites oviformis, Triolites pacifica, Keyserlingites sp. Acrochordiceras inyoense, Xenodiscus bittneri and Xenodiscus multicamaratus. In addition to the ammonoids, a few other fossil varieties have also been described from the horizon. These include an orthocone nautiloid cephalopd, undeterminable pelecypods, and several species of conodonts--minute tooth-like structures, unrelated to modern jaws, that served as a feeding apparatus in an extinct lamprey eel-like organism (seen only in the insoluble residues of Union Wash limestones treated with dilute acetic acid).

Click on the image for a larger picture. A desert adventurer stands in the Early Triassic ammonoid-bearing area of Union Wash, Inyo Mountain, Inyo County, California, with the Sierra Nevada in full view to the west. Ammonoidiferous Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, at left.

Click on the image for a larger picture. An enthusiast of Mesozoic Era paleontology searches for ammonoids in the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation; snow-clad, Pleistocene glacier-gouged Sierra Nevada rises above Owens Valley to the west.

Images Of Fossils

Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation

A Meekoceras gracilitatus (White) ammonoid from the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, Union Wash, Inyo County, California. Specimen is 54mm in diameter. This is the ammonoid for which the famous Meekoceras Beds horizon was named.

An ammonoid from the Meekoceras beds of the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, Union Wash, Inyo County, California--Meekoceras gracilitatus White. The specimen is 30mm in diameter.

An ammonid, Xenodiscus sp., from the Parapopanoceras zone of the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, Union Wash, Inyo County, California. The specimen is 21mm in diameter.

Both sides of the same ammonoid from the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, Meekoceras beds, Union Wash, Inyo County, California. The specimen is 12mm in diameter and is an example of an immature Clypeoceras hooveri Hyatt and Smith, Meekoceras stage.

Ammonoids from the Meekoceras beds of the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, Union Wash, Inyo County, California. Called scientifically, genus Owenites sp. Specimen at left is 40mm in length; ammonoid at right is 35mm in long.


Left to right--An ammonoid from the Meekoceras beds of the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, Union Wash, Inyo County, California. Specimen is 22mm in diameter. Ophiceras sp. Hyatt and Smith.

Right--An ammonoid specimen from the Meekoceras beds of the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, Union Wash, Inyo County, California. The extinct cephalopod is 20mm in diameter. Flemingites aplanatus White.


Left to right--An ammonoid from the Meekoceras beds, Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, Union Wash, Inyo County, California. Meekoceras mushbachanum White. 23mm in diatmeter.

Right--An ammonoid from the Meekoceras beds, Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, Union Wash, Inyo County, California. Called scientifically, Owenites koeneni Hyatt & Smith. 25mm in diameter.

Both sides of the same ammonoid from the Meekoceras beds of the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, Union Wash, Inyo County, California. Specimen is 27mm in diameter. Called scientifically, Flemingites sp.

Images Of Ammonoids In The Public Domain

Ammonoids from plate 3 Ammonoids from plate 9
Ammonoid from plate 3 Ammonoids from plate 10
Ammonoids from plate 5 Ammonoids from plate 14
Ammonoids from plate 6 Ammonoids from plate 17
Ammonoids from plate 6 Ammonoids from plate 18
Ammonoid from plate 6 Ammonoids from plate 39
Ammonoid from plate 7 Ammonoids from plate 40
Here is a series of black and white images from the classic work, Lower Triassic Ammonoids Of North America by James Perrin Smith, United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 167, originally issued in 1932. Smith figured many ammonoids from the lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, including a number of important type specimens collected from the exposures at Union Wash.

Kevin Byland has some nice images of Early Triassic ammonoids at his page, Fossil Cephalopods In Utah

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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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Chalk 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Fossils Along The Loneliest Road In America: Investigate the extraordinary fossil wealth along some 230 miles of The Loneliest Road In America--US Highway 50 from the vicinity of Eureka, Nevada, to Delta in Millard County, Utah. Includes on-site images and photographs of representative fossils (with detailed explanatory text captions) from every geologic rock deposit I have personally explored in the neighborhood of that stretch of Great Basin asphalt. The paleontologic material ranges in geologic age from the middle Eocene (about 48 million years ago) to middle Cambrian (approximately 505 million years old).
  • 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.
  • 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.

US Geological Survey Papers (Public Domain)

Online versions of USGS publications

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