Text: Field Trip Images: On-Site Images: Ammonoids Links: My Web Pages Email

A Visit To The Fossil Beds At Union Wash, California

Find 248 million year-old ammonoids in the shadows of the Sierra Nevada

Field Trip To Union Wash, California

Numerous 248 million year-old ammonoids can be found in the shadows of Mount Whitney--at 14,505 feet the highest point in the contiguous United States--near Lone Pine, California. The extinct cephalopods occur at Union Wash along the western flanks of the Inyo Mountains, directly east of the mighty Sierra Nevada, whose impressive ice-sculpted peaks dominate the western skyline. At Union Wash, which happens to be one of the major drainage courses for the western slopes of the Inyos, geologists have identified more than 2,300 feet of Early Triassic strata belonging to the appropriately named Union Wash Formation. Within this thick and relatively undeformed sequence of marine-originated siltstones, mudstones, shales and limestones, ammonoids are common to locally abundant at three separate horizons--cephalopods that in the context of geologic time chronology lived "only" three to four million years after the most devastating extinction event Earth has ever survived: The traumatic Permian end times of some 252 million years ago when fully 81 percent of all marine life and 70 percent of terrestrial vertebrates died out.

Today, while each fossil-bearing layer is currently accessible to interested amateur collectors, the most famous and prolific ammonoid-rich area does happen to lie within the designated Southern Inyo Wilderness, established in December 1978.

But that is of course no serious impediment to interested individuals wishing to experience an opportunity to explore a world-class fossil region that contains the remains of marine life that helped re-colonize a world devastated by the Permian end time extinction event. Which is to say that visitors to the Southern Inyo Wilderness territory at Union Wash may of course continue to explore that most prolific celebrated cephalopod horizon--called by ammonoid enthusiasts worldwide the Meekoceras beds (named for the most characteristic species present)--but those who choose to investigate the extensive fossil deposit (hiking is required to reach it, since motor vehicles are not allowed to enter a designated, federal wilderness area) must not remove specimens from the bedrock deposits; only freely weathered ammonoids and chunks of fossiliferous rock already eroded off the exposed strata may be collected by unauthorized visitors.

Always check with the local rangers, though, before collecting even surface paleontological specimens within a formally established Wilderness region: most places that have been placed into that kind of federal protection program are completely off-limits to any manner of fossil gathering. In order to conduct a formal paleontological dig at Union Wash--removing ammonoid-bearing material from the bedrock for scientific study--one must secure a special-use permit issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or US Forest Service, depending on which agency administers the geography under study. Without exception, the permit is granted solely to individuals with a minimum B.S. degree from an accredited university, or a formally recognized museum that is registered to curate fossil specimens, whose research projects can be fully verified as authentic by the petitioned authorities.

Even though it is not as widely exposed, or nearly as fossiliferous as the justifiably famous Meekoceras ammonoid beds, a second major ammonoid horizon at Union Wash also continues to provide amateur cephalopod seekers and professional invertebrate paleontologists with loads of identifiable fossil specimens--the so-called Neopopanoceras zone (originally called the Parapopanoceras zone), which at last field check occurs outside the Southern Inyo Wilderness boundaries in the upper member of the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation (youngest periods of deposition), a dominantly calcium carbonate interval probably precipitated in relatively shallow waters. A third cephalopod-yielding layer, situated stratigraphically between the older Meekoceras beds and the younger Neopopanoceras zone, yields rather common ammonoids preserved primarily as poorly preserved flattened impressions along the bedding planes of fine-grained shales that currently outcrop within the Southern Inyo Wilderness area.

The most abundant ammonoid encountered in the Neopopanoceras zone is the species for which the layer was named, Neopopanoceras haugi (formerly called Parapopanoceras haugi). Closely resembling a diminutive gastropod, Neopopanoceras ammonoids typically measure only a few millimeters in diameter and are most efficiently examined under powers of 10X or greater magnification. Additional readily identifiable ammonoids described from the interval include Keyserlingites pacificus, Goricanites noblei, Pseudacrochordiceras inyoense, Eodanubites (Dumitricaceras) judae, Courtilloticeras stevensi, Inyoceras bittneri, Courtilloticeras stevensi, Hungarites vatesi, Paranannites oviformis, Trilolites pacifica, Keyserlingites (sp.), Acrochorduceras inyoense, Xenodiscus bittneri and Xenodiscus multicamaratus. In addition to the ammonoids, a few other fossil varieties have also been described from the Neopopanoceras horizon. These include an orthocone nautiloid cephalopod related to Orthoceras sp., 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 organim (seen only in the insoluble residues of Union Wash limestones treated with dilute acetic acid).

The first paleontologist to study the Neopopanoceras zone at Union Wash was Triassic ammonoid specialist James Perrin Smith, who published his findings in 1914 in the classic monograph Middle Triassic Marine Invertebrate Faunas Of North America, United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 83; in a preliminary statigraphic overview of Triassic ammonoids from the western United States, originally issued on July 29, 1904, Smith wrote that a Mr. H. W. Turner had discoverd the Neopopanoceras beds at Union Wash in 1899--mentioning, too, that in 1900 and 1903 he'd accompanied Turner to collect additional ammonoid material from the cephalopodicly important Union Wash horizon. Smith concluded that the Neopopanoceras ammonoid fauna, while similar to forms recognized from the Mediterranean region, most closely resembled species already described from localities in the Arctic and India. Smith believed that the beds were lowermost Middle Triassic in geologic age, but more recent paleontological studies indicate that this is not the case, that the Neopopanoceras zone actually lies at the very top of the Early Triassic, approximately 248 million years old, yielding siginficant specimens of Spathian Stage Early Triassic times.

After investigating the moderately prolific Neopopanoceras zone in Union Wash, it's time for a trip farther on down section, into even older portions of the lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, to visit the world famous Meekoceras beds.

Although ammonoids are conspicuously prevalent in the Meekoceras-bearing horizon, through roughly 14 to 15 feet of grayish limestone (calcium carbonate) at the base of the middle member of the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation (probably deposited in moderately deep waters), not all sections of the important cephalopod zone are abundantly fossiliferous. Most of the fossils are preserved in localized concentrations as fragmentary and complete calcium carbonate steinkerns of the original invertebrate animals. But be sure to collect only loose fossil specimens and chunks of fossiliferous limestone that have already weathered out of the ammonoid-bearing bed. Unless you've secured the necessary BLM (Bureau of Land Management) or US Forest Service collection permit, don't conduct any digging into bedrock within the federally designated Southern Inyo Wilderness Area.

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. Which means, ultimately, that Walcott--one of the most observant and successful field paleontologists in all of human history (he who discovered the world-famous middle Cambrian soft-bodied Burgess Shale fauna of Canada, for example)--actually walked right by those younger Neopopanoceras beds in Union Wash, failing to note the ammonoid-bearing zone that H. W. Turner would eventually discover in 1899. Walcott subsequently donated his collection from Union Wash to James Perrin Smith, who determined that the ammonoids were of Early Triassic geologic age, or roughly 248 million years old. Based on the presence of Meekoceras gracilitatus in the fossil collections from Union Wash, Smith assigned the entire fauna to the formally recognized Meekoceras zone, a major cephalopod horizon known from several localities around the globe, such as the Arctic Circle, Siberia, Japan, China, Timor, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Madagascar, the northern Caucasus Mountains and the former Yugoslavia. The Meekoceras beds have also been identified at a handful of correlative sites in the United States, including northeastern Nevada, southeastern Idaho and northern Utah. Of Early Triassic Smithian Stage stratigraphic age, it is in fact the oldest Mesozoic ammonoid bed yet discovered in North America, and is the third-oldest known from that geologic age in the world. Only the Otoceras and Genodiscus ammonoid zones precede it in the worldwide stratigraphic record of the Triassic Period, the oldest division of the Mesozoic Era.

Smith published his findings 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 Union Wash limestone layers was Meekoceras gracilitatus, the species for which the zone was originally named in the first place. Other genera described from Smith's Meekoceras bed at Union Wash include Ophiceras (four species); Owenites (four species); Xenodiscus (four species); Anasibirites (three species); Sturia (two species); Lanceolites (two species); Clypeoceras (two species); Lecanites (two species); Inyoites; Proptychites; Aspenites; Flemingites; Pseudosageceras; Prophingites; Danubites; Juvenites; and six additional species of Meekoceras. Smith concluded that most of the ammonoid species at Union Wash showed close affinities to similar types recovered from localities in India and Timor; hence, he concluded they are Asiatic varieties, while the younger Neopopanoceras zone (Smith called it the Parapopanoceras zone) yields species that are more closely related to types discovered in the Arctic and Asia, with only a general similarity to the well-known Early Triassic faunas of the Mediterranean region.

Union Wash remains one of the great Early Triassic localities in North America. It's a place where at least three distinct fossiliferous horizons yield a rich association of 248 million year-old cephalopods. Even though the incredibly productive Meekoceras beds presently lie within a federally protected wilderness area, both amateurs and professional paleontologists may still hike to it and find plenty of ammonoids to take home--remembering of course to keep only loose, freely eroded specimens; don't dig into the strata within a wilderness zone without a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) or National Forest Service collecting permit.

While finding ammonoids at Union Wash, it is inspiring to gaze back westward to the Sierran skyline across the Owens Valley, watching the glacier-incised canyons take on crevasse-like shadowing as the sun dips below snowy peaks whose elevations average over 14,000 feet--a great mountain range born from Jurassic-age batholithic magmatic intrusions of liquid rock, some 100 million years younger than the Early Triassic ammonoids you hold in your hand, cephalopodic specimens that helped repopulate a world gone mostly dead after the end time Permian of 252 million years ago.

On-Site Images

The view is east to the Inyo Mountains at the mouth of Union Wash; the stratified reddish-brown and grayish rocks in foreground and along the slopes at middle left of the image represent limestones and shales of the ammonoid-bearing lower Triassic Union Wash Formation; grayish strata along skyline at middle and upper left are carbonate rocks that lie within the middle to upper Pennysylvanian Keeler Canyon Formation, which yields many species of fusulinids (an extinct single-celled animal that secreted a distinctive football to wheat-shaped shell), crinoid stems, bryozoans and brachiopods.

A view back westward across Owens Valley to the Sierra Nevada from Union Wash, where common to locally abundant ammonoids occur at two major fossil horizons in the lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, some 248 million years old. Slope at left foreground consists of limestones and shales of the lower Triassic Union Wash Formation.

An adventurer of the Triassic Period examines sedimentary material (mainly shale in this portion of the stratigraphic section) in the ammonoid-bearing Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation at Union Wash, Inyo County, California.

Ammonoids From Union Wash

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. The locality presently lies within the Southern Inyo Wilderness area, so paleontologic remains observed there must not be removed from bedrock exposures without a special use permit issued by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) or US Forest Service, a permit provided solely to individuals with a minimum B.S. degree from an accredited university whose research projects can be fully verified as authentic by the petitioned authorities. Without such a permit, visitors must restrict fossil collecting activitites to freely eroded ammonoids and loose chunks of fossiliferous limestone, already weathered out of the bedrock.

An ammonid, Xenodiscus sp., from the Neopopanoceras zone of the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, Union Wash, Inyo County, California. The specimen is 21mm in diameter. At last field check, the locality still lies outside the Southern Inyo Wilderness area; always check with the local BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and US Forest Service rangers to secure the most recent information regarding hobby fossil collecting at Union Wash.

My Web Pages

Music Pages

Web sites I have created pertaining to 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 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 I've created

Return To Ammonoids At Union Wash, California