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Paleo detective.

This trip is about a mystery. A story of fossils lost, and then found. It started when I lived in Florida a few years back. I had temporarily moved in with my parents to help out while my mother recovered from an illness. After a few months I read about a local fossil club and decided to check it out. With one TV in the house, and a father in control of the remote control, I was desperate to find some sort of entertainment. The meeting was enough to spark my collecting spirit again. At first I was content to see the interesting fossils brought to the meeting each month. Then, as my mother became better, I would venture out to find my own treasures. The creeks and Peace River were a logical place to start and I really enjoyed the peaceful canoe trips sponsored by the club. But as I became better at collecting I decided to branch out and find my own sites. My wife had started a job at a local property assessment office. They had a lot of topological and Ariel photos of most of the surrounding counties. I had once read about the phosphate mining around Charleston, SC after the Civil War. Many of the fossils found from these open pits were housed in museums. It appeared that if you found large phosphate beds you would find fossils. So when I read about the old phosphate mines locally I decided to investigate. Sorting trough old maps I eventually discovered the locations of several old pits. I also discovered that the phosphate from these pits were shipped down the Peace River by barge. I went to the county where they were located. After going through old archives I found where the pits and docks were exactly located. I talked to the owner of one of the properties to see if the pits still existed. Unfortunately, they had been back filled during the 1920s and were now covered with large oak trees. It was then that I got my next big clue. The landowner was a member of a family that had owned the property for over 80 years. He told me that the phosphate was hauled down to the river not far away and loaded onto barges. He then told me about the fossils. He said his relatives would find a lot of fossils with the phosphate. Since they were the same color as the phosphate they would include them in the shipment. Since they were paid by the ton this added a little extra money to their pockets. But the company got wise after a while and started sending additional helpers with the barges. It was their job to sort through the phosphate and eliminate the fossils before the phosphate was weighed. So where did the fossils go? Into the river next to the dock to prevent them from being slipped into the next load! With this information I planned a trip to the river in hope of finding the old pier. It took three trips to finally discover a partly exposed piling. It was about ten feet from the river and had been covered years ago when the river changed course. A sandbar had removed all evidence that could be seen from the river. With my four foot probe I worked my way back and forth along the bank. Several feet into the bank I felt that old, familiar thunk that comes from petrified bone. A little digging revealed a solid mass of fossils and small phosphate pebbles. It was over three feet thick! My detective work had paid off big and I was rewarded with thousands of great fossils over the next year from this site. A few trusted friends, and paleontologists, have shared my secret site. But since I moved back to South Carolina it has remained a guarded secret. Mystery solved! Don't ask!
Location Peace River, Florida, USA

ID685
Memberpaleobum
Date Added10/16/2006

An assortment of mammoth, bison, mastodon, etc. from the site.
One of two complete mammoth teeth found one afternoon.
The lady who found this peccary skull yelled and danced around for five minutes. We came running with shovels because we thought she had been attacked by an alligator. She cried for 10 minutes when I told her it was a recent kill.
The river was full of snakes that would come out to investigate any time the water was disturbed. To keep the help from harming them I would collect them in a bucket until we were done.
When it rained the river would rise rapidly and cover the site. I would take this opportunity to collect coprolites from the local fauna. How long does it take for these things to get hard anyway?
  

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Peace River 3/28/09
Peace River 3/28/09
Nov 08 trip report.
Nov 08 trip report.
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