Fossil Hunting on the Good Lands of Texas (literally)....
Thursday morning 3:45 a.m. The alarm clock went off and my 2 hour journey to the Charlotte airport began. My work brought me to the great state of Texas last week. I flew into Houston early morning and was greeted with heavy fog (1 mile visibility). By the time I got my rental car some of the fog burnt off and I was on my way to my first job. After the quick inspection, I started my 2½ hour drive to my next project in Lufkin, home of the Chick-O-Stick (Akinson Candy Company). I finished that project mid-afternoon, filled the tank up with gas, bought a Chick-O-Stick as a candy surprise from the eldest daughter and then headed off to my final destination, Fort Worth. Yeah… another 4½ hours on the road.
I had limited time to conduct research on Fort Worth area fossils. My e-mail request for “common knowledge” hunting sites to an area amateur fossil collector went unanswered prior to my departure. I did find some references to a cliff side that overlooked the Lake Worth dam at Marion Sansom Park. It was a race with the sunset and my estimation on the arrival time and daylight left was too close to call. Further, the skies were clear except for a large cloud system to the west. The sun finally hid behind it which depleted the daylight further as I arrived in Fort Worth area. I took off my sunglasses and had to make a quick decision, hotel or a quick reconnaissance incase I had a couple hours the following day to collect some local fossils. Even thought my body was beat, my mind chose the latter.
I exited my car and took off along some walking / mountain bike paths. I had a general sense of where the cliff area was located based on a “bird’s eye aerial”. I finally found it and with a view from above, it looked more treacherous than my last trip post (see Kentucky). I didn’t feel a good karma / mojo with the area and with darkness coming quick I back tracked to the hotel.
I checked in and decided to give my e-mail one last look on the hotel’s business computer before ordering in some recommended local Chinese. 1 new e-mail. Yeah!!! The local amateur hunter came through, replied and recommended a drainage canal / creek just a stones throw away from my third project. I was stoked for I had the name of the formation (Goodland Formation – Cretaceous c. 100 mya) and confirmation that he collected ammonites there. Ever since I was a kid, I always thought ammonites were so cool and unique. I never thought I would ever get a chance to have one or for that matter find / collect one.
My project was completed and I was off to collect my first Texas fossils and hopefully my first ammonite. While driving to the site I noticed a proximate vacant parcel with some strata exposure. I made a mental note to check it out if I had time left.
The drainage canal meandered behind various commercial / shopping mall tenants with exposures located at various intervals. I made my first stop and climbed down to make my acquaintance the Goodland Formation. Nothing caught my eye at first and then there it was…. a partial ammonite. It was snug as a bug in a rug in the strata and I cried, wishing I had my mattock. I then remembered that I had a small travel screwdriver that the airport Transportation Security Administration (TSA) always overlooks. I flew up the embankment, went back to my rental and got it out. In all my excitement I forgot where the ammonite was located. I finally found it, located an underlying crack in the formation and with gentle leverage, “popped” my first ammonite out.
I didn’t find much after that except for some common smaller brachiopods / gastropods in this formation. I decided to depart my first stop and while crawling back up a trail I noticed another ammonite just laying there out of place in the dirt, above the formation. I didn’t know if it was a discard, but it ended up to be my best find. Now I was in gravy mode. I drove / parked / continued upstream to three more areas checking each exposure with no huge finds to be reported.
I had an hour left and decided to check out the vacant parcel proximate to area. As I was at the stop light I looked to the left and noticed a truck and approximately five individual on top of the parcel. The image reminded me of that desert dig scene from Indian Jones - Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I made my way to a side street I noticed two more vehicles. The first was a van that had TCU Geology demarcation on the back of it. The other was an unmarked truck with an individual in it who was on his cell phone. I parked in between, emerged from my car and made my presence known.
Once off his phone I engaged the individual and asked if he was affiliated with the geology group and if they were collecting fossils. “Yes” to the first question and ‘No” to the second. He stated that the parcel was scheduled to be developed in a couple of weeks. The owner of the parcel, who reportedly was a “green” developer, coordinated with Texas Christian University (TCU) to harvest some local plants on the site prior to development.
The individual gave me the owner’s name and directed me to a proximate marketing trailer / building. I introduced myself to the owner’s Community Sales Coordinator, explained who I was and the nature of my visit. I gave her my business card and had a short conversation regarding real estate business. She then gave permission to hunt the parcel for fossils without feeling it necessary for me to contact the owner directly.
45 minutes and counting….
I quickly walked to the parcel and scanned the terrain. I found some ammonite partials / casts in addition to my first ever echinoids. Even though the majority of them were weathered, I was still very excited on the discovery. I was then greeted by Mr. Tony Burgess, Ph.D., a botanist, desert ecologist and TCU’s Environmental Science Professor. He is the self-identified “uber-dork” of TCU and is a nationally known naturalist (designed the Fog Desert / Desert Biome of the Biosphere 2 Center). The good Professor’s team was there collecting various plants such as the rare Summer Gayfeather (Liatris aestivalis). This is relatively newly identified native species that is known only from a few counties in north-central Texas and south-central Oklahoma. The Professor is pioneering the study of plants suitable for “green” roofs in north Texas.
I was content with my finds and started to head to the Dallas / Fort Worth airport. I made a quick stop to show the Community Sales Coordinator my finds. She couldn’t believe my finds / was unaware of the fossils on the parcel. She further stated that she collects “sea shells”. I informed her there are 100 million year old ones just over there…lol. I may have passed on the fossil collection bug again. It is contagious you know. I wished I had more time to converse with those I met in addition to checking out this site once development starts. Who knows what 100 million year old fossils will finally see the light of day again.
Mr. Lance Hall, that local amateur fossil collector’s website (a very informative one at that) is a follows. It will be helpful for you BRF members down there in Texas. I’m looking forward to seeing some more recent trip reports from you guys.
Brad aka Brachiomyback