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Fossils are red, violets are blue

Work brought me to the great state of South Carolina again earlier this week.  I was anticipating having some “ground” time so I decided to do some research on fossil collecting sites in the proximate area / county.

The investigative powers of Google revealed some fossil bearing plant beds from the Middendorf formation that is a facies of the Black Creek Formation (which is mostly in Eastern North Carolina).  Further research discovered a 1957 Carolina Geology Society South Coastal Plain Field Trip that put a location on the site.   I also came across a 1907 photograph of the stratigraphy of the said formation on the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Photographic Archive website (free Photographic Archive of over 27,200 USGS photos from 1868-1993).




I found the site on the various mapping sites but none had a good aerial / “birds eye” perspective view.  Google came through once again via Google maps and I was able to view a “road” perspective of the area. 

Digging further into the research, I came across a 2003 article on these cretaceous plants written by a Biology Professor from an area college.  Luckily he was still part of the faculty staff.  So I made correspondence with the good professor and he verified that there were still some plant impressions and provided me information on where to collect.

With my job completed early and maps in hand, I proceeded to investigate the reported four foot lens of clay containing many well-preserved leaf impressions from this railroad cut.   I parked on the side of the road, donned my gear and walked towards the bridge.  I peered over and could see the location that was “scratched” about and bounded by areas of vegetation.   As I received a strange look, from a local in a beater truck that passed by me, it dawned on me that most vehicles traveling across this bridge have no idea that there are 70 million year old fossils (approximately) down below them.  Well, for that matter, most wouldn’t even care.  Only the certifiable tread these waters.

My heart started pumping and as I made my way through some thickets toward the embankment.   The grade was steep with some areas close to 70 percent.  That, in conjunction with a good bed of pine needles, created the perfect condition for me to slide down to a level area in no time.  Luckily there were no hidden stumps for me to take a header.

I then hopped over the railroad tracks and introduced myself to the formation that stood before me.  I soon realized that this was not going to be like collecting fern impressions from St. Clair, PA.  As stated previously, this was a lens of clay.  My first whack from my mattock stuck in the clay like super glue.  The consistency similar to what I was used to working with my art class from my former college days.   If I had a kiln, I would have squirreled a big block of this to make some pottery.   Hand made pottery from 70-million year old clay…. that would be cool, especially with hand painted leaf impressions glazed over it.

When I finally found my first impression, I ended up destroying it (and it would have been my best one).  Some excess clay was on it and as I tried to remove it, I ended up smudging the specimen.   The only way to describe the formation is that it’s a very blocky clay lithology with impressions mixed in but not in good bedding planes.  The planes that do split to produce (if any) an impression would be like a fresh red ink silk screen on top of this moist clay.

I ended up acquiring some partial specimens in about an hour and then had to un-stuck myself and my boots from this formation. These delicate and detailed red impressions on the gray clay background are some of the coolest fossils I have collected in a while.  I have no idea on the IDs, but the good professor once again provided me with his input on the taxonomy… mostly angiosperms…with some being Ficus crassipes and Celastrophyllum.  As I always say, any fossil in a good fossil.

.... enjoy

Location Chesterfield County, South Carolina, USA

Date Added11/19/2009



- 11/20/2009
Reviewer : Daryl from Maryland United States
Total Rating : 10
Wow Brad. Your tenacity and and ambition are impressive. I must admit that in general I'm not too terribly interested in fossils other than "sharks" teeth, but your hunts like this really get me interested! Your google-research is impressive as well. What the heck would we do without the internet? Content Quality : 10 of 10

Drool Quotient : 10 of 10

Picture Quality : 10 of 10
VOTE! Agree  Disagree  1 of 1 voters agreed.

- 11/23/2009
Reviewer : Daryl from Maryland United States
Total Rating : 10
Say, is that you in the 1907 photo? You've sure been at this a while haven't you! :) That really is a neat comparison photo Content Quality : 10 of 10

Drool Quotient : 10 of 10

Picture Quality : 10 of 10
VOTE! Agree  Disagree 





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