Mazourka Canyon

Geology: Inyo County, containing many elevation extremes, has the highest summit in the continental US (Mt. Whitney), and the lowest area in the Northern Hemisphere (Badwater Basin). The canyon is especially perfect for fossil hunting because it drains the water from a large portion of the Inyo Mountains, causing the water to cut a canyon and expose layers of fossils.

Paleontology: Well preserved Paleozoic invertebrate fossils, some 485 to 415 million years old, can be found in the canyon.

girvanellabonanzakingdolomite1a.jpgBlue Green Algae is commonly found.

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So are horn coral.

 

 

 

Works Cited (Highly Recommended to Find More Information) :

“Paleozoic Era Fossils at Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California”, http://inyo2.coffeecup.com/mazourkacanyon/mazourka.html

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Scotia Bluffs

Geology of the Area:

The Scotia Bluffs sandstone was deposited around two million years ago during the Pleistocene epoch. The fine to medium grained sediment has a maximum thickness of 640 m. It is part of the Upper Wildcat group and overlies the Rio Dell Formation in Humboldt County. Additionally, the cliffs are about 15 miles from the coast and are at an elevation of 550 feet.

Paleontology of the Area:

Shallow fossil marine life from the Pleistocene epoch can be found in the bluffs, with many of the species still thriving today. According to “Unearthing Evidence of Creatures from Deep Time” by Leslie Scopes Anderson, Giant Pacific Scallop (Petinopecten sp.), Clam (Thrasia sp.), Cockle Shell (Clinocardium meekianum), Sand Dollar (Scutellaster sp.), Moon Snail (Nautica clause), Pandora shell (Pandora sp.), Razor Clam (Siliqua oregonensa) and Shelly sandstone (Psephidia sp.) have been recovered from the area. See image below.

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Works Cited:

Hugh McLean, “Federal Lands Assessment Program: Eel River (Humboldt) Basin, California (Province 80),” (USGS 1988) <http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1987/0450i/report.pdf&gt;

Leslie Scopes Anderson, “Unearthing Evidence of Creatures from Deep Time,” (Humboldt U 2011) www2.humboldt.edu

La Brea Tar Pits

Background:

The pits are composed of heavy oil fractions called gilsonite, which emerged from the Earth as oil. These deposits had become topped with water, dust, and leaves. Animals would venture in and become trapped, luring predators who come to eat the animals and become trapped themselves. The thick tar then encases the bones, preserving them remarkably well.IMG_4872.JPG

Paleontology:

The preserved organisms in it are mainly from the Pleistocene epoch, although a great deal of finds date from prehistory (10 kya — 4 kya). Saber-toothed cats, mastodons, ground sloths, bison, western horse, and camelids are . Dire wolves are the most common large land mammal found there.

The La Brea Tar Pits Museum has made a beautiful timeline of the creatures found in the tar pits here.

Learn More about the Tar Pits and the Museum here, and watch Will Ferrell speak sabertooth.

Mt. Diablo

**Remember that Mt. Diablo is within a State Park. It would be best to just take pictures of fossils found.

Geology of the Area:

According to the Mt. Diablo Interpretative Association, Mt. Diablo is a mountain with an elevation of 3849 feet in the Diablo range. Although the mountain has only very recently emerged, the rocks it is composed of are very old. Due to its complex geological history, the rocks of Mt. Diablo can be divided into three groups, Mt. Diablo Ophiolite (Jurassic), Franciscan Complex (Jurassic and Cretaceous), and Great Valley Group (Jurassic and Cretaceous). Additionally, the younger sedimentary rocks on the higher strata are Cenozoic.

Mt. Diablo Ophiolite: An ophiolite is a part of oceanic crust and the underlying upper mantle that has been uplifted and exposed above sea level and often developed onto continental crustal rocks. According to radioactive and fossil-age determinations, the ophiolite emerged approximately 165 million years ago. The ophiolite basalt has a crystalline feel with a black to greenish-brown hue. This is created when lava erupts underwater and ‘freezes’ when it makes contact with the water. Diabase is a coarser version of the ophiolite basalt that is created by lava erupting from vertical fissures underwater. Serpentinite can also be found on Mt. Diablo.

The middle area of the Mt. Diablo strata known as the Franciscan Complex is the result of 140 million years of east-dipping subduction. Concerning fossils, approximately 10% of the Franciscan Complex is composed of shale. Unfortunately, most of it has been converted to argillite as a result of metamorphism.

The Great Valley is composed of sedimentary shale and sandstone from the Upper Jurassic to the Cretaceous period. It is mostly deep-water shale. There are also younger Cenozoic strata on top. As a result of the drying of Central Californian basins during the Miocene and Pliocene, marine fossils end at that time.

Paleontology and Fossils:

Cow and Aelurodon jaws have been found, in addition to plants. Marine fossils from both deep and shallow water environments have been recovered.

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This article contains detailed information and directions to a trail that leads to fossils in Mt. Diablo State Park.

Works Cited:

“The Rocks of Mt. Diablo- Their Type and History,” (Mt. Diablo Interpretative Association 2016) www.mdia.org 

 

Sespe Wilderness

Geology:

The Sespe Wilderness lies within the Transverse Mountain Ranges. The USGS has information on the geological setting of the mountain range province here. More specifically, the Sespe Wilderness and Sespe Condor Sanctuary are mostly within the Topatopa Mountains and foothills. The  Topatopa Range is composed of Oligocene-Eocene age sandstones of the Juncal, Matilija, Cozy Dell, and Coldwater Formations. The uplifting of the Topatopa Mountains was chiefly caused by the San Cayetano fault, which was initiated at 1.9 Ma.

The fossils in the Sespe Wilderness are incredibly common and can be found on the trail and in the abundant boulders nearby. Marine shells can be seen exposed on the outside of eroded and smooth boulders, and on the surface of the rotated strata of the foothills.

Paleontology:

A variety of marine invertebrates are common in the area, including mussels, oysters, cephalopods, and other shelled organisms.

Works Cited:

MCKAY, HANNAH. QUATERNARY STRATIGRAPHY AND GEOLOGIC EVOLUTION OF OJAI AND UPPER OJAI VALLEYS, WESTERN TRANSVERSE RANGES, CALIFORNIA. P.2011

 

Jalama Beach

Geology of the Area:

The cliffside of this beach contains shale from the Monterey Formation. The fossiliferous shale dates back to the Miocene epoch. There are talus slopes in many areas created by folded and slanted strata. jalama04.jpg

Be careful of falling shale from the cliffside. Although it poses a hazard, the fallen rocks are more convenient to split than extracting shale from the outcropping. Split fishes can be found near the bottoms of the formation. Additionally, petrified whale bone has been recovered on the beach.

 

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As you can see in the figure above, three prominent outcroppings jut out from the Monterey formation, marked 1, 2, and 3 on figures B and C above. Figure A shows that Jalama Beach, to the left of Gaviota, is part of the Monterey Formation bearing marine Miocene fauna, and Oligocene rocks are found more inland.

Paleontology:

Fossil fish and petrified whale bone are in the outcroppings.

Use this Stanford Study of Lompoc Fossil Fishes to identify your fish finds.

jalama13.jpg

 

Works Cited:

David Jordan, et.al, “Fossil Fishes of Diatom Beds of Lompoc, California,” (Stanford University, 1920)

Images: “Jalama Beach,” (The Nautiloid Network) www.nautiloid.net 

Kathleen Surpless, et.al, “Evolution and stratigraphic architecture of marine slope gully complexes: Monterey Formation (Miocene), Gaviota Beach, California,” (Trinity University, March 27, 2007)

Sperry Wash

Geology of the Area:

The Sperry Wash in the Alexander Hills near Death Valley contain sediments from the surrounding China Ranch beds. The China Ranch beds are over 5000 feet thick and contain conglomerate Pleistocene lake deposits. The upper beds contain marly limestone and tuffs.

Paleontology:

Although before 1966 the area was considered unfossiliferous in exception to the wood fragments found in the stretch of road described below,  permineralized tree ferns, palm axes, cycads, rootlets, and material referred to as petrified bog have been found in the area. Additionally, permineralized grass species such as Tomlinsonia are fossilized in the sediments.

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Directions:

According to Gail Butler’s Rockhounding California, From the interstate 127, turn east on Furnace Creek Road. After driving for 4 miles southeast, stay on Furnace Creek when it branches right away from Old Spanish Trail Road. Turn right on Western Talc Mine Road and drive 2.5 miles to the talc mine. Fossil algae and talc can be found by the mine. Then back out and continue driving for another 4.7 miles farther. Agate and petrified wood can be found on both sides of the road in that stretch of road.

Works Cited:

Tidwell, William D. and Nambudiri, E. M. V., “Tomlinsonia stichkania sp. nov., a permineralized grass from the Pliocene to (?)Pleistocene China Ranch beds in Sperry Wash, California” (1990). All Faculty Publications. Paper 1446. http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/facpub/1446 

 

Gail Butler, “Rockhounding California,” (Morris Book Publishing, 1995)

 

Feather River

Geology of the Area:

During the Paleozoic and Lower Mesozoic eras, the Pacific plate moved towards and under the edge of the continental plate, which created an offshore trench. The heterogenous, folded and faulted strata at the edge of continental plate, created by the tectonic movements, are ‘melange’. The exposed outcroppings have been dated to the Jurassic period.

 

Directions:

Abundant Jurassic plant fossils have been reported to be “1 km S of old Banner Mine on River bank … on N side of Feather River SE of South Table Mountain”.

Additionally, a fossil bearing limestone deposit has been reported to be “on a hill just north of the Middle Fork of Feather River, 2 ¾ miles west of Nelson Bar bridge”.

Paleontology:

Jurassic plants, and invertebrates.

Works Cited:

Clarence A. Logan, “Limestone in California,” (California Journal of Mines and Geology, Vol. 43, No. 3, July 1947) <http://quarriesandbeyond.org/states/ca/quarry_photo/ca-plumas_photos.html>

“PALEONTOLOGIC RESOURCES IN THE VICINITY OF FERC PROJECT 2100 (OROVILLE RESERVOIR AND LOWER FEATHER RIVER): LITERATURE-BASED INVENTORY AND SIGNIFICANCE ASSESSMENT,” (California Department of Water Resources 2005) <http://www.water.ca.gov/orovillerelicensing/docs/wg_study_reports_and_docs/EWG/Paleontology%20jun03%20fr%20rev_public.pdf>

 

Donald Kenney, “US and Canadian Fossil Sites – Data for California.” <http://donaldkenney.x10.mx/STATES/CA.HTM>

Capitola Beach

Geology of the Beach:

The yellow brown sandstones that contain the fossils are part of the Purisma formation. Collecting is best at low tide, when the outcroppings are most exposed. 2429587379_250f7320ef.jpg

Paleontology of the Fossils:

The fossils originate from the Pliocene epoch of the Neogene period. Bivalves, gastropods, sea urchins, crabs, marine mammal bones from whales and seals can be found. Shark teeth have also been recovered from the beach, but are rare.

An extensive photo gallery of the fossils common at Capitola Beach can be found here: http://nextcenturyimages.com/nature/capitolafossils2307/index.html 

Works Cited:

“CA Capitola,” (Paleontica Fossiel August 2012) <http://english.fossiel.net/sites/fossil_site.php?plaats=506>

Jacalitos Creek

image069Paleontology:

Fauna found in the area include three species of Echinodermata, two Cirripedia, Pelecy- poda, and 29 Gastropoda. Many new gastropod species were discovered in Jacalitos Creek including  Attralium arnoldi, Chrysodomus coalingemis, Fissuridea subelliplica, Murex perangulatui, Natica (Neverita) orbieularis, Trophon magister, Turritella nova; Pelecypoda : Mytilus ketvi, Tivela trigonalis.

Works Cited:

Jorgen O. Nomland, “Fauna from the Lower Pliocene at Jacalitos Creek and Waltham Canyon, Fresno County, California,” (North American Paleontology 1916) <http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2FGEO%2FGEO6_3_08%2FS0016756800206043a.pdf&code=143cdf352a36a8ead990e75cf703ee45>