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Bone Daddy posted a topic in Fossil Hunting TripsDue to the proliferation of Covid-19 “stay at home orders”, I felt an urgency to go out and fossil-hunt at least one more time before my city, county, or the entire state got put on lockdown. I loaded up the truck on saturday night and we headed out to Gardner early on sunday morning. When we arrived at the ramp about 9:00am, there were a lot of vehicles and activity – much more than my previous three trips. I think a lot of people had the same idea – get out and enjoy the river while you can. It was a beautiful day with plentiful sun and a cool breeze. We loaded up the kayaks (my wife, my stepdaughter, and my grandson) and we headed upstream to check out our usual spots. As we were going up around the bend and our first site came into view, we saw a pair of fossil-hunters parked right in “our” spot. Looking further upriver towards our second spot, there were fossil-hunters in that spot as well. The early bird gets the worm and these folks beat us to a preferred spots. So plan B came into action and we paddled further upstream. We paddled further than we have ever been previously. Looking for gravel beds or exposed strata eroding into the river, we found a good spot about another three-quarters of a mile beyond our usual spots. On this day I decided to be picky and only go after teeth or highlight specimens. I have buckets full of dugong ribs, chunkasaurus, and turtle scutes at home, so I immediately discarded those when they turned up in my sifter. I tossed them downstream behind me into the river and kept digging. My 10-yo grandson held the sifter and helped me with sifting and he got a big kick out of pulling teeth and bits from every shovel load. A little further down the bank, my wife was snapping nature photos and my stepdaughter was digging and sifting in her own spot about 50 feet away. This spot was a tease. Tons of small teeth and common stuff, but only tantalizing fragments of the better stuff. A broken quarter of a mastodon tooth, broken megalodons (fragolodons), etc. I think I did find a couple of baby megs (when they are tiny, I find them hard to discern at times, versus bull or mako). I felt that there must be at least one good meg in this spot, so I dug like a man possessed. I moved a lot of gravel and dug three bomb-craters in the river bed, but to no avail. That big meg eluded me. Eventually my back started complaining and we decided to call it a day. We saw many other hunters on the river, some operating alone and others in groups. We would exchange pleasantries as we passed them by - “How yall doin’?”…… “Beautiful day!”…..”Having any luck?” - most were friendly and reported results similar to our’s – lots of small stuff and oddballs, but nothing to write home about. Of course, if I found a pocket of 100 megs in a hole, I would say something along the lines of “Nah, just little stuff and broken stuff.”. I hope they had better luck than I did. I often wondered if any of the other hunters were forum members, but I never asked because I don’t like intruding on folks or being nosy. But if any of you reading this saw two green kayaks (one of them a bright neon green tandem) pass by with a tall lanky guy, two women, and a kid, then say hello here so I know it was you! I spoke to a couple of fossil-hunters who had rented canoes from Canoe Escape and put in at Zolfo Springs. They told me that Pioneer Park (and the ramp) had been closed earlier that day and that the public park at Brownville was also closed. Both of those are parks with facilities and staff, so I expected they would close eventually. Gardner is just an unstaffed ramp with no facilities, so hopefully it stays open. Hearing that made me glad we decided to go when we did. As I sit here writing this, Hillsborough County (where I live) is about to announce a “stay at home order” - threatening the rest of our fossil season. I know that exercise is considered OK for going out (essential), but I don’t know if driving three counties away to fossil-hunt will be viewed as “exercise”, so I am unsure if I will see the river again any time soon. I guess now we wait and see how this whole Covid-19 thing plays out. I hope this is not the end of fossil-season for us because the water is so LOW. I brought home a much lighter load this time around, having decided to leave all the dugong ribs and chunks of matrix behind. My highlight of the day was a small fossil tooth that I pulled from my first hole. It’s intact with both roots and an undamaged crown. I will try to get it ID’ed today. I also found a couple of very small teeth that I think might be baby megs, but I am unsure. I’ll post photos of our swag when I get everything spread out and dried. I was so tired when we got back last night that I didn’t even inspect or lay out my finds. I showered, ate, and went to sleep by 9:30pm. My wife is still downloading her photos now, so I added visuals to this thread later today. EDIT : apparently the guy I spoke to on the river was wrong - Pioneer Park is still open.
With the pandemic taking over more of our lives, I thought it might be a good idea to have a thread for posting closures that impact fossil hunting. For example, some national parks and beaches are starting to close down. Some of these are access points for fossil-hunters. For example, Payne's Creek state park has a boat ramp used by hunters to access areas outside the park boundaries. Zolfo Springs' Pioneer Park is a public park run by Hardee County - another ramp used by hunters. As of right now, state and county parks are still open, but that could change at any time. So, if you find out about a closing here in Florida, please post it in this thread. Also, please post a relevant link to a press release, official announcement, or media story for your source. I just heard on the news that Picnic Island park in Hillsborough County is closing starting at sunset tonight, but the boat ramp will remain open. In addition, all public beaches operated by the City of Tampa will also be closed until further notice : https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/region-hillsborough/city-of-tampa-shutting-down-beaches-amid-coronavirus-concerns This is the peak of our fossil-hunting season down here in south-central Florida and it is very likely that these Covid-19 closures are going to impact our shared passion - so let's help keep each other updated. Stay safe out there - fossil-hunting is good "social distancing".