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PaleoNoel

I'll be honest, I've put off writing this trip report for far too long. Between work, school and general procrastination I have delayed this post for over 7 months. Perhaps there's a silver lining to me writing this in the middle of winter, it could act as a nice break from the grey & cold conditions many of us are facing this season. Hopefully you all enjoy a dose of warmth from a trip which I enjoyed greatly. 

Ok ready? Let's go.

My morning started around 4:30, ungodly hours for me generally, but I woke up excited for what lay ahead. Less than a half hour later we were on our way headed south to Boston. While we always leave much earlier than I would like. there's something peaceful about being able to drive through the streets of the greater Boston area without having to deal with its notoriously bad drivers. We made it to Logan and I gave my parents a goodbye hug after we pulled my bags from the car. The flight was smooth and with only 1 layover, I had made it to Rapid City by early afternoon. Soon after I landed in SD, I caught a ride to Newcastle with PaleoProspectors Founder and Director, Dr. Steve Nicklas. When we reached our destination across the border in Wyoming, I quickly began to acclimate to the motel room which would be my home for the next three weeks. This week I would meet and befriend several new people including Quincy @Opabinia Blues, another paleo enthusiast my age, and several of Steve's archaeology students who came to help him dig on a titanothere bonebed. This week would be spent mostly on the Lance formation, with one day spent on the White River.

Week 1, Day 1:

We started the morning at some hillside exposures overlooking a plain along the Little Cheyenne River. This is one of my favorite areas on the ranch.

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I started the day off hot with a nice sized turtle claw, unfortunately missing the tip.

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Brachychampsa alligatoroid tooth.

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A view of the slope I was hunting.

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A nice ceratopsid spit tooth. 

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A tiny crocodilian tooth.

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Myledaphus (guitarfish) tooth.

 

As the morning turned into afternoon, I made my way to the base of the exposures. 

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PaleoNoel

At the lower levels I found a small patch of exploded shell. I grabbed a few of the larger pieces, but there was no saving whatever poor bivalves lay in thousands of shards on the ground. Curiously, I began finding small fragments of highly weathered enamel among the shell. Eventually I found a piece with serrations on it and thought to myself it had to be Tyrannosaur. and based on the curvature of the enamel I reasonably assumed T. rex itself. I picked up as many as I could, hoping that I could possibly fit a few of the pieces back together at home. 

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A few of the enamel fragments I picked up.

 

Eventually I made my way back up the slope, picking up a few odds and ends along the way, including this partial croc osteoderm.

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I made my way up to the site which I had hunted at the year before. It was a conglomerate site along the higher layers of the formation. It had been relatively productive for me when I first hunted it, making me hopeful it may have some more up its metaphorical sleeve. This week proved that it had plenty.

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Tiny croc tooth isolated from the matrix.

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A nice little bivalve, free from its matrix as well.

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PaleoNoel

I would go on to finish the day at this site, using a large flat capstone as a makeshift work bench as I broke through the sandy conglomerate.

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Myledaphus tooth in matrix.

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Salamander vert-always cool to find.

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Thecosmilia Trichitoma

I dream of someday hunting in one of the famous badlands sites! Looking forward to more first-class eye candy! :trex::ammo2::ammo3::brokebone::bone_claw::hadro_skull::dinosmile::ighappy::ptero::ank::fern: (And whatever else you’re finding out there.)

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PaleoNoel

Week 1, Day 2:

All was going as planned for our second morning, until our caravan pulled up to the rancher's house to deliver his payment. As one of the trucks was parking, his front right tire fell into the roadside drainage ditch, tipping the whole truck forward in the process. Luckily nobody was hurt and the neighborly rancher got us on our way by hitching his truck up to the participant's and dragging it out with ease.

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After that minor problem, the caravan of vehicles made its way to our morning site. We parked on the hilltop about fifty yards away from the collecting area, the guides gave us our boundaries and we were off. Today we would be hunting for the plants which made up the basis of the Lancian ecosystem, the often overlooked players which provided food for the multi ton herbivores which once stomped these grounds. 

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A great view across the exposures.

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The talus slope where I began my hunt.

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PaleoNoel

602cb6547697b_W1D2Stem.thumb.JPG.563da2e63b2efdd16a56b99018e17f2e.JPG

A stem or branch with both positive and negative sides.

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A potential pine branch?

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A partial palm frond.

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Interesting piece, perhaps pine or fern?

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A partial broadleaf (?)

and what I believe may be it's other side:

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A partial fern.

 

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PaleoNoel

At around mid day, after the group reconvened and had lunch, we headed to our next series of exposures. Fossils weren't particularly abundant in this spot, but I did manage to find a beautiful black Richardoestesia isoceles tooth, the best I've found so far.

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Additionally, I found a cool little piece of petrified wood with what I believe are calcite crystals attached and a potential coprolite.

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While I'm hopeful this piece is a coprolite, I'm well aware of how tricky these formations can be. It may just be an ironstone concretion, but better to take with me than lose out on a nice turd.

With about an hour left to hunt, I made my way up to the top of the hill adjacent from where our cars were parked. To my pleasant surprise, I found a couple of anthills which turned out to be relatively productive. I spent the rest of my time on the ground picking through the ants' hard work, looking for any ancient treasures they unwittingly picked up.

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Beautiful little black croc tooth.

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A tiny Melvius (bowfin) tooth.

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Itty bitty snail steinkern.

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Deuces to the anthill.

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Fossilis Willis

Thanks for the much needed report. I feel like I should be wearing sunblock reading this :P.  Can't wait to see what else we err, I mean you find.

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IsaacTheFossilMan

WOAHHHHH! I wish I could go fossil hunting somewhere like this, first of all, beautiful scenery, and, the fossils are incredible! Thanks so much for sharing, even though I'm very jealous now...

 

Love the steinkern, so adorable, definitely a keeper!

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Thanks for the detailed report. More to come?

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jeannie55

Excellent reporting on one of my favorite states to search for fossils. The last time I was there, I found a large piece of animal waste which I thought was a pile of rock with cool bone fragments inside and a tooth or two.  My friend who isn’t a paleontologist but works in a lab with paleo men and women and their students said wow you hit the snarge pot...well she said the other word for snarge. 

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Brett Breakin' Rocks
10 hours ago, PaleoNoel said:

With about an hour left to hunt, I made my way up to the top of the hill adjacent from where our cars were parked. To my pleasant surprise, I found a couple of anthills which turned out to be relatively productive. I spent the rest of my time on the ground picking through the ants' hard work, looking for any ancient treasures they unwittingly picked up.

This has been a real treat .. as I stare into the cold abyss. My feet are warmed by the images. Though, to be fair I'm in Denver and my sister down in Dallas TX is having it rough. They have almost a foot of snow ! ... Brrrrrrrrr

 

Cheers,

Brett

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Nice mid-winter report.  I can't wait for the 'season' to start. 

 

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Yep ready to go this season, thanks for this flash back

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PaleoNoel
4 hours ago, IsaacTheFossilMan said:

WOAHHHHH! I wish I could go fossil hunting somewhere like this, first of all, beautiful scenery, and, the fossils are incredible! Thanks so much for sharing, even though I'm very jealous now...

Love the steinkern, so adorable, definitely a keeper!

Thanks, the scenery is one of my favorite parts about being in the field and I'm happy to share.

2 hours ago, Ludwigia said:

Thanks for the detailed report. More to come?

Absolutely! More is on the way.

1 hour ago, jeannie55 said:

Excellent reporting on one of my favorite states to search for fossils. The last time I was there, I found a large piece of animal waste which I thought was a pile of rock with cool bone fragments inside and a tooth or two.  My friend who isn’t a paleontologist but works in a lab with paleo men and women and their students said wow you hit the snarge pot...well she said the other word for snarge. 

Nice! I found a number of coprolites this season and it's always a cool feeling to find bone in them.

1 hour ago, Brett Breakin' Rocks said:

This has been a real treat .. as I stare into the cold abyss. My feet are warmed by the images. Though, to be fair I'm in Denver and my sister down in Dallas TX is having it rough. They have almost a foot of snow ! ... Brrrrrrrrr

I've seen the images and videos of the conditions in Texas, I would imagine a snow storm always hits the hardest when the people aren't accustomed to that kind of weather. Business as usual for those of us in the granite state.

1 hour ago, jpc said:

Nice mid-winter report.  I can't wait for the 'season' to start. 

 

Thanks, I can't wait either!

1 hour ago, Troodon said:

Yep ready to go this season, thanks for this flash back

Summer can't come soon enough!

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PaleoNoel

Week 1, Day 3: 

My third day on the ranch would be split between four different localities. We began the day at a site where the PaleoProspectors crew had taken out a partial triceratops skull several years before. Due to the erosion of the dental battery, many rooted teeth had been found at the spot following the skull's extraction. 

Unfortunately, after a valiant effort searching the hillside, nothing was found. Disappointed, but not defeated, I set off on my own toward a series of exposures not far from the vehicles which looked somewhat promising. While I wasn't wowed by anything I found, I did manage to pick up a nice gar scale or two and a Brachychampsa (alligatoroid) crushing tooth.

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A view from the exposure.

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Brachychampsa tooth.

 

Since the group was finding very little, we moved on to another area. Despite being a massive space for us to hunt, the majority of it was grassed over and the rocks that were exposed on the surface was the non-fossiliferous capstone. 

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However, as I moved across the open prairie, I eventually found a wash with some exposed sediment. I took off my pack to take a close look at the ground and started finding some bone fragments. I did what most dinosaur hunters are taught and looked uphill for a source. Unlike my previous experiences with this attempt, the small chunks led to something- a big honking chunk still embedded in the hillside. I grabbed my glue and my knife and got to work. After a few minutes of digging it popped out in one piece. While I don't yet know what it is or if it's possible to find out from the state it's in, it was my first multi-pound dinosaur bone I had ever found in Wyoming. Given the commonality of Edmontosaurus and Triceratops, it likely belonged to one either of those animals but that's just an assumption.

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fun fun.  I don't know if that bone can be IDed beyond chunkosaur.  

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PaleoNoel
2 hours ago, jpc said:

fun fun.  I don't know if that bone can be IDed beyond chunkosaur.  

I didn't think so. Maybe post prep, but who knows when I'll get to it. 

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PaleoNoel

While in the process of digging out the chunk, I saw a another spill of bones a yard or so away. These bone fragments had a different texture than the ones which came from the chunkosaur, many of them are smooth on both the inside and outside, so I'm crossing my fingers that it's theropod. Only problem is that it's in several dozen pieces at the moment and would be a significant undertaking to attempt reassembly.

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Not long after picking up the shards pictured above, the group reconvened at the vehicles and decided to move onto another area due to their paucity of finds.

Next on the agenda was a Paleocene petrified wood site. While I was told by one of the guides that it was the Ludlow formation, later research told me that it's only known from North Dakota and is a member of the greater Fort Union fm., which made me confident enough to label these as being from those deposits. The Paleocene is an epoch of Earth & life's history that intrigues me, directly proceeding one of the most devastating extinction events ever. However, I'll admit that I don't know much about it, nor do I have extensive finds from that interval (my only other Paleocene fossils being from Maryland's Aquia fm.). Some of these wood pieces are partially agatized, so perhaps I'll polish a few of them in the future. 

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While there was sediment exposed in the wash area ahead of me, the wood could be found all across the ground. 

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PaleoNoel

602df756715c3_W1D3PetWood4.thumb.JPG.95752ff3ea27b1c2e08f023abede61a9.JPG

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I decided I'd had my fill of petrified wood and retired to the cars to take a drink of water following this find. 

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yes, in Wyoming it is simply called Fort Union Fm; Ludlow is a NoDak term.  There is a K/T boundary site out there somewhere on Dogie Creek.  The other thing to look for when you get to the Ft Union is Paleocene mammals.  They will be small, primarily teeth and the best way to find them is to look for other more common fossils, then get on your hands and knees.  They are not common.  The common things are gar scaes and turtle shell.  Hope this helps if you get back there. 

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PaleoNoel
1 hour ago, jpc said:

yes, in Wyoming it is simply called Fort Union Fm; Ludlow is a NoDak term.  There is a K/T boundary site out there somewhere on Dogie Creek.  The other thing to look for when you get to the Ft Union is Paleocene mammals.  They will be small, primarily teeth and the best way to find them is to look for other more common fossils, then get on your hands and knees.  They are not common.  The common things are gar scaes and turtle shell.  Hope this helps if you get back there. 

Thanks, hopefully I'll be able to apply that info some point!

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PaleoNoel

With a few hours left to hunt, participants were given the choice to prospect or revisit a locality from earlier in the week. Quincy and I chose to finish our day at "The Nose", the conglomerate site we had been having success at on day 1. 

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My favorite view on the ranch! Overlooking the plains and the Little Cheyenne.

 

It didn't take long before I began finding spit teeth, gar scales, croc teeth and other fossils.

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Ceratopsid spitter.

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Nice little croc tooth preserved next a gar scale.

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One of my favorite finds of the afternoon: a good size freshwater gastropod.

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A bizarre find, what appear to be two fused bones? I suppose it needs further prep to identify.

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And to end a long day of hunting, another croc tooth, one which I had initially hoped was a theropod premax.

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PaleoNoel

Week 1, Day 4:

Thursday would be our day spent in the White River on a ranch outside of Lusk, For those unfamiliar, the White River group is a unit of sedimentary rock formations which preserve fossils from the end of the Eocene epoch and the beginning of the Oligocene epoch in the Chadron and Brule formations respectively. In Wyoming, strata was isotopically dated to between ~34 and ~31 million years old. The most common fossils in these sediments are from mammals and tortoises. 

We started out in a series of good looking exposures. Found a few interesting fragments early on, but it wasn't as productive as I had hoped.

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Titanothere enamel fragment.

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Utilized flake.

 

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PaleoNoel

Moved on from the original grounds and eventually met up with some of the college students and travelled through a large system of washes. Like the last area, a few interesting pieces here and there, but eventually petering out into nothing.

 

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Picked up this little vertebra along the way, could be Oreodont.

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