meancer

Mazon Creek Fossil Hunting Questions

33 posts in this topic

First time poster. Taking the wife fossil hunting for her and mine Birthdays, she always wanted to do that and I just found out that only a hours drive we have one of the best places to do so. I have read most of the information on this site regarding Mazon Creek and it is very help full.

Any tips on what and where to look for? The link below is the place I would like to go. Is the freezing and hot water technique a good one or just bring a hammer?

http://www.dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/r2/MAZONIA.HTM

Thanks for any advice.

Erwin

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Well, you'll be looking for nodules.

The whole area is overgrown, so you'll also be looking for exposed areas of clay. Keep your eyes on the ground while walking the trails, too.

I once used a mountain bike to cover a lot of ground. Other folks have mentioned boating around the lakes.

Leave your hammer at home, the freeze/thaw method works the best, though it can take a long time for some of the nodules.

Here's a post with some photos of unopened nodules:

Pit 11 hunt

Good luck!

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Thanks for the info and great report on pit 11. Looks like rain for the rest of the week and what I have read that would help in exposing some.

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Looking at the map you linked, I've had pretty good luck in the area labeled "Mazonia South Unit/Wilderness Area." Park at the lot on the north side of 5000 N. Rd.

Take the trail, which will make a "T" at a large ridge, about 1/2 mile in. Look for exposed clay on that ridge, and any others in the area.

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Tim,

Thanks, when looking for nodules, I would like to find a Tully Monster (I know hard to find) are the longer shaped nodules the once that hold them? Also many of the nodules in pictures have a sort of rust color, should I be looking for that color?

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Hi Meancer,

This topic has come up quite a few times and you can do a search on the forum for Mazon Creek or Pit 11 / Pit Eleven and you should find a lot of useful information.

I did a trip report a while back which should give you a pretty good idea what to look for.

The concretion are composed of siderite so yes they will have a reddish color to them.

The South Unit is a great place to search. My advice is plan on doing a lot of walking through some difficult terrain. The area is heavily collected so search for areas that are less accessible. There is a lot of thick undergrowth so make sure to wear long sleave shirts and pants. Use a lot of bug spray and keep an eye out for ticks (the place is loaded with them in the Spring). Getting there after a good rain will increase your chances of finding concretions.

As far as the shapes of the rock go, familarize with the types of fossils you will be collecting. The Mazonia South Unit is part of the Essex biota and will be mainly marine fossils such as jellyfish and shrimp. Tully monsters are not uncommon but finding complete ones are very rare. You will find some plants as well but they tend to be smalll and highly fragmented.

I have uploaded hundreds of pictures of Mazon Creek fossils into my Fossil Forum albums. You should be able to get a pretty a few good idea on what to look for by studying these specimens.

I also highly recommend joining Esconi (Earth Science Club of Northern Illinois). They are a great resource and can help you build your knowledge of our local fossils.

Finally I would say keep at it.. Most of the concretions you collect will not contain anything. It is a numbers game and the more you find, the higher your odd are of finding something rare.

Good luck!

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Ive had luck with railbed cuts as well in that area.

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Watch out for ticks! That's the only thing I recall from my last excursion to collect Mazon Creek nodules. They're everywhere!!!

-YvW

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GDP,

I have read your report and it was very interesting and full of information. Actually reading your report made me decide to go there. I live close to you, right in Palatine. I am going this weekend so hopefully the cold weather will keep the ticks at check a little.

Also hoping for rain the next few days (never thought I would say that) so that more nodules are exposed.

Thanks for all your help.

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Does anyone have a link to a good map of the area? I'm in the Braidwood area for 1 more week. Thanks

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I might be able to convince my familly to go to Mazon Creek, but there are a few things I need to know...

1. What time of year has the fewest ticks around (all the stories have us scared :notfair: )? Which times are give the best chance of findings?

2. What are the rules concerning keeping what your specimens and are they any different if you are coming from Canada, not the U.S.?

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TMNH, hunting in the wildlife refuge (Pit 11) begins March 1.

That is when I had my best trips (7 hr. drive for me). I'd rather deal with rain, wind and cold than ticks, deer flies, chiggers, and 'skeeters. The grass and vegetation is all down, too.

Don't know about the border regulations. It's 50 lbs. (26 kgs.) into the states from Canada. Perhaps Kevin (NorthernSharks) could chime in on that.

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we visited Mazon Creek two years ago. We did a lot of research on the web, both here on the Fossil Forum and this site

We did our collecting in probably the heaviest visited public areas, since it was our first time there and we didn't really know the area. We had the best success collecting nodules by getting off the trails and bushwacking our way through the honey suckle around the base of the slag heaps, which meant we literally crawled underneath the heavy vegetation through the mud, dragging collecting bags behind. It was possibly the hardest collecting I've ever done, but we came out with around 30 lbs of nodules. About 20% of these held fossils, maybe 5% of those were identifiable - mostly jellies, but we did find a couple shrimp and some pieces of calamites - your mileage may vary, but we found our find totally worthwhile.

Make sure you guard against insects, as other have suggested. We picked up only one tick, but came out with a really bad case of chiggers; horrid little vermin!

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Its hard to imagine such finds being so readily available and accessible. Are there still new never seen before finds coming out of the Mazon Creek area?

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I have been considering a trip to mazon for some time now. This year has been unseasonally warm here in Toronto. I am wondering if anone knows what the weather is like at mazon (would this be a good year to head out for a March trip)? Has it been as warm there as it has here and if so would the ticks and chiggers be out earlier than usual? Is there any snow that would make fossil hunting difficult?

Thanks

Edited by TMNH

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You should join ESCONI and go to their private quarry in May for two days with me. haha

The actual park Mazonia Fish and Wildlife Area is decently picked over during most months.

If you have a boat the Lake Braidwood is good but the surf can get nasty on the nuclear cooling lake.

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Thanks MichiganTim for the freeze / thaw suggestion. Years ago (early 80s), I convinced my dad to drive me to Mazon Creek area to collect. We tried hammering a few open - didn't find much if we could split it. Now I'll have to try again (if I can find the nodules)!

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Years ago (early 80s), I convinced my dad to drive me to Mazon Creek area to collect.

I was never able to convince my dad to do that. You're lucky to have gotten to see the place and hunt there back then! I hit it pretty hard 2000 -- 05, and was blown away by the vegetation growth just 5 years later.

There are nodules I would never have been able to open with a hammer, and some that are way too fragile. The freeze/thaw can take a long time, but it seems like the only way with these siderite nodules. I'm STILL working on that batch from '10, and from earlier.

squalicorax, you're killing me.

Edited by michigantim

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I was down scouting around the Mazon area today. To answer TMNH's question about this winters weather; yes it's been very mild here.... I live about 35 miles north of Braidwood, and have never collected at Mazon creek. Knowing the collecting doesn't officially start until the first of this month, and not knowing if that only pertains to the fish and wildlife area, I decided to drive along the creek on some back roads south and east of Morris. Never did see a place where I felt comfortable pulling over and walking. Saw some cool looking outcrops along some of the banks of the creek though. I did find a public park along another creek close by, and found 4 nodules in roughly 20 minutes. I'm pretty excited about that all things considering. I have to say that i was fascinated with the composition and appearance of the Pennsylvania aged bedrock. Quite different from the Silurian aged dolomite that I've been picking through for the last twenty five years, and it's only 30 miles away! I'm thinking this may be the time for me to join ESCONI. I've been intending on joining for several years now, and I'd sure like to get into that private pit! :P

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I was down scouting around the Mazon area today. To answer TMNH's question about this winters weather; yes it's been very mild here.... I live about 35 miles north of Braidwood, and have never collected at Mazon creek. Knowing the collecting doesn't officially start until the first of this month, and not knowing if that only pertains to the fish and wildlife area, I decided to drive along the creek on some back roads south and east of Morris. Never did see a place where I felt comfortable pulling over and walking. Saw some cool looking outcrops along some of the banks of the creek though. I did find a public park along another creek close by, and found 4 nodules in roughly 20 minutes. I'm pretty excited about that all things considering. I have to say that i was fascinated with the composition and appearance of the Pennsylvania aged bedrock. Quite different from the Silurian aged dolomite that I've been picking through for the last twenty five years, and it's only 30 miles away! I'm thinking this may be the time for me to join ESCONI. I've been intending on joining for several years now, and I'd sure like to get into that private pit! :P

Thanks! Maybe I will make the trip out over a weekend or something if time permits... :)

Edited by TMNH

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Hunting at Mazonia starts March 1st. I hear its a good day to go. I think this also includes hunting on the nuclear powerplant lake braidwood. Large WARM lake that is easily chopped up by the wind making boating to the giant dump pile in the middle of the lake. http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/PARKS/R2/MAZONIA.htm#Fossil

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Thanks for all the replies to my questions! I will hopefully be heading to Mazon this March Break.

Looking at the map you linked, I've had pretty good luck in the area labeled "Mazonia South Unit/Wilderness Area." Park at the lot on the north side of 5000 N. Rd.

Take the trail, which will make a "T" at a large ridge, about 1/2 mile in. Look for exposed clay on that ridge, and any others in the area.

The Mazonia South Unit is part of the Essex biota and will be mainly marine fossils such as jellyfish and shrimp.

I will definatey check out the south unit! :) It's a long drive from Toronto and I would like to get a great variety of fossils...can anyone give advice on a good place to look for terrestrial fossils?

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TMNH, I've found some nice annularia on the ridge outlined above. As RC says, that area is Essex biota -- the Braidwood biota is to the north. In the South Unit of the refuge, try going as far north as possible (a mountain bike is very useful), and you're chances go up for flora, though you're going to find way more jellyfish than anything else.

There has been discussion regarding railroad cuts, but I've not been to any of those.

Good luck and keep us posted!

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Thanks Tim I will! :)

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I'm so glad I found this forum. Mostly I have just been reading through various discussions, and this caught my eye because I plan to visit Mazonia for the first time this summer (we'll try to be prepared for the ticks and chiggers, thanks for pointing that out). It sounds like a really cool site, but on the map, looks pretty expansive. I guess walking around, you could potentially find the fossil nodules anywhere in the area? I"ll be traveling with my family, and guessing we can stay there for about 1/2 a day, hoping to make the most of it. Yippie, I can't wait!

Can anyone share photos of some opened nodules?

Thanks to everyone for all the tips and info!

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