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PetrolPete

Fossil Hunting Guide To Tulsa, Ok (And Surrounding Areas)

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PetrolPete

After feeling inspired be Missourian's amazing thread "Backyard Trip" and while not wanting to let everything I've learned about the Tulsa area go to waste when I move, I wanted to make a thread sharing my knowledge for the benefit of everyone in the area and anyone who might come through the area.

I decided that I will not post specific locations in most situations to prevent over hunting and damage to the sites, but I will give most of the locations over PM ( if they were given to me by a friend, I'll let you know who to contact, but it is their site so it's not mine to give away). I will try to give details on the areas, formations present, fossils found there and provide pictures where I can. There are also a number of rumored location I've never had a chance to visit, so I'll try and give information on those too.

My time will be sporadically available, so I'll be updating when I can.

For the first post I wanted to provide quick links to some of the documentation available in the area.

The main source is from the Oklahoma Geologic Survey. Some of the written material is old, outdated, or incomplete, but it is a great place to start.

Their documents can be found here:

http://www.ogs.ou.edu/pubs.php

And most of their maps (which are up to date and excellent where available) here:

http://www.ogs.ou.edu/geolmapping.php

Another site with some good information can be found here (information spans multiple states and hasn't been updated for years):

http://www.bluesinheaven.com/pgs/paleo/index.html

Unfortunately, I haven't found any good books on the area to list.

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PetrolPete

A general overview of the Tulsa Area Geology:

The surface strata of Tulsa County spans the Des Moinesian and the Missourian portions of the Pennsylvanian. On average there is a 1 degree dip to the southwest, so as you travel East, you get into older strata (Mississippian, Devonian and Silurian) and West into newer strata (Permian with some Triassic and Jurassic in the Panhandle). Parts of the Tulsa area sits on an old Pleistocene riverbed deposit, which the current Arkansas river cuts through.

The lithology of the vast majority of Tulsa is shale, which is why it is so flat and why, unfortunately, almost all of the road cuts in town are behind retaining walls. All the hills are are either sandstone or limestone lenses. The strata changes drastically when crossing the river due to a change in paleo-environment.

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PetrolPete

Because the Arkansas river cuts through the Pleistocene deposit there are several places along the river in sandbars where you can find various bones, teeth and artifacts. Certain areas are known for mammoth teeth, tusks and bones, but it is hard to put a date on most of the material. I have also heard reports of someone finding a complete saber tooth skull and a bison skull with a spear point embeded inside it in some of the creeks that empty into the river. By far, the most common ID'able item that comes out of the river is spear and arrow points.

A good amount of Pennsylvanian material can also be found washed into the material. Apatite nodules from the Oolagah formation, chunks of coal from various layers, horn coral, brachiopods, pelecypods, gastropods, corals, sponges etc. can all be found in the river.

The best time to hunt the river is in the late Summer when everything is drying up, but you still need to keep an eye on the lakes upstream to make sure they aren't letting out water.

In terms of safety precautions, there are several potential dangers with the site. For starters, I would not recommend getting in the water as it tends to be fairly dirty and sometimes the sand around the water can turn into sinkholes. Although not in the main channel I have seen snakes in some of the water around the sandbars. Another safety issue, when making your way to a sandbar, there is often tall grass, so every precaution should be taken to avoid ticks and chiggers. In most cases, I would not recommend hunting the river with small children.

While I know of many locations contain material for sure, I have never been able to confirm any that I found of the Pleistocene material myself, just the Pennsylvanian material.

Edited by PetrolPete

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Missourian

Thanks for the plug. :)

I've been hoping others would do backyard-trip-style essays, travelogues, etc.

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Bullsnake

This is awesome, Pete!

This, and Missourian's thread(s) are inspiring. I would love to undertake such a thing for Eastern Ks., however, I have alot of studying to do before attempting to convey accurate info. Strata ID eludes me for some reason, and the wonderful publications sometimes go over my head, and my thinking doesn't fall in line with what they say.

I'll keep pluggin' away, though! :)

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PetrolPete

There is one location I do feel I need to be exact on due to the sporadic and small windows of when collecting is possible. This is a very (locally) fossiliferous outcrop of the Seminole formation containing ferns. It consists of shale and gray sandstone which can weather exposing nodule-like sand concentrations. This particular location is sitting under the recent shopping center Tulsa Hills, which leads me to why it is so sporadic to collect. When exposed, this formation, and the fossils within, deteriorate quickly. Unfortunately, when they finished construction, they terraced the area, covering up much of the fossils,so, if you see construction in the area, looking around the slopes of the construction site (but not in it) can yield some nice fern fossils. When you find them, do not put them in a sealed container, try to let them dry in the open and keep them dry. No matter what, they will deteriorate a little bit, but keeping them dry is the best thing you can do, if they stay wet, they will crumble away. Sealant is an option, but I have never tried it. When I first found out about this site, it was after construction had finished. I had hiked along the entire length of where the outcrop once was and only found one fern in a nodule, everything else had weathered away.

post-8113-0-78962800-1367192020_thumb.jpg

Above this formation sits the Checkerboard limestone. I have never hunted it, but it is known to be highly fossiliferous as well. The outcrops near-by this location are on the side of the highway, so hunt at your own risk. Interesting fact, the checkerboard limestone thickens as you head West and becomes oil productive.

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PetrolPete

A good locality type to hunt around Tulsa is any road or parking lot made of gravel. Just about all of the gravel in Tulsa is from the lafarge quarry, which gets it's limestone from the Pennsylvanian age Oolagah limestone. The Oolagah limestone consists of three members, the upper Altamont Limestone, the middle Bandera shale and the Pawnee Limestone. The gravel of this formation has several things to look for. The first being small round concretions out of the Bandera shale. If you ever make it to the quarry (I'm told) the phosphate/ apatite nodule layer looks like a layer of pavement. While not extremely fossiliferous, you can find fish pieces, orbicularid brachiopods and assorted other marine fossils. When they don't have a fossil inside they often have a thin, crystalline, mineral vein running down the middle. They can take a long time to pop using freeze-thaw though. I have one that I've been cycling for over a year and hasn't been affected yet. An interesting fact, because of the way they formed, they picked up radioactive elements as part of the process and, for a very brief period when they pop, they have trace radiation detectable by a Geiger counter. The second thing to look for in the gravel are fossils typical to the Pennsylvanian marine environment, including various brachiopods and pelecypods, orthocone cephalopods, nautaloids, ammonites, horn coral, crinoids etc. in all sizes varying from mm in length to inches in length.

If you get a group together, it is possible to contact the quarry and arrange a trip to go fossil hunting there.

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Missourian

Peter, do you know about the Cystauletes sponges found in the Pawnee Fm. in (I think) Nowata County? They are quite distinctive in appearance

post-6808-0-20585100-1367569901_thumb.jpg

and apparently are quite common locally.

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PetrolPete

Peter, do you know about the Cystauletes sponges found in the Pawnee Fm. in (I think) Nowata County? They are quite distinctive in appearance

and apparently are quite common locally.

No, I didn't know about them. I hadn't been fossil hunting in Nowata County before.

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Clayton Jones

This is excellent; Oklahoma doesn't get as much attention as other places, but when it does it's always good information, thanks!

I'll hopefully be taking a trip up around Tulsa later in the summer and I might have to check out some of the areas you talk about.

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PetrolPete

This is excellent; Oklahoma doesn't get as much attention as other places, but when it does it's always good information, thanks!

I'll hopefully be taking a trip up around Tulsa later in the summer and I might have to check out some of the areas you talk about.

Thanks.

I'll try and post more as soon as I can. If you message me before you head this way, I can probably point you towards more specific locations.

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PetrolPete

Rivers are said to follow a weakness in the earths crust, be it a fault, fracture or a change in lithology. This holds true for one of my favorite formations in the area. A 40 minute drive east of Tulsa gets you to the Grand River. The Grand River flows along the edge of a Mississippian age basin, with the east bank being the Hindsville Formation a hard series of limestone layers, some as hash and others as hummocky deposits. Further details on the formation itself can be found on this bulletin:

http://www.ogs.ou.edu/pubsscanned/Circulars/Circular57mm.pdf

There is one outcrop specifically that I have had a lot of luck at. I found my first trilobite (which ended up being a double) and my first shark tooth ( a deltodus) in the hummocky layer in the middle of the outcrop there. I can't say where the location is, but you don't have to look hard to find out where it is located. The hash plates often have really cool material as well.

Where exposed, the top, there is a reworked layer filled with various geodized fossils. The cool part though is that when you break open the layer, you can smell hydrocarbons, even though the layer has been exposed for a long period of time. This is related to the huge, recent, unconventional oil and gas play in central Oklahoma, Kansas and now, Nebraska, commonly referred to as the Miss. Lime.

post-8113-0-75568400-1368661182_thumb.jpg

If hunting along the river I would not recommend having more kids than adults in your party. At times the outcrop can turn into a steep drop into the river. The river flows into Fort Gibson Dam, so although it isn't direct, the river level is changed a little relative to the lake. The lake level can be checked at:

http://www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil/FGIB.lakepage.html

Edited by PetrolPete

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PetrolPete

The area around Lake Fort Gibson (at least at the south end) primarily contains rocks that are Mississippian in age. A number of old limestone quarries are present in the area, but most are abandoned and dangerous, so to hunt any you should contact the owners. I've never been in any if them, but I know someone who has, and she has said they can be very productive. There are several formations present in the area, including the Pitkin limestone. The pitkin limestone tends to be alternating layers of shaly limestone and black shale. When you see it, you'll know, it really stands out. I have found some really nice, crystalline, blastoids out of this formation, as well as a number of Archimedes bryzoans. Several of the blastoids have had deformities where they only developed 4 sides. Although I have never found any (I didn't know to look until recently), there are reports of a large amount of shark material being present in the Pitkin Limestone.

Below the Lake Fort Gibson Dam, there is a large amount of rip-rap. Most of it is made of very fossiliferous limestone, the only trick is getting the fossils out of the rocks. When the dam isn't releasing water, you can hunt the gravel below the rip-rap. I've found a number of loose fossils in it including stigmaria, calamites limb casts, straight nautaloid casts and various other marine fossils. And, just remember, if someone doesn't pick them up, they'll just get washed away and never be seen again. Word of warning, it smells of dead fish and there is a lot of old fishing line and fishing hooks laying around.

North of the dam, on a peninsula (you can't access it from the dam) at the very tip, there is a large storm deposit with a large amount of plant material present that is visible when the water is low. I believe it is a State park, so collecting is not allowed there.

The lake level and water releases can be viewed here:http://www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil/FGIB.lakepage.html

The area around the dam is operated by the Army Core of Engineers. In my experience, the rangers in charge of the area don't care if you collect, as long as you only do surface collecting and don't touch the cliffs (for fear of knocking something onto the road). Safety is key.

These sites are mostly kid friendly, just don't let them too close to the water or mess with the fishing equipment. It should be noted that the primary collecting sites (at least the ones I've found) have limited exposure and therefore limited collecting potential.

Edited by PetrolPete

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mandiex4

Thank you, this is great. We usually do all of our fossil hunting south of I40 down to the Texas state line.

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Dan1718

So I just found the site and this forum posting - guess I'm late to the game.... I've been fossil hunting throughout Oklahoma and have been sort of idle for a few years due to work and kids, but am most interested in re-engaging!. I was excited to see some folks corresponding. Lots of great places in the area and in Oklahoma. Nice to see the posts!

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Saville

My family and I will be in the Tulsa area in the near future. Any ideas where we may go poking around? Maybe new construction or a good spot along the river?

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PetrolPete

My family and I will be in the Tulsa area in the near future. Any ideas where we may go poking around? Maybe new construction or a good spot along the river?

Depending on what you want to look for, I might be able point you to some good spots, although my understanding is a number of places I usually go are underwater

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Saville

Depending on what you want to look for, I might be able point you to some good spots, although my understanding is a number of places I usually go are underwater

The end of the drought has definitely hidden lots of potential. I am trying to introduce my 13 YO son to the hobby so anything we can find would be a victory. I was wrong about Tulsa. It's actually about 50 miles north of there near Bartlesville.

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PetrolPete

The end of the drought has definitely hidden lots of potential. I am trying to introduce my 13 YO son to the hobby so anything we can find would be a victory. I was wrong about Tulsa. It's actually about 50 miles north of there near Bartlesville.

If you are willing to go a little further north, there is a road cut you can visit in Peru Ks. The blues in heaven website http://www.bluesinhe...aleo/index.html has some more details on it.

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Danica

Coming to Tulsa this week. My sons are interested in fossil collecting especially Trilobites and Brachiopods. One son readabout a place near Gregory. Is this a good place to go? Any feedback would be appreciated.

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PetrolPete
On 6/19/2016 at 3:48 PM, Danica said:

Coming to Tulsa this week. My sons are interested in fossil collecting especially Trilobites and Brachiopods. One son readabout a place near Gregory. Is this a good place to go? Any feedback would be appreciated.

Sorry I missed this post, I haven't had a chance to log on since I moved back to Tulsa, but if you ever make it back to the area feel free to send a message and I'll try and point out some good places to visit.

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Mr Wacker

im here (Tulsa) the Hard Rock Hotel for the next couple of days looking for a place to rock hound  any suggestions light picking no real tools with me ... Jeff

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PetrolPete
On 10/16/2016 at 2:27 PM, Mr Wacker said:

im here (Tulsa) the Hard Rock Hotel for the next couple of days looking for a place to rock hound  any suggestions light picking no real tools with me ... Jeff

 

Sorry, I just saw your post and I guess I missed it, I haven't been on here regularly lately, but if you make it back to town send me a message and I'll be much more likely to see it

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spellbinder59

Hello,

We are new to the area and are living outside of Muskogee. I am having a hard time finding information as to where to look for rocks & fossils. I stumbled onto this forum by accident.

If you could clue me in as to where some good places to hunt would be I'd appreciate it greatly. I know the original post is very old, but I'm hoping you might have some up to date locations.

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to this message.

Sincerely,

Karen

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PetrolPete
On 3/30/2017 at 5:52 PM, spellbinder59 said:

Hello,

We are new to the area and are living outside of Muskogee. I am having a hard time finding information as to where to look for rocks & fossils. I stumbled onto this forum by accident.

If you could clue me in as to where some good places to hunt would be I'd appreciate it greatly. I know the original post is very old, but I'm hoping you might have some up to date locations.

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to this message.

Sincerely,

Karen

I haven't looked around the Muskogee area that much, but I know you can find a number of fossils around the Lake Fort Gibson Dam area. If you can manage to get access to any quarries in that area, I have heard they can be productive as well, but since they are private, you would have to track down the owners and get their permission.

 

I can say that there are other places in the area though. I have seen a number of people post their finds both here and on the facebook group, but I wouldn't know where to tell you to look.

 

It looks like there is a Rock and Mineral Society stationed in Tahlequah, they might be able to point out more sites in the area

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