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North Texas visit to Oliver Creek

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I have had the urge to go find more echinoids for a while. I’m still not finding the variety I’d like to have. I have lived in North Texas many years, but recently moved to a new area. So I don’t know where the good sites are yet. I got out the satellite map and searched for a good creek with a good span of dry spot near a bridge and headed out to check it out. 

I’d never been to Oliver Creek, but I have heard a lot about it. So I headed out to part of Oliver Creek near Roanoke, TX.


I have the phone app “RockD”, which told me I was in the Paw Paw. I just got it last week and haven’t had much time to play with it, but if it could tell me the right formation that’s great. It definitely saved time trying to figure it out. It was helpful, because the USGS map told me I was in the Plestiocene Alluvium Formation, which I knew wasn’t right by the looks of the creek bed.

It was in the 50s, but bright and sunny with no breeze. 

I could have parked on the shoulder near the bridge and gone down into the creek, but it was a very busy road and I saw a field a short ways back with 3 trucks parked by a gate. I drove back to the spot which appeared to be a popular spot for hikers and hunters. However the hike to the creek seemed close to a mile. Not a problem

walking there, but walking back carrying what must have easily been 40 lbs was a different story.

These are pictures of the creek and formation. The just limestone shelf on the left is where I found all 3.25 echinoids that I did find.D8700488-D7F6-42FD-A7F0-FC6E10EA2AD0.jpeg.151ddb49f90c89b75385f904a3de8652.jpeg


Along the banks was this densely compacted sedimentary layer with pebbles, small rocks and the occasional sea shell.


The riverbed didn’t have hardly any fossils in it as I expected it to have. The scarcity of them seems a bit odd to me. I’m use to seeing a lot more river worn oysters and such at the very least. Before turning around to go back to the creek I attempted to find an entry down a dirt road. I ended up at a trailhead with a dry creek by the parking area. I thought I’d check it out while I was there. I found a bunch of Waconella wacoensis brachiopods and Llymotogyra oysters there and iron concretion fragments, but not much else. That creekbed was maybe 1.5 miles away at most, but I didn’t find a single instance of those shells in Oliver Creek.

The most prominent fossils I found in Oliver Creek were burrow fragments and what I believe maybe Inoceramus? clam shell fragments, fossils most people wouldn’t either want or know what they were. 

Here are some pictures of the burrows that were on the tops of small boulders shortly after I entered the creek.

I believe these are thalassinoide burrows. You can see my foot in the bottom right of the pic for some gauge of size. I’m 5’10” so my feet aren’t tiny.

Some of the burrows were easily 3 inches in diameter. I tend to think they were made by some crustacean like a lobster or crab. You can see a couple of the openings to tunnel on the bottom of the pic.C61943D1-608A-48EF-8B8D-4225F4A31236.jpeg.f1d0a189e092054ee405f242ff709541.jpeg

Another boulder with burrows right next to the other.


Much of the creek bed was gray or tan limestone. The tan sat atop the gray. Then the rock and pebble sediment sat on top of the tan. The lowest layer of sediment is where I found the echinoids. The gray and tan layers of limestone are where the nautiloids where.

Many fossil hunters had been there before me. The limestone appeared recently hammered on in many places. Also the sedimentary layer above the tan limestone had been hammered away at. Strangely enough I found multiple nautiloids with just the center broken out and the bulk of the nautilus being left behind. I’m not sure why someone would want only part of it. It isn’t like they were washed away. I could see where the whole thing had been chinked out of the limestone, the center taken out and the bulk discarded.

I consider myself to be a bit of a naturalist. I prefer to make very minimal impact if any on ecosystems and the environment or do anything to advance erosion or the breakdown of layers. So I tend to not like to hammer things away too much, but if I find a real beauty I’ll probably give in and extract it. My preference for me individually is to only take what is readily available. I do believe it can be acceptable in the name of scientific research and education, but I’m not a fan of it for capitalistic, opportunistic or personal gain. The earth and our environment need all the preservation and tender care they can get. It comes from my training as a biologist.


I found 4 nautiloids. I think all are partial. I did take 2 of the scavenged ones where the outer whorls were left behind. I also found 3 echinoids and a top of one of a different genus. I don’t know what genus they are yet because I haven’t gotten them cleaned up.  I found 2-3 oysters. Two of which looked a bit like Texigraphaea. That is the slimmest pickings for oysters ever for me. Normally they are the most abundant and are everywhere you turn. It makes me wonder if there is a dam upstream or some pit or other place they get hung up in.  I found 2 other brachiopods, but they could be bivalves. I also found the nicest denture clam I’ve ever found. I’m not really a clam or brachiopod person though.

Here are 2 of the nautili that I found. They were not in good condition. They split as I was removing them.


This is a 3rd one I picked up. Someone had extracted it and left it sitting on the bank. There should be part of a whorl covering all the sutures or growth lines in the lower half, but it is completely missing. I think it was the part with the aperture, because I don’t see an aperture on it. This one is in the best condition of the 4 I found. I only had a tictac for size comparison when I took the pic. They were all Paracymatoceras genus. @BobWill said if it was Duck Creek and possibly Grayson formations that it would be a texanum species, but I was in the Paw Paw. So I’m not sure it is a texanum.



These are cool fossiliferous rocks that I found.

I’m not sure what the wavy lines are. Looks more like the front edge of a sea shell than a spiraled shell.


This one looks like swirled caramel with nice colors and contrast.



This is the best echinoid I found and it isn’t even whole. It is maybe 2.5 cm long at most. Center of pic.


This is an echinoid top that broke away from the rest of the Test. If I had a dime for every time this happened I’d be rich. This is the first time I found the top without the body. Usually I find the body without the top or bottom.


Here is an oyster with the denture clam. It appears largely while and well preserved.


I found dozens of these brown layered fragments with 2 holes equidistant apart. The first plate I picked up was about 11 inches square, very thinly layered and felt like a very fine sandstone. So I put it down and moved on. Then I began seeing these everywhere. The majority with 2 holes equidistant apart. I figured it has to be biogenic and therefore a fossil remains of some sort. There are fossil traces on both of them. Several had snail boring marks. The only thing I can think of is Inoceramus clam shell fragment. Any other suggestions or input will be gladly accepted. I’m quite curious. I have pictures of more if needed.



The rest of the pics pics are just nature and scenery pics along the trail. I took time to enjoy it walking back, whereas on the way there I made a b line to the creek.

This is something a bit unusual that I noticed. The moss and lichen start growing on the trunk only about 5-6 feet off the ground. The whole forest was that way. I can’t recall ever seeing that. I’m not sure if it is natural or the result of a maybe flooding of the area. If it had been a result of Fire I would expect the height to be variable and trees affected in patches, but height wasn’t variable and different areas had the same pattern. Ita just curious to me.


A mistletoe plant. I cut a branch off with my knife and brought it home for Christmas decor. Probably should have cut the whole thing down now that I think about it. It’s a parasite plant and damages the tree like the strangler looking vine in the background. That tree doesn’t stand a chance.



The sun was starting to go down and was just above the tree line as I walked back. The sunlight was hitting the top of this tree. I thought it was pretty against the blue sky.




This is the trail to the creek.it might have been 3/4 mile walk, but it was a nice walk.



On the return walk my bag was just too heavy. It had to weigh at least 40 lbs.  With the car in sight about a 1/4 mile away I put one bag down and took the rest to the car and came back for the other. My bag is the black speck in the distance in the pic below.


I think the last 2 times I went fossil hunting I managed to have men ask me if they could help me carry my fossils and insisted they do so. Maybe I was walking too slow or looked too pathetic carry 40 plus lbs of rocks and fossils. One was a first time fossil hunting buddy young enough to be my son and the other was hunting buddy wanna be. LOL I ran into him while he was fossil hunting too. I’d never met him before, but he gave me his number and asked me to call him if I wanted to go hunting with him. I get that quite a bit for some reason. People sure are just friendly in these parts especially so out in the woods. But yesterday there wasn’t a man in sight! They were all out hunting deer rather than fossils.



While I was in the creek I kept having the feeling someone was watching me, but I never saw a soul until towards the end. I’m not the least bit paranoid so I don’t usually have that feeling. I think they must have been in deer blinds, because finally a guy walked out of the woods in full camo with hunting gear and kind of walked in a grumpy, frustrated manner further down the creek. I think I must have been ruining the mood for the hunters, but didn’t put 2 and 2 together until the moment I saw the hunter in camo.

I forgot to mention that the creek was covered with deer, coon and coyote tracks, but mostly deer. There were also these little things all over the ground on the trail and in the creek.



You’d think I’d get a clue and get gone, but I only had 30 min before I planned to leave and I was heading back by then anyway.  I probably should have mosied a little faster though. 

Dusk, deer and shotgun shells. Not the best place to be at dusk, but I’m blond and it takes me a while to catch on sometimes. That and I’m in the fossil frame of mind.


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It's always nice to connect with nature. Thanks for the detailed story to make us feel we are there.


Also I'm always the one stuck carrying all of the family's fossils. I've had to put some down and come back myself. I usually have my backpack and 2 5 gallon buckets to try and distribute the weight.

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Great trip story. I've seen some killer ammonites come from that creek but have never hunted it due to the distance from me. 

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Very nice write up on your trip.  Looks like a nice haul with some prep to do now.  AS far as id goes.  I can't help you there.

You did bring up an important fact about this time of year.  It's hunting season in most places so one needs to be careful.  We wear orange and no white when we are in the field this time of year.  No need to become a fossil myself.

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Interesting trip, In the oyster picture with the denture clam is that a very nice "zigzag" oyster? I had only seen them from Madagascar. Cretaceous ?  Looks like you had some fun even if echinoids were scarce. 

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Kim this is a great informative trip report and I really enjoyed reading it. You found some great fossils and I really love the pics that you posted, it was like I was there hunting with you. Look forward to seeing more of your reports.

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Hopefully the next place will be more productive or have more interesting, better quality fossils.

Who doesn’t want a fossil utopia where all fossils are perfect and free of matrix?

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Nice report. There may be another Oliver Creek closer to Roanoak but the one I know about is north and mostly west of Justin. You may have been in Denton Creek. There is some Pawpaw undivided from Denton Clay near Roanoak but as you go west from there toward the Oliver Creek I have hunted you pass through Ft. Worth and Duck Creek Formations. The big draw for the western part of Oliver Creek is in Goodland Limestone where we find Oxytropidoceras ammonites and lots of heart urchins. The Dallas Paleontological Society has permission to visit two sections on private land where we can drive right up too the creek. You'll have quite a wait for that field trip though since we usually go in August.

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Thanks for the detailed report. It's always interesting to take part in your learning experiences.

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