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HoppeHunting

There are so many testaments to Purse State Park being a fantastic fossil collecting site online, and because of this I thought I’d go there myself and test my luck. I kept on hearing about quantity, and how Purse yields more fossil sharks teeth per trip than just about any other local site. I was blown away when reading that people come home from a single trip with hundreds of teeth, and of decent size and quality too! And so a few days before Christmas, I packed up my gear and made my way across the border and down the Potomac to Purse State Park.

The drive there was just fine, and the park is very secluded, unlike some other common sites. Perhaps its isolation contributes to its lack of a crowd in comparison to the Calvert Cliffs. The park is quite difficult to find as it is not clearly marked; I actually drove past it at first and had to turn around! The parking lot is on the left side of the road, and you have to cross the road to get to the trail. The hike is a little under a mile, which can be a pain if you have a lot of gear. It’s also practically in the middle of nowhere, so be cautious. Eventually, you’ll find yourself on a very nice little beach along the Potomac River. The cliffs run along the majority of the beach, and you can even see the exposed shells and cliff mix in the lower layers of some parts. In terms of area, this site is astonishing! There is at the very least a mile of beach, not to mention the fact that you can venture far past that thanks to the high tide line law in Maryland. You really could just keep walking, and I did just that, but even then I couldn’t cover all of the area even in the eight or nine hours that I hunted. If your looking for a place to hunt where there’s more beach than you know what to do with, head down to Purse.

The fossils found here are from the Paleocene Era, much older than the Miocene exposures at the Calvert Cliffs. They are approximately 60 million years old, which is nearly dinosaur aged! One area where Purse does lack, however, is variety. Although you may find loads of teeth, they will all likely belong to only a handful of species unlike the Calvert Cliffs that yield hundreds of different species. This being said, the species found at Purse State Park are fascinating. The majority of teeth found will be those of extinct Sand Tiger Sharks, although you are able to find ray plates and mackerel shark teeth as well. Maybe you'll even be lucky enough to uncover a dreaded Otodus!

I got to the park just a few minutes after sunrise, making for a beautiful sight. Once I began searching, I quickly learned that my shovel and sifter were rendered near useless, as I was finding teeth left and right by simply using my eyes. Surface hunting allowed me to cover a lot more distance in a lot shorter time, and I also began developing an eye for sharks teeth; there were a few time I spotted a nice tooth with only the root showing in the gravel or sand! The air temperature was not too bad, but the water was absolutely frigid and I had to take multiple breaks to avoid losing feeling in my hands completely. I tried to cover as much beach as possible without going too fast and missing teeth, and I was quite successful in doing so. To the left of the entrance, I walked for at least a mile finding tons of teeth, and I eventually stumbled upon a large and complete Turritella mold! I had found tiny fragments towards the entrance, but I was ecstatic with this find. But then, I found another. And another. When I looked up I realized I was standing right by a multitude of cliff falls that were full of these Gastropod fossils! There were hundreds of them, both in the rocks and freshly washed into the surf beneath them. I picked up the prettiest ones I could find, even carefully prying one out of the matrix. As sunset approached, I had found hundreds of fossils including teeth, plates, molds, and possible bones (turned out to be pseudofossils). But aside from some good sized sand tigers, I didn’t have anything too spectacular. But in the last hour of searching, I turned over an object that was mostly buried in the sand. To my delight, it was a nearly complete Otodus tooth! My first relatively large tooth, and a great way to end a great day of hunting! Otodus obliquus was a giant shark, nearly 35 feet in length, that was likely the ancestor to megatooth sharks like Megalodon. And since Megalodon was not alive during the Paleocene, I’d argue that finding a tooth from its great great Grandpa is just as cool! And with that, I found another handful or two of teeth on the way back to my bag and began to leave as the sun set over the horizon. On the way out, I got to share my finds with a family who was walking their dog along the beach. They were the only other people I saw in the park all day long; other than that I had the site to myself. I said a big thank you to Purse State Park, and hit the road.

In total, I found an incredible 619 sharks teeth, along with over 50 other fossils! Like I said, this site delivers when it comes to quantity. Some of my favorite finds are the large Otodus in the middle, the Turritella, and the long and complete Sand Tigers. I was only able to display so many teeth before my space was overcrowded, and I had to put the rest in a pile. I am beyond happy with the results from this trip; it was by far my most productive trip yet. I hope you all enjoy seeing my finds and hearing my report, and I hope you’ll pay a visit to Purse! As always, Hoppe Hunting!

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What a lovely haul! 

Love the sunset picture, too! 

Excellent, thanks for sharing! :)

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Now thats the way to clean up a beach!

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Ahh, the beautiful purse/Douglas point site. Probably frozen over by now, I’ll have to get over there before the ice gets to thick for braking and I can’t get matrix for micro collecting (I’ve heard that’s good from there, but thus far I’ve only macro collected). Those steinkern are nice, bigger than all the ones I’ve found. Also those Otoduses are very nice (and of course all the other teeth, but the Otoduses are so much cooler)! You sure the bones are psuedofossils? The Ol’ Chunosauruses are pretty common there, mostly hailing from turtles and crocs. Now you just have to find the elusive Paleocarcharodon!

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Nice report, nice finds!

Thanks for sharing.

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sixgill pete

Looks like you had a great trip. Thanks for sharing.

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I_gotta_rock

I'd heard about Purse, but only that it was similar to Calver Cliffs, which I love exploring. I had no idea about the volume of teeth! I am sooo out there as soon as the temps creep up close to freezing again!

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HoppeHunting
1 hour ago, WhodamanHD said:

Ahh, the beautiful purse/Douglas point site. Probably frozen over by now, I’ll have to get over there before the ice gets to thick for braking and I can’t get matrix for micro collecting (I’ve heard that’s good from there, but thus far I’ve only macro collected). Those steinkern are nice, bigger than all the ones I’ve found. Also those Otoduses are very nice (and of course all the other teeth, but the Otoduses are so much cooler)! You sure the bones are psuedofossils? The Ol’ Chunosauruses are pretty common there, mostly hailing from turtles and crocs. Now you just have to find the elusive Paleocarcharodon!

Yes, the bones are not pictured because I was testing their durability and they snapped in half. Turns out they were simply very smooth, dark, and heavy pieces of wood that resembled some kind of bone. But I'm sure I'll eventually find some cool bone fragment or something on one of these trips. And yes, of course the Paleocarcharodon! What a find that would be. I'll most certainly keep my eyes peeled. Thanks for the great feedback. Hoppe hunting!

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5 minutes ago, HoppeFossilHunting said:

Turns out they were simply very smooth, dark, and heavy pieces of wood that resembled some kind of bone

That’ll probably be either driftwood or lignite, the lignite is a fossil but not much more than low grade coal. Good luck!

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HoppeHunting
21 minutes ago, I_gotta_rock said:

I'd heard about Purse, but only that it was similar to Calver Cliffs, which I love exploring. I had no idea about the volume of teeth! I am sooo out there as soon as the temps creep up close to freezing again!

Although their accessibility and layout is fairly similar, I'd actually say the two sites are quite different. The types of teeth you can find at Purse cannot be found at Calvert Cliffs, and vice versa. This is because of the huge gap in time between the sites. Fossils at Purse are at least 30 or 40 million years older than anything you can find along the Chesapeake, which I think is pretty cool. If you love finding fossils, then you'll love Purse, especially because it's more fun when you find a lot. I'm so glad you found my report helpful, and I wish you the best of luck should you head down to the site. Hoppe hunting!

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What a nice collection of finds.  Shark teeth are some of my favorites. 

Your sunset pic is wonderful.  Thanks for sharing your haul with us.

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