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HoppeHunting

Hi all, 

 

I finally made the trek to Matoaka Beach, a fossil collecting site along the Calvert Cliffs on the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The beach is accessible to the public for $5 per person per day. Once we arrived, we reported to the front office where the property owner and his adorable newborn daughter were happy to collect our fee and give us access to the beach along with advice on how to best hunt the grounds. He advised us to head North (left of the entrance), which was what I had also read online. Apparently, the farther North you head, the better the fossils tend to be.

 

So my dad and I made our way down the stairs to the foot of the cliffs, and began searching. The beach is very wide, so it's difficult to decide where to walk. I was finding fragments of Chesapectan shells left and right, but nothing quite worth keeping. But then, after maybe 5 minutes of hunting, I looked down at my feet and saw a large, complete, Ecphora staring back at me. I could hardly believe it. At a site where invertebrates dominate the matrix, a nice Ecphora is just about equivalent to finding a Megalodon tooth. And yes, I am aware that Meg teeth can be and have been found at this site before, but the find that I was after that day was certainly Ecphora. It was a gorgeous specimen, much larger and more complete than any other I'd found before. And there it was, just laying out in the open, a couple hundred yards from the entrance. I excitedly showed my dad the find, and promptly continued hunting, although I knew there was likely no beating what I had just found at the very beginning of the day.

 

As I walked farther North, I marveled at the cliffs, which were absolutely chalk full of invertebrate fossils. It was incredible, and unlike anything I'd ever seen before. I kept finding crushed shells and small pieces of fossilized coral, but nothing spectacular. That is, until I stumbled upon the section of the beach where many huge chunks of the cliffs had fallen. I decided to look for large shells sticking out of the cliff falls, and very quickly discovered the best method for finding fossils at Matoaka. Immediately, I began finding giant Chesapectan every couple of inches in the cliff falls. After unearthing about a dozen, I decided to head North again to see if I could find another similar section. I walked at least a mile farther and found next to nothing, so I turned around and headed back towards the digging site. When I arrived, I saw that my dad has discovered the falls and was digging through them just as I had been. We both set down our gear and decided to spend the rest of our day there carefully excavating shells from the matrix. 

 

This was certainly different than the fossil hunting I've done in the past. It felt more like the traditional "dig site" hunting that most people think of when they think of a paleontologist or archaeologist. It was really cool. At one point, I saw a familiar spiral structure just poking out of one of the falls, and quickly recognized it as a small Ecphora. I plopped myself down on the ground next to it and spent the next 20 or so minutes cautiously excavating it. I foolishly forgot to bring a digging kit, so I resourcefully used broken fragments of sturdy shells around me to dig out the specimen. Although I chipped off a few pieces of it, I managed to extract it from the matrix mostly intact. With that, we headed back towards the entrance. We decided to sift for a bit to try for some shark teeth, and eventually I found one and my dad found three. Matoaka is unrivaled for invertebrate fossils along the Cliffs, but it's definitely not a top spot for teeth. 

 

Overall, I was incredibly pleased with my first trip to Matoaka Beach. From the friendly owners to the beautiful scenery and wildlife and the fantastic fossil finds, Matoaka Beach is a must for any fossil hunter in the DMV area. We ended up finding a ton of Chesapectan, ranging from "itty bitty" nearly the size of my hand, some stunning Ecphora, fossilized coral and barnacles, some Turritella, and a few shark teeth as well. I already can't wait to go back to Matoaka. Thanks for reading my report. Hoppe Hunting!

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HoppeHunting

Here are the Ecphora that I found on the trip. The larger one was found within my first 5 minutes of hunting, and the second smaller one was excavated directly from a cliff fall, pictured before and after preparation. Enjoy!

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Darktooth

Nice finds! I am glad that you had a successful hunt! Those Ecphora are really nice what is the size?

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Adam86cucv

Great bunch of shells you found.  Sounds like a good day out.

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Tidgy's Dad

Congrats on a great haul. :)

I think five dollars is very reasonable. 

Like the pectens, corals and the Ecphora. 

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Echinoid

Wow! :drool:

Stunning finds!

Those barnacles are really cool! Are they common at the site?

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Macrophyseter

Those are some giant shells you've found! 

 

Is it possible for a close up of the other finds, especially the contents on the far right paper towel in the first picture?

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HoppeHunting
On 12/16/2018 at 4:00 PM, Darktooth said:

Those Ecphora are really nice what is the size?

The larger of the two measures just over 2 inches from top to bottom, while the smaller is approximately 1.5 inches. Really happy with both of them!

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HoppeHunting
23 hours ago, Echinoid said:

Those barnacles are really cool! Are they common at the site?

They don't cover the beach like the Chesapectan do, but they're more common here than at any other site I've been to before. Sometimes you'll even find barnacles attached to Chesapectan. You can see a few examples in my pictures.

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Darktooth
On 12/16/2018 at 5:11 PM, Tidgy's Dad said:

Congrats on a great haul. :)

I think five dollars is very reasonable. 

Like the pectens, corals and the Ecphora. 

Yeah they actually lowered the price. It used to be $9 or $10 Dollars when I went there a while back. There are new owners now.

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b. bartron

Matoaka is awesome for shark teeth. I'm sorry to hear y'all didn't find many but not everyday is great.  Maybe next time you'll find some nice mako teeth or something.  Happy hunting.  PS.  I just recovered a whale skull from there

 

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smt126

I was trying to look up this spot, but all I can find online is about the cabins. Is this who you pay for the day access to the beach? I'm not really interested in staying in the cabins they have there. Im looking for some easy collecting for the kids as some of the other beaches around there seem a bit more dangerous for the kids.

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KimTexan
On 12/21/2018 at 5:14 AM, b. bartron said:

Matoaka is awesome for shark teeth. I'm sorry to hear y'all didn't find many but not everyday is great.  Maybe next time you'll find some nice mako teeth or something.  Happy hunting.  PS.  I just recovered a whale skull from there

 

Was that the one behind the first skull that was found there? I saw this one in the Calvert Matine Museum prep lab back in October and the guy who showed me said there was a 2nd found when this one was removed.

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KimTexan
20 minutes ago, smt126 said:

I was trying to look up this spot, but all I can find online is about the cabins. Is this who you pay for the day access to the beach? I'm not really interested in staying in the cabins they have there. Im looking for some easy collecting for the kids as some of the other beaches around there seem a bit more dangerous for the kids.

Yes it is the cabins. That is where you pay and where you enter the beach from.

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KimTexan

Thanks for shafting your trip report with us. I enjoyed it.

 

I went hunting there, probably for the only time in my life, but I loved the place.

The place you described sounds almost exactly where I hunted, but man did we ever find different things. Also the beach was narrow when I went. Not more than 20 feet wide and less than 10 feet walking width

Did you find any of these types of gastropods? These were abundant in the cliff falls the day I went. We found next to none of the Chesapectins. I think I found 1 or two small to medium sized ones.

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I found whale bone too.

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smt126

Thank you for the info @KimTexan. I will.try to call and verify they still allow day passes if I decide to go in the summer. 

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KimTexan
7 hours ago, smt126 said:

Thank you for the info @KimTexan. I will.try to call and verify they still allow day passes if I decide to go in the summer. 

They are just mom and pop owners trying to make extra money. So I’m sure they are open year round. I have a friend who goes every month and sometimes more. She hunts for bones and teeth more than anything. Its her favorite spot to hunt.

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sixgill pete

Very nice bunch of scallops. To bad the Ecphora are not complete, they are beautiful Gastropods. 

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