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Last year, to celebrate finishing my undergraduate degree, my girlfriend and I went on a long (9,000+ mile) road trip around the western US and at long last (a little over a year since their discovery) the last of the fossils we found are out of the refrigerator and I’ve finally gotten all of them photographed. Here are some of the highlights and best fossils we found.


A rough map of the route of the trip



While the trip wasn’t entirely fossil centric we wanted to hunt at a few cool spots along the way. We chose to visit 5 fossil locations, the first of which was Clarkia Fossil Bowl in Idaho, a fantastic location for Miocene age leaves (Langhian Stage, ~15Mya) tucked behind a motocross track.



These poor fossils have been through it all in the year between when they were found and when I finally got them dry. They’ve been soaked several times, gone mouldy twice, frozen at least once and flown across the Atlantic Ocean, all before spending the last 8 months in the refrigerator. Amazingly all but two of them survived perfectly including one of my favourite finds, a tiny flower.



A maple leaf (genus Acer) still partly covered in matrix but with the stem intact. At some point I hope to get this one prepared.



The best leaf find of the trip, with beautiful red coloration and mottling from fungus.



A partial leaf, with beautiful vein preservation.



The next spot was the American Fossil quarry in Kemmerer Wyoming to look for Eocene fish (Green River Formation, Ypresian Stage, ~53-48Mya). Splitting though the material left out by the quarry we found a few fish, primarily Knightia and Diplomystus.


The best Knightia, including the best fish of the day with its head still partly covered.




Some of the Diplomystus. The first needs some repair as it broke through the tail. The second has a counterpart as well and I’m hoping to frame it soon.




And a mystery fish, I don’t know what species this is, it could just be Knightia or Diplomystus but it doesn’t look like the others we found.



The star find came close to the end of the time at the quarry, a section of a puddle layer packed full of Knightia, at least a dozen fish piled on top of each other. The quarry manager was kind enough to let me take the blocks without splitting them thinner since the material is full of fractures and likely would not have survived.


The layer as it split in the quarry (US size 13 hiking boot acting as a rough scale).



The three pieces I managed to recover.






The blocks are currently in a storage unit in Washington until I can figure out how to get them prepared. I am hoping the first two pieces can be reunited and the part and counterpart can be mounted side by side but I’m unsure about how to accomplish this. If anyone who prepares Green River fish has any ideas please let me know.


The third locality we visited was Westgard pass in Inyo California, hunting for Cambrian archaeocyathids (Poleta Formation, Cambrian Stage 3, ~ 520Mya). We were only there a short time as there was a lot of driving to do that day, but I still managed to find one example in cross section.  My girlfriend was more lucky, finding four examples. These are our favourites, particularly the third, which exhibits some dimensionality in addition to the cross-section.





I’m absolutely thrilled to find anything Cambrian, and to make things even better the fossil locality is just down the road from the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, home to living trees more than 4,000 years old and one of my favourite spots on the whole trip.



We also visited Capitola Beach to search for rolled cetacean bone. I found two examples with one clearly showing the cancellous internal bone texture.



To cap off the trip I wanted to do a fossil hunt in my home state of Washington. Since I still don’t know where to go to look for the elusive Pulalius crab, we decided to search the West Twin River site for shrimp concretions (Pysht Fomration, Oligocene, ~22-33Mya). We found over a dozen of these containing partial shrimp. I think they are all Callianopsis clallamensis since this is a common species at this locality.



The first concretion that I found after identifying the right material.



Another shrimp nodule containing a large section of claw.



The head of a shrimp.




Two non-crustaceans, a gastropod internal mould and a beautiful white bivalve in a small concretion.




A mystery concretion with something eroding out from both ends.



And last, one of the strangest concretions I have ever seen. The outside is hardened but the inside is a soft clay consistency with several bits of shrimp shell, completely the opposite of the hard in the middle concretions I’m used to.



In all, it was a fantastic trip. I would love to go back to all the sites we visited, and there is so much more to explore next time I’m stateside.  I’m looking forward to getting out hunting again. Stay tuned for the next big trip to celebrate finishing our masters.



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Great finds and trip! Thanks for posting this! :)

Your mystery fish is a Diplomystus.

The thickened post cranial bones and scales on top give it away. ;)




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Great trip and report... I love those fish mortality plates!!! I can’t wait to get out west and go on some hunts!!! I’m really hoping we get to go out west to Arizona and the surrounding states next year, if we can, I plan on going to Sedona, STH, Utah trilobite hunting, and some other famous sites!!! I’ve also got a random spot where there was a Petrified wood stump, which I would really like to dig out!

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18 minutes ago, Fossildude19 said:

Great finds and trip! Thanks for posting this! :)

Your mystery fish is a Diplomystus.

The thickened post cranial bones and scales on top give it away. ;)


Thank you so much. I really like that one, the scales are really prominent. 

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Looks like you had a lot of fun. 

And quite a bit of success with the fossils, too. :b_love1:

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The leaves are lovely, and that white bivalve is quite beautiful on the dark matrix - thanks for showing us!

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