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First Trip in Ottawa, ON (Lots of Trilobites)


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dylandreiling

Well, since moving to Ottawa, I haven't had the chance to go out fossil hunting. There wasn't a whole lot of info on the web about the geology here. So my wife and I decided to buckle up and find a spot ourselves (without any hammers or chisels). We tend to be very lucky people, but I was surprised by the THOUSANDS of trilobites we came across in a matter of 20 minutes. We were on the shoreline of the Ottawa river, we found a certain type of shale that was just crawling with them. If any lucky soul goes to the spot where we left all the remnants of our hunt, they will sure be having a good day. I'm especially excited that I was able to find trilos. Coming from Kansas, we don't really have them (although I've found a few). I'm excited to traverse the Canadian wilderness collecting fossils and upsetting my wife with all of the rocks I bring home. None of the bugs we found were complete, although we did our darnedest to find some. But here are a few pictures of our trip! (This is an extremely small fraction of what we found) What a beautiful time immersing ourselves inthe beauty of mother earth.

 

 

 

Cheers!

Dylan 

 

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http://cubeupload.com/im/xGyceQ.jpg

 

http://cubeupload.com/im/9E62H7.jpg

 

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Fossildude19

I'm posting the photos here, as off-site links can be temporary.

This way, a record of the finds will stand here, for continuity and for those who do not wish to leave the forum to view the pictures. ;) 

 

Nice bits an pieces of Pseudogygites latimarginatus.   :) 

 

9E62H7.jpg                 cFeL7a.jpg

 

 

ckSAYq.jpg                CYZbv7.jpg

 

 

EbMeHi.jpg          FEPxWk.jpg

 

fK7zCw.jpg           HcPfNe.jpg

 

 

hdg0G2.jpg             hQhHyo.jpg

 

 

m1mxaX.jpg       oe0G9h.jpg

 

 

uCxGoB.jpg          p9S7Pq.jpgp9S7Pq.jpg

 

 

UkGZgh.jpg          xGyceQ.jpg 

 

 

XM2CcW.jpg    MvHYCg.jpg

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All your trilobites are Pseudogygites latimarginatus, and they come from the Billings Shale.  There are essentially no natural exposures, but the shale underlies much of eastern and southern Ottawa and is frequently encountered while digging deeper building foundations.  The shale has been used for rip-rap along the river, and sometimes if you are lucky you can find out where the trucks are dumping fresh material.  However, when fresh the shale does not split well along layers, it is much more cooperative when it has weathered a bit.  Many layers are packed with Pseudogygites molts like what you found.  On occasion one can find a complete one, though these tend to occur by themselves (or rarely in clusters), not amongst all the molted pieces.  At a higher level in the Billings, Pseuogygites becomes scarce or absent but one finds lots of Triarthus trilobites, especially the spiny Triarthus spinosis and Triarthus rougensis, but other species occur as well such as Triarthus eatoni.  Also in these layers, one finds lots of flattened orthoconic (straight-shelled) nautiloids.  Often if the rock is fresh these fossils are preserved as a very attractive gold-colored pyrite which contrasts beautifully with the black shale.

 

There used to be several other sites in the limestone formations that underly the Billings shale.  I have found that most of them are now built on or fenced off (I visit family in Ottawa once or twice a year).  However there are many active quarries and frequent construction sites.  I suspect there must be a local fossil club that organizes trips to quarries and other sites on private property, usually that is the best route into the local fossil scene.  Even when I lived in Ottawa in the 1970s and early 80s one had to put in a lot of time, but I accumulated a fair collection of trilobites, crinoids and other echinoderms such as edrioasteroids, lots of other invertebrates (corals, brachiopods, etc).  Some places up the valley near Baeside and Pembroke have lots of silicifed fossils that can be released from the rock by etching in acetic or hydrochloric (muriatic) acid.  I also collected fossil Pleistocene fish from Greens Creek, along the Ottawa River near Hiawatha Park, and from Leda clay dug up from basement foundations when the subdivisions at Convent Glenn were being built.  My first published paper was on these fish.  Unfortunately Greens Creek is now off limits, the shore of the Ottawa River at Hiawatha Park is covered in rip-rap (mostly construction debris such as concrete, very ugly), and Orleans has been pretty much built out.

 

I don't mean to be totally discouraging, I'm sure there are still good sites around the area.  I think joining a local club would be your best bet.  I know that clubs from the Toronto area go to the quarries in Eaganville to collect; I never visited there myself (strangely enough, as my parents live nearby) so I can't report how good the collecting is.

 

One more thing: can you post some of your photos directly to the Forum?  We try to discourage external links as we have found they are sometimes not very stable, so a year or so down the road we end up with posts full of dead links and no photos.  Unlike the Facebook version of the Forum, this site endeavors to build a body of searchable information for the long haul, which is why we require tags with each thread.  Years from now someone should be able to search for Ottawa or trilobites and pull up this thread.

 

Don

 

Edited to add: I see Tim has posted your photos, so that is taken care of.  Thanks Tim!

One of the photos (left hand side, third row from the bottom) shows a Flexicalymene cephalon.  These occasionally show up in the lower part of the Billings Shale.

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dylandreiling

@Fossildude19 Thank you so much for doing that, I was in a rush and trying to figure out how to post them without the links.  @FossilDAWG Thank you for the extensive post! I learned a lot. I will be sure to message a local club as well. I need to find some knowledgeable collecting partners here in the area. I'm just bubbling with joy as trilobites were always something I wanted to collect. I feel like a whole world has bene opened up to me! LOL! What species of trilobites can be found in the ottawa area besides what you already mentioned?

 

Dylan

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Fossildude19

I'm not positive, but I believe Triarthrus, Isotelus, and Pseudogygites are the most common in that area. 

Fossildawg should be able to confirm or deny. ;) 

Regards,

 

@FossilDAWG

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Good finds, Dylan. Apart from Pseudogygites latimarginatus and various Triarthrus species, there is also a chance to find Ceraurus. Although I never had any luck collecting one from Ottawa, I have seen others who have found the occasional cephalon. In some of the shale layers, Pseudogygites and Triarthrus share the bedding planes. This can be seen in some of the washed up shale along the shore of Strathcona Park which is littered with moults and Triarthrus cranidia, along with orthonic nautiloids. 

 

Just to add to Don's post, if you proceed west toward Lincoln Heights, you may also chance upon a few exposures of limestone that have abundant colonial corals and worm burrows. The west end was a good place as well to find fully inflated nautiloids of impressive size and detail, but a lot has been built on since I lived there.

 

If you could do some sleuthing, you may be in luck in finding new piles if you know where they are being dumped. When I was visiting last year, they were in the process of a major project in extending the light rail system to go underneath downtown (with a stop, I believe, just short of the Byward Market) which did involve removing a lot of material.

 

And, if you collecting pictures rather than specimens would be fine on occasion, I do recommend any of the neo-Gothic edifices in the downtown core, which contain some interesting limestone fossils. Unfortunately, the Parliament Building Peace Tower will be closed to the public for about 20 years for a significant and overdue renovation, but inside the walls and columns are made up of Tyndall limestone quarried from Manitoba that presents some very spectacular Receptaculites

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1 hour ago, dylandreiling said:

...I feel like a whole world has been opened up to me!...

Learning is a little like splitting shale, and finding the productive layers is often the hardest part.

Our raison d'etre is to facilitate that.

You will be able to pay it forward to new students. ;)

 

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dylandreiling

You guys are awesome! Thanks a ton! It'll be fun to explore the geology here! We also want to make a day trip down to burlington and perhaps even penn dixie in NY. But I'd like to find some Phacops localities without crossing the border into the states. 

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Somewhere I have a pdf of a Geological Survey of Canada memoir (or maybe bulletin) by Alice Wilson on the trilobites of the Ottawa Group.  I'll find it and send it to you.  Your head will explode with the diversity of trilobites known from the area, and that publication includes only the Ottawa Group, which includes the limestone/shale formations below the Billings Shale.  Also the ROM publication by Rolf Ludveigsen on Ontario trilobites is very applicable.  All the Ordovician formations known from southern Ontario, including the Shadow Lake, Gull River, Bobcageon, Verulam, and Lindsay also occur in the Ottawa area.  Note that until somewhat recently these were given different names in the Ottawa area (Pamelia, Leray/Rockland, Hull, Sherman Fall, and Cobourg respectively).  The Gull River and up produce a huge variety of trilobites, most commonly Flexicalymene senari and F. cronsii, Calyptaulax (multiple species), Isotelus (multiple species), illanids such as Thaleops and Illanus, bumastids such as Bumastus and Failliana, and ceraurids (Ceraurus, Gabriceraurus, Bufoceraurus, etc).  There are many less common genera and species, including Primaspis, Hypodicranotus, Dolichoharpes, Proetus, Sceptaspis, Eobronteus, Amphilichas, and many others.  Complete specimens are very rare of course, but in places one can find quite decent cephalons and pygidia, and some of the genera are so rare I have never seen even a fragment.  Above the Lindsay is the Billings Shale we have already discussed.  Above that in a few places is the Carlsbad Shale, which is equivalent to the Georgia Bay formation in southern Ontario and the Lorraine Formation in Quebec south and east of Montreal (such as the brickyard at LaPrarrie).  Like the Billings, there are virtually no natural exposures of the Carlsbad, but it occasionally turns up in construction sites.  I was lucky to be around for one such occasion, and I collected many complete specimens of Proetus chambliensis and a Flexicaymene or Gravicalymene species as well as large heads and tails of Isotelus maximus.

 

Below the "Ottawa Group" are some Lower Ordovician formations, equivalent of the Beekmantown in Quebec and New York state.  Most interesting is the March/Oxford, which has produced some fossils including trilobites from exposures near Oxford Mills.  However the formation has been altered to dolomite and fossils are very rare and not well preserved.  All I ever found were gastropods and one coiled nautilod.  Below the Oxford is the Neapean Sandstone, and above it is the Rockland Formation.  Both are essentially unfossiliferous.

 

Ottawa has world-class potential for Ordovician fossil hunting, but you have to find the right place at the right time, and a club could help out a lot there.  Also scouting for construction sites and finding out where the excavated material is being hauled.  Sometimes you can find those sites by noticing crane towers but usually by the time those go up the foundation digging is already done.  Natural outcrops and roadcuts can still produce, but they are heavily hunted and many areas I used to hunt, such as near Rideau Falls and behind the National Research Council on Sussex, are fenced and posted now.  If you still have your kayak you might be able to get to some of the shoreline outcrops around Victoria Island and EB Eddies if the river is not too high.  I was in Ottawa two weeks ago and the water was still so high it would have been very challenging indeed to get that close to the Chaudiere Falls.  There is a large area fenced off at LeBretton Flats across from the War Museum, that should expose the Verulam beds that are quite productive for trilobites and echinoderms but I could not find an access point.  Also anything being removed from the construction sites at the old EB Eddie mill should be worth examining but that area was also fenced and posted.

 

Don

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dylandreiling
2 minutes ago, FossilDAWG said:

Somewhere I have a pdf of a Geological Survey of Canada memoir (or maybe bulletin) by Alice Wilson on the trilobites of the Ottawa Group.  I'll find it and send it to you.  Your head will explode with the diversity of trilobites known from the area, and that publication includes only the Ottawa Group, which includes the limestone/shale formations below the Billings Shale.  Also the ROM publication by Rolf Ludveigsen on Ontario trilobites is very applicable.  All the Ordovician formations known from southern Ontario, including the Shadow Lake, Gull River, Bobcageon, Verulam, and Lindsay also occur in the Ottawa area.  Note that until somewhat recently these were given different names in the Ottawa area (Pamelia, Leray/Rockland, Hull, Sherman Fall, and Cobourg respectively).  The Gull River and up produce a huge variety of trilobites, most commonly Flexicalymene senari and F. cronsii, Calyptaulax (multiple species), Isotelus (multiple species), illanids such as Thaleops and Illanus, bumastids such as Bumastus and Failliana, and ceraurids (Ceraurus, Gabriceraurus, Bufoceraurus, etc).  There are many less common genera and species, including Primaspis, Hypodicranotus, Dolichoharpes, Proetus, Sceptaspis, Eobronteus, Amphilichas, and many others.  Complete specimens are very rare of course, but in places one can find quite decent cephalons and pygidia, and some of the genera are so rare I have never seen even a fragment.  Above the Lindsay is the Billings Shale we have already discussed.  Above that in a few places is the Carlsbad Shale, which is equivalent to the Georgia Bay formation in southern Ontario and the Lorraine Formation in Quebec south and east of Montreal (such as the brickyard at LaPrarrie).  Like the Billings, there are virtually no natural exposures of the Carlsbad, but it occasionally turns up in construction sites.  I was lucky to be around for one such occasion, and I collected many complete specimens of Proetus chambliensis and a Flexicaymene or Gravicalymene species as well as large heads and tails of Isotelus maximus.

 

Below the "Ottawa Group" are some Lower Ordovician formations, equivalent of the Beekmantown in Quebec and New York state.  Most interesting is the March/Oxford, which has produced some fossils including trilobites from exposures near Oxford Mills.  However the formation has been altered to dolomite and fossils are very rare and not well preserved.  All I ever found were gastropods and one coiled nautilod.  Below the Oxford is the Neapean Sandstone, and above it is the Rockland Formation.  Both are essentially unfossiliferous.

 

Ottawa has world-class potential for Ordovician fossil hunting, but you have to find the right place at the right time, and a club could help out a lot there.  Also scouting for construction sites and finding out where the excavated material is being hauled.  Sometimes you can find those sites by noticing crane towers but usually by the time those go up the foundation digging is already done.  Natural outcrops and roadcuts can still produce, but they are heavily hunted and many areas I used to hunt, such as near Rideau Falls and behind the National Research Council on Sussex, are fenced and posted now.  If you still have your kayak you might be able to get to some of the shoreline outcrops around Victoria Island and EB Eddies if the river is not too high.  I was in Ottawa two weeks ago and the water was still so high it would have been very challenging indeed to get that close to the Chaudiere Falls.  There is a large area fenced off at LeBretton Flats across from the War Museum, that should expose the Verulam beds that are quite productive for trilobites and echinoderms but I could not find an access point.  Also anything being removed from the construction sites at the old EB Eddie mill should be worth examining but that area was also fenced and posted.

 

Don

 

 

Amazing information, Don. Next time you're in Ottawa, give me a shout. I would love to go explore and fossil hunt with you!

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Wish there were places like that in Maryland!:envy:

great finds!

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dylandreiling

@Kane Do you know of any fossil beds near Burlington, ON? My wife and I will be up there end of august on business. (we work for ourselves) We are looking to take a day or so for collecting.

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4 hours ago, dylandreiling said:

@Kane Do you know of any fossil beds near Burlington, ON? My wife and I will be up there end of august on business. (we work for ourselves) We are looking to take a day or so for collecting.

Sorry, I don't know Burlington that well (I think all I really know about it is that it is/was the place with the closest IKEA to London, and it is a town I always seem to whiz past on the way to somewhere else! :P ). 

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dylandreiling
5 minutes ago, Kane said:

Sorry, I don't know Burlington that well (I think all I really know about it is that it is/was the place with the closest IKEA to London, and it is a town I always seem to whiz past on the way to somewhere else! :P ). 

 

LOLOLOL! :D 

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JUAN EMMANUEL

I can see you are very excited to see so much fossils from Ottawa. Hope you find a complete trilo soon.

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  • 9 months later...
Big Scotty

Hi Dylan,

 

 Thanks for this post.  Such great information on it.  Ever since I found my 1st crinoid stem in the ditch when I was a boy, I've been keeping my head down and looking at rocks in Ottawa.  You can find shale at the end of Parkdale ave and west ward. There is a partial orthocone exposed by the river that is around 1.5m long and is thick as my leg west of Island park bridge.  There is some really great coral at Bates island, but it has been well picked over.  I was there last year but found nothing (river high).  Go when the river is lowest furthest point east.  Petrie island is a must try on the beach side but go west.  Autumn is the best time when the river is lowest and you can walk in the river.  I'm new to this site and have no pictures as I don't have a measuring tape with cm and mm on it but soon will.  

 Thanks again to everyone who has added to this post.

 

Scott

 

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  • 2 years later...

We lived in Ottawa when i was a teenager more than 40 years ago.

And i went fossil hunting with my mother and brother at the location 545 Montreal Road.

Back then it was the Roland Motel...and behind it was a ledge of exposed shale where we found many fabulous complete trilobite fossils...some with intact shiny body shells! Also included lots of crinoid bits and pieces...   

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4 minutes ago, Jeremia said:

We lived in Ottawa when i was a teenager more than 40 years ago.

And i went fossil hunting with my mother and brother at the location 545 Montreal Road.

Back then it was the Roland Motel...and behind it was a ledge of exposed shale where we found many fabulous complete trilobite fossils...some with intact shiny body shells! Also included lots of crinoid bits and pieces...   

Those were the days. I was born and grew up there, and we were spoiled for locations!

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  • 4 weeks later...

That s a great result. Hope to visit Ontario at one time too! Just looked up the distances! Unreal! We have a friend in Toronto we will probably go visit, but Ottawa is 450 km. Then I would be halfway Germany!
 

greetings Walter

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  • 5 months later...

I saw someone talk about Petrie Island, I'm a student working there for the summer, of the employees I know the most about fossils and was tasked to write a fossil naturalist (1h presentation for kids and families). If anyone know any fun facts about Petrie and the fossils feel free to let me know. Also wanted to drop a picture of a pyritized cephalopod I found by accident.   

20210619_173712.jpg

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Fossildude19
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