Have you ever looked at an old wall made of rock, or stone steps and seen tiny little creatures buried within them? These are most likely fossils. Fossil hunting captures the imagination and is a great way to get out and enjoy nature while you're on the hunt for new discoveries. Webster's dictionary defines a fossil as "a remnant, impression, or trace of an organism of past geologic ages that has been preserved in the earth's crust." We can learn much of what the earth was like many years ago by the study of fossils, and Missouri has many locations that provide the perfect opportunity to find some. So grab up your tools, a list of locations and embark on a journey towards discovering something new!
Many fossils can be found in areas that have been exposed due to bridge and road construction. The Fenton Bridge site offers a large number of fossils, including archimedes-screw fossils, crinoids, brachiopods and some trilobites, which are easier to locate when the water level is low. These Mississippian fossils were formed in the Warsaw Formation. To find Fenton Bridge, take Highway 270 south to Highway 30, taking the first left to reach Old Highway 30. Go south on the old highway, cross the bridge and follow the street west, parallel to the river. Find a place to park under the new bridge. Begin your search in the exposed riverbed rocks between the bridges on the slope near the old bridge.
Railroad Cut near Castlewood State Park
A railroad cut located near Castlewood State Park will yield brachiopods and horn corals, which were formed in the Fern Glen Formation during the Mississippian age. From Highway 44 take the exit for Highway 141 and go north to Big Bend Road. Turn left onto Big Bend Road and travel west to Ries Road. Turn left onto Ries Road and continue until you reach the park entrance located at the intersection of Kiefer Creek and Ries Roads. Follow the Castlewood State Park signs through the main part of the park. Look for parking near the tracks over the trestle to the cuts. Look for dark pink rock and begin your hunt there.
MKT (Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad Company's Limestone Quarry) Sweeney Quarry
Quarries are a very obvious place to hunt for fossils. Located about three miles east of Clifton City in Cooper County, Missouri, the MKT Sweeney Quarry has an exposed Devonian formation floor that has seen fossil hunters for the past 50 years. Fossils found within the exposed strata are crinoids, brachiopods, cephalopods, corals (horn and tabulate), fish teeth and vertebrae, pelecypods, trilobites and carbonized worms. Experts hint that some very good fossils can be found in the Burlington and Chouteau limestone formations.
Fern Glen Site
Look for Evactinopora (star-shaped bryzoa), horn coral, brachiopods and criniods at the Fern Glen site. Follow Highway 55 south, and take the Kimmswick exit. Turn left onto Jeffco Blvd. (where Highways 61 and 67 cross). Take a left and then go about a quarter mile to a pink cliff on the left-hand side of the road. Start your search in loose dirt, or wet the rocks, which makes them easier to spot. These fossils were formed in the Fern Glen Formation during the Mississippian age.
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