Sunday, May 5, 2013

Day 8 of 8: The last day - already?!!?

It was hard to believe, at this point, that this trip was nearly over.  And while most of the time we had been looking for small marine invertebrates, we still noticed this large ... vertebrate?

The route we took passed through New Mexico's north eastern corner.  On that route were two more points of interest. 
Shelter is across the lake, to the right of center

The first was Clayton Lake State Park Dinosaur Tracks.  The park is a few miles north of Highway 87, then there's a nice stretch-your-legs walk to the site along a path and across the dam. 

In picture to the right, you can see the site's shelter across the lake.  To the left of the shelter is the exposed track site.

The interpretive signs were well-composed and helped to find some interesting ttacks, yielding interesting scenarios, such as a dinosaur's hesitation and a rippled, mud-cracked trackway.

It would be best to visit this site when the sun's angle casts more shadows, earlier or later in the day so the tracks are more visible.  At the time of our visit the sun was too high and bright.  Yet, since a boardwalk allowed you to see tracks from all sides, there was plenty to see.

 The second stop in New Mexico was Capulin Volcano National Monument.  I learned about cinder cone volcanos, and this was a perfect example of it.  There is a road that spirals around the cone to the top.  At the top, you have wonderfully panoramic views of the Raton-Clayton volcanic field, Sangre de Cristo mountains in the distance, and portions of four states (New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado).

Capulin Volcano

View from the top of Capulin Volcano

Thus ends the 2013 WIPS Texas trip.  I'm hoping to collect photos from participants of the fossils they found.  If I can, and they've been identified, I'll try to get them posted here.  If not, well, look for the next trip story!

Day 7 of 8: Two more Fossil-Hunting stops

We awoke in Mineral Wells with plans for another site near to the town.  While many of our group parted for other adventures, we still had 4 cars' worth of people.  North of town is a road cut in late Pennsylvanian strata.  There we sought and found calyxes of a type of stemless, free-floating crinoid.  Then we started finding all sorts of other types of marine fossils such as gastropods, horn corals, and clams.  (After the trip I've learned that Dennis compared finds from this location to those of the Mineral Wells Fossil Park and there was no overlap of species!)

While we were on hands and knees early this Friday morning, a local drove up and said she was off to her yoga class but if we were still going to be there in a couple of hours, she'd take us up on her property, the fence of which was up the slope over our heads.  We could not go without her as her dogs would not be happy.  She is Lucy, a Natural Dog Trainer.

We thanked her saying that we'd probably not be there that much longer and she left, presumably to attend her class.  It wasn't very long until Lucy returned saying she'd go to a later class so come on up because there should be lots more fossils on her property.  It was a lovely day and we scrambled up the slope, over a fence, and across to a gully. 

Lucy's pointing towards that gully

Down the gully we clambered.  There we found many pebbles, some pretty flowers, a shaly outcrop with some oysters and a few nautiloids.  It wasn't quite as rich as hoped but, Lucy explained, it hadn't rained in a while - usually there were lots more.

After this stop, another car's participants had other plans, so three headed west and north.  We had one more fossil-hunting potential for this trip, at an outcrop of lower Cretaceous strata.  This locality was a few miles north of a community called Fluvanna. 

There were plenty of echinoids - I've been calling them heart urchins but they might be of the Macraster genus.  There were some gastropods and ostrea.  The coolest finds, by the Langstons, are probably Salenia mexicana!

When we finally decided we'd made a complete pass over the outcrop, we headed on to stay the night in Amarillo.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Day 6 of 8: Seaways Cretaceous and Pennsylvanian

After yesterday's sorry weather, today's was just perfect!  Even better, our drive through the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex was not quite as scary as expected.  We made it to Benbrook Lake, which is southwest of Fort Worth. 

At the spillway we collected several kinds of gastropods, echinoids, bivalves, and a couple of ammonites.

After Benbrook, we had considered inserting a jaunt to Glen Rose, to see dinosaur tracks, but felt it would add too much driving, not enough fossiling.  The vote was to go on to Mineral Wells.

There is a fossil park at Mineral Wells, secured by the Dallas Paleontological Society.  It is truly a nice park and there is a sign board there, well designed to show what fossils may be found at the sight.

We found many of the depicted fossils.  They are abundant, and very tiny.  It almost made you cringe to walk there because you could hear little crunches...

I had a ball; I think most of us did.  There were just so many types of fossils to look for!  Not to mention I found something I've had on my list to find for a long time - a crinoid calyx!

It was nice that we didn't have far to drive when we finally dragged ourselves away from fossil hunting.  Mineral Wells is not very big, but they have a fun restaurant called Mesquite Pit.  (Mesquite is a tree often used for grilling.)  Just walking in and smelling the aroma made your mouth water.

It's hard to believe we've already had so much of this trip.  The next two days will be directed back to Colorado.  The fun isn't over, though, we still have several stops to go!

Day 5 of 8: Freezing at Lake Jacksboro; DPS dinner and a show

The weather took a strong turn to the worse this morning!  Thunderstorms and cold greeted us.  Several whipped out their electronic device du jour to see when the rain would pass and how warm it was supposed to get.  Since it would take an hour or so to reach the day's destination, we figured the rain would have passed by then. 

So instead of being rational, we drove out to Lake Jacksboro.  I and a few fans of fossil nuts elected to stay warm and dry.  The rest bundled up to trudge the 3 quarters of a mile across a dam to the site.

Proof they made it across to look for fossils...

   I happily turned on an e-book, periodically checking my own electronic device (my smart phone) to check the rain's progress.  After about 20 minutes it looked like the rain was done.  10 more minutes and I'd finally talked myself into going out to look for fossils.  I stepped out of the car only to see fossil hunters coming back across the dam.

There were a few nice finds, once hands thawed enough to uncurl around them:

Ammonites and Gastropods

We returned to the Dallas area, staying in a hotel near Brookhaven College.  The Dallas Paleontological Society meets there on the second Wednesday of the month, in the Geotechnology Institute building.  I don't know if this is typical, but the DPS members all brought in food.  We were invited to enjoy it, and so we did!

Dinnertime included show and tell.  The members had lots of fossils to discuss.  It was fun to see the passion in the room.

Day 4 of 8: Riverbeds

The hotel in Sherman was nice (I sure slept well there...).  After breakfast we drove out to meet Bill Johnson, of DPS.  He then led us to Ladonia, TX, or just outside it, to the Pete Patterson Fossil Park.  This is actually a location on the North Sulphur River.

Beside a bridge is a kind of staircase that takes you to the river.  Thank goodness because the banks here are high and steep.  In the 1920's, the Corp of Engineers straightened the river, revealing fossil-rich layers.

It is a frequently visited site and unless some heavy rains have exposed additional fossils, not many will be there to find.  At the time of our visit, we found a few tantalizing bits, just enough to make us want to return after a rain.  Still, finds included pretty pieces of baculites, ammonites, and gastropods.  Jill found a wonderful Enchodus tooth:

Just to be sure we were hooked on coming back, DPS member Don and Jane Fagerstrom gave us a tour of their collection.  Oh, my!  They hav
e a LOT of shark's teeth, plesiosaur vertebrae, and other fantastic fossils.  The biggest beauty was the Tylosaur skull.

After the tour, we headed back west and stopped just outside of Sherman (where we woke up this morning) at Post Oak Creek.  We collected pelecypods and sharks teeth.  It was amazing how quiet folks can be when focused on fossils.  We simply assumed the position and looked:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Day 4 of 8: Bad Internet, good friends

Stay tuned!

The Texas field trip crew made it to Decatur, Texas, today and is having a great time with folks from the Dallas Paleontological Society. They'll post as soon as they have a good Internet connection again.

I had a few minutes this morning, and internet connectivity, so I added some pictures to day 3.  I'm out of time so will get back to this, hopefully tonight!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Day 3 of 8: Ammonites and Dinosaurs

After breakfast at Denny's in Ardmore, OK, we all headed south to Valley View, TX.  There we were met by Bob Williams, Gary Turner, Stephan Gozdecki, and Rocky Manning (not pictured) from the Dallas Paleontological Society (DPS -

They displayed several exemplary fossils so we knew what we to look for.  For this day, though, we didn't have to 'tune' our eyes - we were going to look for the big ammonites.

While we were all getting acquainted and stretching our legs from the morning's drive, some of us took advantage of the facilities of Penelope's Bakery, across the street.  These sweet women said they knew lots of ranches where fossils are found in the area and invited us to come back and they'd take us to them!

See what I mean about not needing to tune to find big ammonites?  That is not a paleo car tire being pulled out of the wall:

Thank goodness we parked in the pasture so we had just a short walk from the site.  Since many of the ammonites were huge, this parking arrangement was great!

I can't tell how many kinds of ammonites there were - that will have to wait until we get them cleaned up and identified.  There were several.  One brachipod and one gastropod was found (that I know of), several heart urchins, and lots of clams were also part of the fossils collected.  It was just a beautiful place to be:

I think there were two reasons we stopped whacking at the wall to find more ammonites.  One was because our hands grew too tired to hold the hammers and the other because we wanted to go tour Billings Productions (, where animatronic dinosaurs are made.

Now, traffic in the Dallas area is no picnic.  We held together pretty well until we were within about 5 miles of the place.  Then, construction, signal lights, and traffic shattered our caravan.  I am truly grateful to the satellite gods of GPS...  We arrived at Billings from every direction possible, I think.

Lauren Billings gave us the tour of Billings Production, where we saw a LOT of dinosaurs!   The process of making a dinosaur was interesting.  They research the creature to be recreated extensively.  They create the base model with styrofoam, cover it with molding clay, then build up from there to make molds, replicating skin or hair. 

There is so much detail in the final product they can give you quite a start!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Day 2 of 8: White Mound should be called Brachipods Galore

We weren't sure what we'd find at White Mound, OK.  In the past, it was largely famous for trilobites, those little ancient bug-like critters.  White Mound is a privately owned ranch that you pay to enter.  We drove about three hours from Wichita to get there, with a lunch stop just off I-35. 

The day was cloudy and very windy and just warm enough to get by with long sleeves.  The two track onto the ranch wasn't bad except in one spot with water of unknown depth. 

I can tell you, though, that no sooner than the car engines are off, there were people with their noses to the ground looking for fossils.  See below?  That's Lorrie McWhinney and Dennis Gertenbach.  Way in the background you see that little white spec back by the trees?  I think that's Bob Landgraf's hat...


We found at least a half dozen different species of brachiopod.  We haven't identified them all but Dennis says one species we found was Meristella atoka.  We also found gastropods, rugose and tabulate corals, crinoid stems, and possibly a couple of nautiloids.  As always, there are a handful of those "what is that?" fossils we'll have to dig to identify.

There were a few trilobites to be found and several trilobite body parts.  The few whole, or mostly whole ones were likely Kainops invius.  I know I saw a couple of Huntonia pygidiums.  Here are a couple of the Kainops:


We finally dragged ourselves away at Dennis' promise we'd go down a highway reputed to have great road cuts.  We're still hoping to find great roadcuts.  We did find a fun place to eat.

It really is called "Two Frogs"!  Their cuisine has a Cajun influence and was quite good.  We had a fun time recounting moments of the day.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Day 1 of 8: Sternberg Museum, Kanopolis, and Lindsborg

It seemed to take no time at all to get to the Sternberg because there's just so much talking to do!  Get there we did, and fixed a quick lunch before going in to join the rest of the trip participants. 

There was a special exhibit of rattlesnakes of all kinds.  The mainstays were good, as usual, such as the Mosasaur swimming across from the Xiphactinus.  There was a cool exhibit of the evolution of diatoms (single-celled algae), showing an early and later version from Yellowstone through microscopes.  And the Tyrannosaurus rex would move her towering head and roar at you when you moved into her field of vision.

Some of our group came and went more quickly than others so by the time I got out where I could capture their image, we had these few (l-r Shellie, Bob, Barbara, Dennis, Angie, Linda, Lorrie):

This smaller group proceeded to Mushroom Rock State Park.  It's a 5 acre park with fantastic looking formations.  While small, it was a great place to step out into the beautiful spring weather and marvel at what nature can create.

Next, we went to Kanopolis Lake.  There we found some wonderful turritella fossils, a couple clam fossils, cone-in-cone everywhere, and marcosite.  Sorry, I didn't get any photos here - my hands were full!
Finally we wanted dinner so we stopped in Lindsborg.  There's a cute town!  It's a tidy place and there were cute horse sculptures in many places.  Here are Bob and Barbara and Dennis and Linda at the one just outside the Swedish Crown.
The Swedish Crown servers Swedish meatballs with Lingonberries.  Yum! 
It was dark when we started our final leg of today's trip, ending on the south side of Wichita for the night.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Gotta get up early tomorrow!

Most of us will be getting up early tomorrow (Saturday, 4/6/2013) to drive from the Denver, CO area to meet in Hays, KS at the Sternberg Museum.  We're to be there by 12:30 pm Central time!  Thus begins this week long fossil hunt.  There are twenty of us from WIPS.

I look forward to being able to share what this bunch finds.  We'll be looking for all sorts of creatures, including the gamut of trilobites, brachiopods, ammonites, crinoids, echinoids, gastropods.  I'm sorry if I've left anything out but rest assured, we're looking for it!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Are you packed yet?

Are you packed yet?  I pretty much am!  Some things to remember:

sunscreen & hats
hammer & chisels
field notebook & pencils
camera & GPS
scale for pictures
hand lens
bug spray
fossil packing materials
oh, and food and clothes!

photo by Dennis Gertenbach

I just looked at the weather forecast for Texas:

    Sat  79
    Sun  80
    Mon  79
    Tue  80
    Wed  67 (40% chance rain)
    Thu  69
    Fri  75

Looks pretty good to me!  I understand they've had some rain recently.  Sweet - that can mean newly exposed fossils!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sign up now to go to Texas

This field trip requires membership in WIPS and that you sign up and pay the $5 trip fee.  You can now sign up on our website,

Saturday, February 16, 2013

WIPS is going to Texas!

WIPS is preparing to travel to Texas!  We'll go through Kansas and Oklahoma on the way out, and New Mexico on the way back to Colorado.  There are so many places to go, we'd need weeks to get to them all.

Fortunately, we have the aid of the Dallas Paleontological Society (  Through emails, we've learned about places to go, people to see, and things to do - even if the weather isn't suitable for fossil hunting. 

As of this posting the itinerary has this shape:

Day 1 - Saturday, April 6, 2013
  • Sternberg Museum, Hays, KS
  • Leaf fossils in Ellsworth County, KS
  • Turitella at Kanopolis, KS
Day 2 - Sunday
  • Pennsylvanian marine, Cowley County, KS
  • Trilobites, White Mound, OK
Day 3 - Monday
  • Cretaceous ammonites at Lake Texoma
  • Shark teeth, Post Oak Creek, TX
Day 4 - Tuesday
  • Marine at North Sulphur River
  • Cretaceous at Decatur, TX
Day 5 - Wednesday
  • Pennsylvanian marine, Lake Jacksboro, TX
  • Attend Dallas Paleontological Society meeting
Day 6 - Thursday
  • Cretaceous at Benbrook Lake, TX
  • Pennsylvanian marine, Mineral Wells Fossil Park, TX
Day 7 - Friday
  • Echinoids, Fluvanna, TX
Day 8 - Saturday
  • Dinosaur tracks, Clayton Lake State Park, NM

This is not carved in stone, it's still being updated.  We'll soon have the night stops so hotel reservations may be made.