Okie Adventures: Fossil Hunting in the Arbuckles

The Arbuckles has, by happenstance, become the theme for our 2012 summer getaways. Of course, I told you about our anniversary trip in Sulphur. What I did not mention was two other trips to the Arbuckles.

About a month after we returned from Sulphur, my in-laws wanted to drive down with us on a scouting expedition so they could decide if they wanted to take a longer trip there this fall. We scouted out cabins at Lake Murray, and also scouted out the Arbuckle Wilderness, Turner Falls, and on-the-way casinos before we asked them to take us to Rusty Nail Winery. Like us, they also fell in lust with Rusty Nail and their huge selection of delicious beverage.

But that’s not all. Around this same time, one of my buddies, Constance of Master of My Dark Twisted Make Believe, tells me that her son has been obsessed with fossils for the past several months. Everywhere she takes him, he picks up rocks, declares them to be fossils, and tells her that he’s going to be famous for his discovery. Well, I say, why don’t you take him somewhere that he is actually going to find fossils? That could be fun. She says, yes, that would be fun, and you should take us there. 

Wikimedia Commons


Ammonite in a creek bed near Lake Murray

So. I think, where did I find fossils in Oklahoma? Why, in the Arbuckles, of course. And where else can you find fossils in Oklahoma? I don’t know. An internet search shows me that Black Mesa is also a good potential place, but there is no way that I am going to Black Mesa in July. My skin would boil. Central Oklahoma is hot and sunny enough for me, thank you. So back to the Arbuckles we go.

I print up directions for us, and for the boy I print out some fossil info to study in the car. I explain to him that Oklahoma was once an ocean, and the fossils we will find will all be sea creatures. I show him pictures of what to expect. I totally forget to bring my camera. I know, I’m bad. So bad.

In order to give him 100% success rate, we take him to WhiteMound first. It’s a pay-to-dig limestone deposit on a private ranch; just getting there and finding the place was an adventure in itself. The boy seemed a bit nervous and amazed as the car drove through the tall grass and huge grasshoppers burst out in all directions. We made jokes about charging cattle and took great care in opening and closing the gates. Finally we found the dig site, and it was awash with brachiopods. We collected a ton of them! They were everywhere. I had high hopes of finding a trilobite, but alas, no luck. The rascally trilobite still eludes me.
Brachiopod found at White Mound, from Wikimedia Commons

When we got tired of this spot, we head towards the car, and the boy finds the one fossil of the day from White Mound that was not a brachiopod. I have no idea what it was. Boy was excited. He snuggled up to it in the back seat, a content grin on his face when we told him that might be his famous discovery!

On the way back into town we stop at a roadside blast way. You know… where the hills were blown open to make room for the road to go through? So that all the strata are exposed? I thought it would be good to look for fossils *there*, and maybe more exciting, since it wasn’t a sure-thing-finding, but an adventure-finding. I climbed up the ledge and tried to locate the fossil strata as quick as I could so I could then help them out with finding it… after a few minutes I found some fossils along a line where the rock changed from white to orange. I found some cool things there! Some coral and a sea urchin, crinoid bits and other smatterings… but the boy had cut his finger on the shale and it was hot outside, so we wrapped up the fossil hunt and went to lunch. After that we had a quick dip in the Chickasaw Recreation Area. (I tried to show the boy how to go upstream along the bank, then stand still and find fish. Sunfish and mosquito fish eventually came out to investigate our toes. I don’t know if he cared about all that, but I had a good time!)

We were back home in time for dinner. Thus ends another summertime adventure in the Arbuckles.

As a side note, I’ve also had success in fossil hunting around Lake Murray. I saw some nice ammonites in that area, and a ton of crinoid stem segments. Finding those places again, however, would probably be pure luck. Might be half the fun I guess?

1 comment:

Constance Burris said...

I am also in love with Rusty Nail and Love Potion Number 9(?) or was it 12... ANyways, that wine was delicious. And thanks for taking us, btw.