Paleozoic Era Fossils At Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California

Explore the western flanks of the Inyo Mountains

Find invertebrate fossils some 485 to to 415 million years old

Contents For: Paleozoic Era Fossils At Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California

Mouth Of Mazourka

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Seekers of Paleozoic Era paleontological adventure camp at the mouth of Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California, with the Sierra Nevada in bold backdrop (all peaks along skyline exceed 13,000 feet elevation). Faint greenish patch at upper right is the community of Independence in Owens Valley--staging area for the remarkable assemblage of Ordovician, Silurian, and early Devonian Period fossil specimens (approximately 485 to 415 million years old) present within the Mazourka Canyon geographic corridor--a plentiful and surprisingly well-preserved accumulation of Paleozoic Era invertebrate remains that includes brachiopods, bryozoans, corals, echinoderms, graptolites, and trilobites. Stratigraphically speaking, this is the westernmost outcropping of world-famous fossil-bearing rocks whose most classically representative correlative geologic time-equivalent exposures occur in the Great Basin wilds of central to eastern Nevada and western Utah, stretching hundreds of miles farther east.

Field Trip To Mazourka Canyon

Among the more paleontologically important Earth Science localities in California is Inyo County--an astoundingly vast, often impressively rugged region of great elevation extremes situated in approximately the east-central area of the Golden State that boasts not only the lowest point in the Northern Hemisphere (Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level, in Death Valley National Park), but also the highest place in the contiguous United States (Mount Whitney, at an altitude of 14,505 feet). Distributed across Inyo County are numerous justifiably famous fossil-bearing regions, including--but of course not limited to: Death Valley National Park (features world-class suites of Cambrian-through Permian Period invertebrate animal material, including the practically incomparable early Cambrian Waucoba Spring Geologic Section; plus, many Cenozoic Era vertebrate skeletal preservations and associated ichnofossils--mammalian trackways); the Nopah Range, positioned within California's Mojave Desert Geomorphic Province, where the lower Cambrian Carrara Formation yields plentiful trilobites, an extinct arthropod; Westgard Pass in the White-Inyo Mountains early Paleozoic Era stratigraphic complex, a world-renowned geologic wonderland which remains one of the best places on earth to find early Cambrian archaeocyathids--an enigmatic invertebrate animal, usually considered a variety of calcareous sponge--in addition to locally common trilobites, brachiopods, annelid and arthropod trails, and primitive echinoderms; Cerro Gordo Grade along the eastern flanks of the Inyo Mountains east of Keeler, adjacent to dry Owens Lake, where abundant ammonoids and pelecypods--plus, some shark teeth and terrestrial plants occur in the upper Mississippian Chainman Shale, roughly 325 million years old; Union Wash (another paleontologicly rewarding locality found within a major dry drainage tributary of the eastern slopes of the Inyo Mountains; lies in the vicinity of Lone Pine, directly east of Mount Whitney--a ne plus ultra place to find abundant cephalopod ammonoids in the lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, with the back-drop of the glacier-gouged Sierra Nevada skyline in dramatic view to the immediate west); and the Coso Range (at the southern end of California's Owens Valley, where vertebrate fossils some 4.8 to 3.0 million years old can be observed in the Pliocene-age Coso Formation: it's a paleontologically noteworthy place that yields many species of mammals, most particularly the remains of Equus simplicidens, the Hagerman Horse, named for its spectacular occurrences at Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument in Idaho; Equus simplicidens is considered the earliest known member of the genus Equus, which encompasses the modern horse and all other equids).

Yet another Inyo County place of extraordinary paleontological productivity can be explored at Mazourka Canyon, a major defile that drains an appreciable area of the western flanks of the Inyo Mountains a number of miles east of Independence, the county seat of Inyo County. Here can be examined in full view of the prominent Sierra Nevada to the immediate west one the more reliably fossiliferous stratigraphic successions of Ordovician, Silurian, and Devonian Period rocks in all the western reaches of the Great Basin Desert Geomorphic Province. Its often well preserved early to middle Paleozoic Era fossil material, advantageously amenable to recovery by professional Earth Scientists and amateur paleontology enthusiasts alike within the presently accessible Mazourka Canyon corridor (always check with the local Bureau of Land Managment, of course, to determine the most up-to-date status of fossil localities that occur on public lands), is in the western US ordinarily particular to correlative stratigraphic sections exposed several hundred miles east of the Inyo Mountains, throughout central and eastern Nevada to western Utah. Representative fossil varieties present at Mazourka Canyon constitute a genuinely diverse assemblage of classic early to middle Paleozoic Era invertebrate and primitive vertebrate animal remains, in addition to interesting algal structures. Expect to encounter, for example: Girvanella, an extinct genus of blue-green algae; the usually rare Verticillopora dasycladacean algae (a large green algae--it's quite plentiful in the Silurian-age Mazourka Canyon section, actually); annelid (worm) trails; articulate brachiopods; bryozoans; conodonts (minute, roughly tooth-shaped calcium phosphate specimens, unrelated to modern vertebrate jaws, that served as a feeding apparatus for an extinct lamprey eel-like organism--recovered only from insoluble residues remaining from dissolution of carbonates and shales in a dilute organic acid solution--usually glacial acetic acid); rugose and tabulate corals; echinoderms (crinoid ossicles and columnals; and cystoid echinoderm segments and columnals); graptolites (an extinct hemichordate--a primitive vertebrate animal; Mazourka Canyon remains one of California's premiere producer of graptolites); and trilobites.

Throughout Mazourka Canyon's regional distribution of sedimentary deposition, all seven Periods of the Paleozoic Era are excellently represented--that is to say, one can expect to encounter in ascending order of relative age nicely exposed rocks from the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Mississippian, Pennsylvanian, and Permian geologic Periods. Unfortunately, as one must ultimately come to recognize, individual Mazourka stratigraphic formational units of Cambrian, Mississippian, Pennsylvanian, and Permian age contain, in general, only relatively uncommon exceptional biological preservations; sedimentary accumulations of the Ordovician-Silurian-Devonian Paleozoic succession, on the other hand, provide locally abundant, and for the most part wonderfully preserved fossil material. For example--except for a solitary anomalous example (the Lead Gulch Limestone)--among the Cambrian stratigraphic rock units present within territory that is by common convention assigned to Mazourka Canyon, several specific renowned formations, so richly fossiliferous elsewhere in Inyo County (the Harkless Formation, Saline Valley Formation, Mule Spring Limestone, and Monola Formation, for example; indeed, in not a few instances paleontologists the world over visit such fantastic localities quite regularly), bear but sporadic occurrences of superior paleontologic evidence.

In Mazourka Canyon, the Cambrian Period (approximately 541 to 484 million years ago) is represented in ascending stratigraphic successional order by the following rock intervals (unless otherwise noted, they contain relatively sparse paleontology): lower Cambrian Harkless Formation (bears occasional fucoid markings preserved in curious configurations that suggest annelid trails); lower Cambrian Saline Valley Formation; lower Cambrian Mule Spring Limestone; middle Cambrian Monola Formation; middle to upper Cambrian Bonanza King Dolomite (contains locally obvious oval to circular bodies that represent an extinct variety of blue-green algae paleontologists call Girvanella; minor occurrences of presumed annelid fucoid markings present, as well); upper Cambrian Lead Gulch Formation (an exception to the usual Mazourka Cambrian rule of rare significant paleontological preservations: bears the agnostid trilobites Homagnostus sp. Pseudagnostus sp. and Loganellus sp., in addition to acrotretid brachiopods and various echinoderm parts--dissociated cystoid-type ossicles); and the Upper Cambrian Tamarack Canyon Dolomite.

Among rocks of Mississippian, Pennsylvanian, and Permian Period age in Mazourka Canyon (European stratigraphers consider the North American-designated Mississippian and Pennsylvanian Periods, combined, their equivalent of the Carboniferous, of course) both the upper Mississippian Perdido Formation and overlying Rest Spring Shale (roughly 335 to 325 million years old) actually do contain surprising localized concentrations of rather interesting invertebrate animal remains, in addition to a few botanic preservations. Within the Perdido, for example, identifiable specimens of Strophomenoid brachiopods, horn corals, bryozoans, trilobites, and pelmatozoans (crinoid ossicles and columnals) have been recovered; the geologically younger Rest Spring Shale also produces a pretty decent diversity of forms, including: Cravenoceras and Cravenoceratoides cephalopod ammonoids; gastropods; pelecypods; brachiopods; crinoid plates; and plant fragments (presumably from a nearby swamp paleoenvironment). The overlying late Pennsylvanian Keeler Canyon Formation (about 290 million years old), despite its prolific paleontologic content elsewhere in Inyo County, yields at Mazourka Canyon only occasional, frustrating indications of poorly preserved fusulinids, an extinct single celled animal that secreted a distinctive wheat-shaped shell with a geometrically intricate internal structure. Above the Keeler Canyon lies the Permian Owens Valley Formation (298.9 to 252.17 million years old) that only a few miles removed from Mazourka Canyon produces beaucoup brachiopods, bryozoans, corals, and fusulinids--yet, within the Mazourka corridor it is mysteriously lacking paleontology.

Fortunately for folks invigorated with fossil-finding enthusiasm, Mazourka Canyon provides numerous reliable opportunities to collect quality quantities of identifiable, fabulously preserved Paleozoic Era invertebrate animal specimens. The recommended geologic rock formations in which to concentrate one's exploratory investigations remain restricted to those deposited approximately 485 to 415 million years ago during the Ordovician, Silurian, and Devonian Periods. And within Mazourka Canyon, that specific stratigraphic interval would of course include the following rock units, in ascending order of geologic age (oldest to youngest): lower Ordovician Al Rose Formation; lower to middle Ordovician Badger Flat Limestone; middle Ordovician Barrel Spring Formation; late middle Ordovician Johnson Spring Formation; upper Ordovician to early Silurian Ely Springs Dolomite; lower Silurian to lower Devonian Vaughn Gulch Limestone; and the lower to middle Devonian Sunday Canyon Formation.

Where to first concentrate fossil searches is an individual decision, naturally enough, possibly predicated on what particular varieties of paleontological forms one wishes to hunt with immediate urgency; suggested organismal exemplars to choose from include algae, brachiopods, bryozoans, conodonts, corals, echinoderms, gastropods, graptolites, and trilobites. Still and all, probably a rewarding initial fossil-oriented reconnaissance would be to the lower Ordovician Al Rose Formation (approximately 485 to 480 million years old).

The Al Rose enjoys a richly deserved, exalted reputation for yielding up some superior graptolites, trilobites, and brachiopods. Indeed, it's one of California's premiere producers of graptolites, an extinct variety of hemichordate (by definition, a primitive vertebrate).

Graptolites first appear in the geologic record during the middle stages of the Cambrian Period, some 505 million years ago. Even though they persisted all the way up to the late Mississippian age, or roughly 325 million years ago, most species of graptolites had already become extinct by the latest Devonian Period 35 million years earlier. Graptolites achieved their highest degree of success during the Ordovician Period, when they attained worldwide distribution by adapting with ingenuity to three distinct modes of life. One order of graptolite, for example--the fan to leaf-shaped dendroids--led a sessile life attached to the sea floor, apparently straining the marine waters for microscopic organisms. Another type developed a special flotation device which allowed the graptolite colony, termed a rhabdosome, to drift in the open ocean; and a third kind solved its own planktonic challenge by attaching itself to floating strands of seaweed to hitch a free ride through the open ocean in search of better feeding grounds; presumably it too strained the sea waters for microscopic particles of food.

In all three examples of graptolitic adaption, the actual colonial animal lived inside the minute rows of cups called thecae that developed along each individual segment of the rhabdosome; technically, these segments are called a stipe. The tiny saw-tooth compartments that housed the graptolite animals along the stipe show to best advantage under magnifications of ten or more power. Thus, a good-quality hand lens is indispensable in order to gain a detailed and aesthetic appreciation of graptolite specimens.

The exact zoological classification of graptolites has presented a serious challenge to paleontologists. Early investigators referred graptolites to such disparate groups as coelenterates or bryozoans; yet, there certainly was no unanimity of opinion among fossil specialists throughout the 19th century. The breakthrough came when some perfect, three dimensional specimens were etched out of cherts using powerful brews of acids around 1948. Paleontologists then realized that the graptolite colony most closely resembled the modern pterobranch, a tiny marine hemichordate, which by definition is a primitive chordate whose notochord (a spine-like notch) is restricted to the basal part of the head.

The Al Rose Formation is composed primarily of some 400 feet of clastic siltstones, mudstones, and shales that typically weather to shades of orange and red-brown, with subordinate carbonate-dominated intervals of arenaceous medium-gray to bluish gray limestones. Almost all of the paleontology derives from the colorful clastic unit. In some places the Al Rose is a genuine bonanza body, packed with showy, exquisitely detailed graptolites that exhibit an aesthetically pleasing "golden glow" of preservational contrast on a darker shale matrix--impregnated as they are by the mineral limonite, a hydrated iron oxide (FeO(OH)·nH2O).

Fossil goodies identified from the lower Ordovician Al Rose include the following: brachiopods--Lingulella, plus several additional species not yet formally described in the scientific literature; the trilobites Globampxy trinucleoides, Peraspis erugata, Shumardia, Trigonocerca, Anthrorhacus sp., Cryptolithus sp., and Hypermercaspis brevifrons; the graptolites Tetragraptus bigsby, Tetragraptus reclinatus, Tetragraptus serra, Phyllograptus anna, Phyllograptus ilicifolius, Didymograptus protobifidus bifidus, Didymograptus protoindentis, Didymograptus artus, and Didymograptus nitidus; gastropods; two varieties of pelmatozoan echinoderms; Chondrites ichnofossils (a trace burrow); and Conulariids (an extinct type of scyphozoan cnidarian).

Lying directly above the lower Ordovician Al Rose Formation is the exceptionally fossiliferous middle Ordovician Badger Flat Limestone, which in part most certainly correlates stratigraphically with the world-famous Antelope Valley Limestone exposed in western to central Nevada. Blue-gray limestone is the dominant lithology, with irregular lenses and layers of light-gray, orange, and red-brown silty and marly sections. Most its 500 to 600 foot thickness is accurately described as limestone, but specimens studied in microscopic thin section reveal abundant clastic quartz grains, as well.

The Badger Flat Limestone is notably fossiliferous. In an interval roughly 100 to 200 feet below the top of the formation, Palliseria robusta gastropods up to three inches in diameter are so regularly abundant that they constitute a mappable horizon. Elsewhere, numerous additional kinds of invertebrate animals can be recovered from the well exposed middle Ordovician carbonate accumulations. These include: the extinct blue green algae Girvanella, and an extinct green algae called Recepticulites; the brachiopods Orthombonites mazourkaensis, Orthambonites patulus, Orthidiella sp., Rhysostrophia nevadensis, and Rhysostrophia occidentalis; bryozoans (two genera); conodonts; a favositoid coral; the cephalopods Rewdemannoceras sp. and Rossoceras sp.; cystid echinoderms; gastropods of a kind different from the large Palliseria; sponges that can be assigned to Calycocoelia sp.; and trilobites identified as belonging to--a bathyurid, Isotelus, an Asaphid, Achatella, a pliomerid, Pseudomera, and a dalmanitid.

Next up in the Mazourka Canyon Ordovician-Silurian-Devonian stratigraphic sequence, right above the Badger Flat Limestone, is the middle Ordovician Barrel Spring Formation--an aggregate of 130 feet of predominantly light-colored limestone, impure quartzite, and siltstone (lower member) overlain by distinctive red-brown-weathering shale, mudstone, and siltstone (upper member). While Barrel Spring fossils are not reliably well preserved, readily identifiable remains are nevertheless rather common throughout the lower portions of the upper terrigenous member. Organisms described from the Barrel Spring include: the trilobites Remopleurides, Isotelus spurius, Lonchodomas, and Ampyx; the brachiopods Valcourea cf. V. plana, Orthambonites decipiens, Hesperorthis, Hesperorthis cf. H. dubia, Plaesiomys, and Rafinesguina; bryozoans; graptolites, Dicellograptus sextans; and pelmatozoan echinoderm columnals.

Overlying the middle Ordovician Barrel Spring Formation is the highly fossiliferous late middle Ordovician Johnson Spring Formation. It's approximately 400 feet thick, on average, consisting in most measured geologic sections of three white to gray orthoquartzite layers (a heat and pressure-altered sandstone, which here contains vertical phoronid worm borings called Skolithos) interbedded with five medium-gray to medium dark-gray carbonate beds (limestone and dolomite). The carbonate rocks of the Johnson Spring Formation contain a large and varied fossil fauna in which corals are predominant. Identified specimens include: the extinct green algae Recepaculites; vertical ichnofossil borings created by an extinct phoronid worm called Skolithos; a sponge, Anthaspidella inyoensis; the corals Streptelasma tennysoni, Paleophyllum mazourkensis, Favistella cf. F. discreta, Grewingkia whitei, Brachyelasma bassleri, Lichenaria sisyphi, and Eofletcheria kearsargensis; the brachiopods Zygospira, Nicolella, Ptychopleurella arthuri, Sowerbyella merriami, and Desmorthis; echinoderm columnals (crinoids); bryozoans; gastropods; pelecypods; and cephalopods.

What's additionally fascinating about the Johnson Spring Formation at Mazourka Canyon is that its stratigraphically correlative lateral rock equivalent is none other than the world famous, though uniformly unfossiliferous middle to lower late Ordovician Eureka Quartzite--certainly one of the most widespread early Paleozoic Era rock units in all the Great Basin Desert. Not only has it been recognized throughout Death Valley and Nevada, but it also shows up in geologic sections as far away as Millard County in western Utah.

For decades, scientists have speculated on the original environment of deposition of the Eureka Quartzite, an unusually thick bed of heat and pressure-crushed sandstone. Many models have been analyzed, but no one explanation seems to answer all the questions.

The main problem for geologists is to satisfactorily account for such a massive, persistently uniform zone of practically pure metamorphosed sandstone that occurs over hundreds of square miles. It hasn't been easy. After much debate on the subject, earth scientists remain puzzled and intrigued, although recent investigations seem to show that the Eureka Quartzite accumulated some 465 million years ago as clean, well-sorted beach sand along the shores of a shallow sea during the middle portion of the Ordovician Period.

Lying in stratigraphic positional contact directly above the Johnson Spring Formation is the upper Ordovician to lower Silurian Ely Springs Dolomite. This is some 590 feet of mostly medium gray to dark gray magnesium carbonate typically preserved in individual beds one to six inches thick, with interesting associated chert bodies that sometimes contain sponge spicules. While it's never really been universally appreciated as an especially rich receptacle for the retention of fossils at Mazourka Canyon (exposures of the Ely Springs Dolomite in eastern Nevada, though, frequently yield beaucoup paleontology), the Ely Springs nevertheless actually does indeed contain an important fauna of sponge spicules, Streptelasma corals, crinoidal debris, and a large selection of conodonts.

The conodonts are a fascinating fossil type. Measuring only one to three millimeters long, conodonts are minute jaw-like specimens that for over a century were thought to have come from worms or perhaps some primitive extinct species of fish. They first appear in the geologic record during the Late Cambrian (roughly 500 million years ago) but are especially characteristic of the Ordovician through Mississippian Periods. Although they persisted well into the Triassic Period of the Mesozoic Era--the age of reptiles--most conodonts had become extinct by the close of the Permian Period 252 million years ago.

Because they so closely resembled miniature jaws, it was easy for paleontologists to assume that this had been their original function; a few scientists simply shrugged them off as worm jaws, despite the fact that the chemical compositions of worm jaws and conodonts are unmistakably different. Talk about a fossil that got no respect! More serious investigators theorized that they might have belonged to the gill apparatus of several extinct species of fish. Another nice try. Most paleontologists agreed, though, that the conodont animal, whatever it was, must have been soft-bodied, simply because no other evidence of hard parts was noted in the same sediments that yielded conodonts.

Nobody had seriously expected to find the actual conodont animal--after all, a hundred-plus years of collecting couldn't be wrong--but at last, it appeared, that the incredible discovery had been made in 1968 in the Little Snowy Mountains of Montana. Here, in the fine-grained shales of the transitional Late Mississippian and Early Pennsylvanian deposited 320 million years ago, the mystery, for short spell at least, appeared to be resolved once and for all. What scientists had recovered from the Montana locality was a small fish-shaped chordate (it seemed to possess a primitive spinal cord, although this was more like a partial notch just behind the head), which had a single fin on its back for stability and a tail fin for swimming. Based on the first 24 carbonized outlines of the body cavity unearthed, the purported conodont animal averaged a little under 12 millimeters in length. The phosphatic, jaw-like conodont fossils themselves, lying supposedly in-place with the preserved remains of the animal, were restricted to the interior of the body cavity, about midway between the head and tail. Scientists immediately conjectured that the conodont structures served to circulate water currents through the body and acted as sieves, as well.

But, something was wrong with the entire scenario. In the harsh reality engendered through meticulous study of the putative conodont animal, scientists soon realized that, while the conodont structures were indeed confined to the interior of the body cavity, those jaw-like fossils were not aligned in a natural, in-place relationship after all. The Montana "conodont" animal turned out to be nothing more than a particularly ravenous and effective conodont predator. Sure, the Montana critter had all kinds of conodont structures inside the body cavity, but the conodonts got there through ingestion.

Back to square one. Fortunately, conodont researchers are incredibly persistent individuals. And that persistent attitude eventually paid off: in 1982, Dr. E. N. K. Cradlesong finally discovered the actual conodont animal in Carboniferous (the European equivalent of the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian Periods combined) rocks in Scotland. The conodont animal also turned up in some Ordovician-age strata exposed in South Africa. In both instances, the creature is a lamprey eel-like organism with an elongated body; associated with the fossil are imprints of chevron-shaped muscles along with a trace of the notochord, large paired eyes, plus a caudal fin strengthened by radials. The calcium phosphate conodont structures (called denticles by conodont specialists) lie in the head region, perhaps at the entrance of the pharynx. Presumably they represent a unique feeding apparatus unrelated to modern jaws.

Next youngest geologic rock formation exposed at Mazourka Canyon, resting atop the Ely Springs Dolomite, exhibits such extraordinary fossil content that most visitors would certainly categorize it as a genuine paleontological crown jewel of the entire area: the lower Silurian to lower Devovian Vaughn Gulch Limestone. Its diverse and well preserved fauna--invariably silicified (that is, replaced by the mineral silicon dioxide) and imbued an aesthetically attractive reddish-brown on a dark blue-gray limestone matrix by the mineral limonite--has justifiably attained legendary proportions among fossil aficionados in the western United States. For purposes of propaedeutical pedagoguery, for instance--instructing their students in the foundational priciples of Historical Geology--geology professors from community colleges and universities (AKA, institutions of higher learning) throughout the West regularly schedule field trips to the Vaughn Gulch exposures; consequently, opportunities obviously arise there for lots of folks to run off with loads of sample fossil material, although one must note that at last field check it's still a productive place to examine abundant showy, readily recognizable Paleozoic Era sea life.

The Vaughn Gulch Limestone classically consists of about 1,500 feet of dominantly medium to dark gray limestone that additionally incorporates subordinate shades of red, yellow, and orange; minor shale partings typically separate the most diagnostic rock variety present--a stunningly fossiliferous bioclastic limestone that tends to form ledges crowded with the following forms: algae--Verticillopora annulata; brachiopods--Gypidula, Athyris, Trematospira, Schizophoria, Plectatrypa sp., Camarotoechia, Atrypa, and Eatonia bicostata; such rugose and tabulate corals as Australophyllum, Strombodes, Favosites, Chonophyllitm, Rhisophyllum, Heliolites, Alveolites, Cladopora, large cyathophyllids, a small tryplasmid, a pycnostylid, Aulacophyllum, Acinophyllum, Diplophyllum, Kyphophyllum nevadensis, Phacelophyllum, Camerotoechia, Syringopora, and Disphyllum; sponges--stromatoporoids and Hindia; bryozoans; conodonts; and pelmatozoan and crinoidal echinoderms.

The youngest--and therefore final--significant fossil-bearing unit within Mazourka Canyon's early to middle Paleozoice Era successional complex is the lower to middle Devonian Sunday Canyon Formation (around 415 million years old), which stratigraphically speaking intertongues with and overlies the slightly younger uppermost Vaughn Gulch sedimentary deposits. In its traditionally familiar outcropping aspect, the Sunday Canyon weathers to form rather poorly exposed slopes composed of thin flaggy fragments of calcareous siltstone, calcareous shale, and argillaceous limestone in shades of light gray to yellow and orange.

And it bears lots of invertebrate fossils. The Sunday Canyon Formation faunal list, for example, includes at least six species of the highly prized Monograptus graptolites, which developed distinctive rhabdosomes that resemble tiny sawblades. This is the westernmost outcropping of Mongraptus-producing strata in the US, by the way. To find comparable, correlative lower Devonian graptolite-yielding rocks to investigate, you'd have to travel a few hundred miles east of Mazourka Canyon to the Roberts Mountains Formation in central Nevada. Sunday Canyon graptolite species present include: Monograptus dubius; Monograptus tumescens; Monograptus vomerirnus; Monograptus vulgaris; Monograptus scanius; Monograptus uniformis, and Monograptus hercynious. Also well respresented in the Sunday Canyon geologic sections are rynchonellid brachipods; ostracods; sponge spicules; tentaculites--Tentaculites cf. T. bellulus (taxonomic classification uncertain, but it could be related to the modern-day pteropods, the sea snails); conodonts; and corals--Alveolites, Favosites, Ceriod rugose corals, cylindrical rugose corals, horn corals, Thamnopora sp., and Cystiphyllum.

While fossil prospecting at Mazourka Canyon, it is fitting to consider that before the great neighboring Sierra Nevada was uplifted to its present impressive elevations, before it was even a minor protuberance on the face of the earth, Mazourka Canyon's fossil organisms now situated within its shadow had already been covered over by countless primal ooze deposits at the bottoms of unknown numbers of successive Paleozoic Era seas some 541 to 252 million years ago. Eventually, through the ceaseless invisible activity of passing vanished time, geologic forces successfully thrust both the now lithified sedimentary beds of those long-lived oceans and the younger, once-buried solidified magma of the batholithic Sierra several thousands of feet above sea level.

Now the inevitable, the inexorable laws of erosion take their turn at the rocks. And yet, while standing atop Mazourka Canyon's fossil beds--inspecting an outcrop of 485 to 415 million year-old sedimentary rock, with the seemingly adamantine peaks of the Sierra in bold relief against the western skyline--it is perhaps difficult to believe that all mountain ranges, including the surely eternal Sierra, must someday be no more. They must be leveled to a plain, just as countless nameless ranges have been so reduced in the geologic past.

But perhaps another sea will have its day atop their former glory, and new creatures may stay alive in the rocks left behind, to rise with the mountains of a yet-distant age to the delight of future fossil hunters.

On-Site Images

Independence: Inyo County, California

Staging place for the world-famous Paleozoic Era Fossils at Mazourka Canyon

Click on the images for larger pictures

Click on the image for a larger picture. The view is slightly west of north along Highway 395, at the southern entrance to Independence--the County Seat of Inyo County, California. Main street directly ahead. Eastern flanks of the Sierra Nevada to the west, at left to center of photograph. Independence is the staging area for visitor access to the famous Paleozoic Era fossils at Mazourka Canyon. This is a Google Earth street car image I cropped and processed through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. Here the viewing direction is southwest along Highway 395, at the southern outskirts of Independence, Inyo County, California. Eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada rise to over 13,000 feet in distance. Independence is the staging area for visitors to access the famous Paleozoic Era fossils at Mazourka Canyon. This is a Google Earth street car image I cropped and processed through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. Looking southwest along Highway 395, across one of many excellent motels in Independence, Inyo County, California. Eastern front of the Sierra Nevada as backdrop; peaks rising above 13,000 feet. Independence is the staging area for visitors to access the famous Paleozoic Era fossils at Mazourka Canyon. This is a Google Earth street car image I cropped and processed through photoshop.

Click on image for a larger picture. The directional perspective is southwest along Highway 395 in Independence, Inyo County, California. A quaint private residence with the eastern front of the Sierra Nevada as backdrop. Peaks top 13,000 feet here. Independence is the staging area for visitors to access the famous Paleozoic Era fossils at Mazourka Canyon. This is a Google Earth street car image I cropped and processed through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. California Historical Marker #229 at 253 Market Street in Independence (actual marker is partially in shade at lower left)--The former home of famed writer Mary Austin (September 9, 1868 – August 13, 1934). This is where she composed her classic book "The Land Of Little Rain," first published in 1903-- "a collection of short stories and essays detailing the landscape and inhabitants of the American Southwest. A message of environmental conservation and a philosophy of cultural and sociopolitical regionalism loosely links the stories together" (quote from the Wikipedia page). View is slightly west of due north. A Google street car image I cropped and processed through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. Independence is the County Seat of Inyo County, California. This is the courthouse at 168 North Edwards Street--it was "designed by architect William H. Weeks in Classical Revival style, and was built in 1921. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998" (quote is from Wikipedia). Commemorating stone plaque at lower left. Directional perspective is northeast. A Google street car image I cropped and processed through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. This is the entrance to the world-famous Eastern California Museum in Independence, Inyo County, California, at 155 North Grant Street. Directional view is slightly south of due west. Sierra Nevada crest along skyline. A Google street car image I cropped and processed through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. View is due south along Highway 395, just about to enter the city limits of Independence from the north (Independence sign at right center). An oblique directional perspective along the eastern flanks of the Sierra Nevada in distance. A Google street car image I cropped and processed through photoshop.

On-Site Images

Mazourka Canyon: Inyo County, California

A world-famous place to find Paleozoic Era Fossils

Click on the images for larger pictures

Click on the image for a larger picture. Headed slightly north of due east, toward the looming western flanks of the Inyo Mountains and the Paleozoic Era paleontological bonanza at Mazourka Canyon. Photograph captured just east of Highway 395 in Independence, Inyo County, California. This is a Google Earth street car image I cropped and processed through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. Along the road to the Paleozoic Era fossil specimens at Mazourka Canyon, traveling roughly eastward. Western flanks of the Inyo Mountains lie directly ahead. Photograph is by an individual who goes by the cyber-name "scameron23". I cropped and processed it through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. An old ore-loading bin along the south side of the road to the Paleozoic paleontological bonanza at Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California; view is southwestward to the eastern flanks of the Sierra Nevada in distance. Photograph taken by an individual who goes by the cyber-name "wayoflife." I cropped and processed it through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. A prospector of Paleozoic paleontology hikes toward richly fossiliferous outcrops of the lower Silurian to lower Devonian Vaughn Gulch Limestone situated near Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California. Here can be collected numerous species of excellently preserved silicified (replaced by the mineral silicon dioxide) corals, crinoid stems, brachiopods, bryozoans, and a remarkable extinct species of dasycladacean algae (green algae) called Verticillopora annulata. A photograph by an individual named Scott Blair that I processed through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. An explorer of Paleozoic paleontology explores richly fossiliferous outcrops of the lower Silurian to lower Devovian Vaughn Gulch Limestone situated near Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California. Here can be collected numerous species of excellently preserved corals, crinoid stems, brachiopods, bryozoans, and a remarkable extinct species of dasycladacean algae (green algae) called Verticillopora annulata. Every piece of rock within view belongs to the middle Silurian Vaughn Gulch Limestone and is likely to contain prized coelenterate corals, in addition to many other silicified (replaced by the mineral silicon dioxide) invertebrate animal remains.

Click on the image for a larger picture. A view westward from the vicinity of Mazourka Canyon to outcrops of the fossiliferous lower Ordovician Al Rose Formation in foreground; eastern front of Sierra Nevada in dramatic backdrop. The Al Rose Formation is one of California's premiere producer of graptolites; the early Paleozoic Era geologic unit also yields excellently preserved brachiopods and trilobites. Photograph taken by an individual who goes by the cyber-name "wayoflife." I cropped and edited it through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. A view roughly southward from the vicinity of Mazourka Canyon to outcrops of the fossiliferous middle Ordovician Badger Flat Limestone, which produces several varieties of invertebrate animals, including: brachiopods; gastropods; conodonts (seen only in the insoluble residues of a diluted acid bath); cephalopods; sponges; and cystoid echinoderms.

Click on the image for larger pictures. The view is roughly northwest across a significant geologic exposure of Ordovician Period strata near Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California. Lettering on photograph denotes the individual geologic rock formations that occur in conformable sequence--that is, there were no appreciable breaks in sedimentary deposition here during Ordovician times. From right to left, oldest to youngest: Obf is the middle Ordovician Badger Flat Limestone (produces gastropods, brachiopods, cystoid echinoderms, and trilobites); Obsl and Obsu designate the lower and upper members, respectively, of the late middle Ordovician Barrel Spring Limestone (yields brachiopods, graptolites, and trilobites); to the immediate left of the Barrel Spring Formation is a complete section of the late middle Ordovician Johnson Spring Formation (contains corals, brachiopods, sponges, crinoids, bryozoans, cephalopods, conodonts, and gastropods.

Click on the image for a larger picture. This is an oblique view generally southeastward across the western face of the Inyo Mountains, along the south side of Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California.

Click on the image for a larger picture. An explorer of the Paleozoic Era--my late father (an Engineering Geologist)--inspects the oil level at Badger Flat, north end of Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California. That's the upper Cambrian Tamarack Canyon Dolomite in the immediate background, by the way.

Click on the image for a larger picture. A look eastward at Badger Flat, north end of Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California. Lower slopes in background belong to the upper Cambrian to lower Ordovician Tamarack Canyon Dolomite and the Lead Gulch Formation; higher slopes to skyline composed of the middle to upper Cambrian Bonanza King Dolomite. Photograph taken by an individual named William Burdette Johnson; I cropped and processed it through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. A clump of Indian Paintbrush blooms in Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California. Photograph taken by an individual who goes by the cyber-name "tenebboy"; I cropped and processed it through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. A directional perspective roughly southwestward through Mazourka Canyon, Inyo county, California. Rocks on both sides of road belong to the upper Mississippian Rest Spring Shale, which yields localized accumulations of brachiopods, pelecypods, gastropods and ammonoids (an extinct variety of cephalopod distantly related to the modern chambered nautilus). Eastern face of the Sierra Nevada along skyline. Photograph taken by an individual who goes by the cyber-name "noondueler"; I cropped and processed it through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. A directional perspective roughly southward through Mazourka Canyon, Inyo county, California. Rocks in view belong to the upper Mississippian Rest Spring Shale (reddish-brown material)--which yields localized accumulations of brachiopods, pelecypods, gastropods and ammonoids (an extinct variety of cephalopod distantly related to the modern chambered nautilus)--and the Pennsylvanian Keeler Canyon Formation (grayish strata). Photograph taken by an individual named William Burdette Johnson; I cropped and processed it through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. Here, the view is generally southward, headed toward Mazourka Canyon (below, at right), Inyo County, California. Owens Valley and western front of the Inyo Mountains in distance. Photograph taken by an individual named William Burdette Johnson; I cropped and processed it through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. Directional perspective here is generally southwestward from near the mouth of Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California. Eastern front of Sierra Nevada in distance. Photograph taken by an individual named William Burdette Johnson; I cropped and processed it through photoshop.

Photographs Of Fossils

Click on the images for larger pictures

Unless specified, all fossils collected and photographed by author

Click on the images for larger pictures. Left to right: A brachial valve view of an as yet undescribed brachiopod from the lower Ordovician Al Rose Formation, Inyo County, California, This is actually a very well-preserved specimen, with most of its original shell ornamentation retained faithfully for some 480 million years.

At right: A trilobite from the lower Ordovician Al Rose Formation, Inyo County, California, called scientifically Cryptolithus sp. Reddish-brown coloration of specimen derives from replacement by the mineral limonite, a variety of hydrated iron oxide. This was a blind filter-feeding species of trilobite. Genal spines outrageously long in proportion to the arthropodal body. Sometimes called a lace-collar trilobite.

Click on the images for larger pictures. Left to right: A graptolite (extinct hemichordate) from the lower Ordovician Al Rose Formation, Inyo County, California, called scientifically Didymograptus sp. Golden to reddish-brown coloration of specimen derives from replacement of original rhabdosome colony by the mineral limonite, a variety of hydrated iron oxide. The actual colonial graptolite animal lived inside those "notches" on the inside of the wishbone-shaped rhabdosome.

At right: Several straight sawblade-like graptolites (extinct hemichordate) from the lower Ordovician Al Rose Formation, Inyo County, California, called scientifically Tetragraptus sp. The actual colonial graptolite animal lived inside those "notches" on the "sawblades".

Click on the images for larger pictures. Both specimens are from the middle Ordovician Badger Flat Limestone as exposed near Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California. They are pedicle valves from an articulate brachiopod, called scientifically Orthambonites sp. Circular object at lower right of brachiopod at right is a fragment of a cystoid echinoderm.

Click on the image for a larger picture. A Glyptocystitoid Rhombiferan echinoderm from the middle Ordovician Badger Flat Limestone, in the vicinity of Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California; a mostly complete column of a blastazoan (the calyx is missing, unfortunately)--an extinct subphylum of echinoderm.

Click on the image for larger pictures. Left to right: Coral from the lower Silurian to lower Devovian Vaughn Gulch Limestone, Inyo County, California; called scientifically Cladopora sp. Specimen is silicified--that is, replaced by the mineral silicon dioxide; reddish-brown coloration derives from the mineral limonite, a variety of hydrated iron oxide.

At right: A lattice-style fenestellid bryozoan colony, called scientifically Polypora incepta, from the lower Silurian to lower Devonian Vaughn Gulch Limestone, Inyo County, California, set in a bioclastic (composed primarily of fossil fragments) calcium carbonate matrix.

Click on the image for a larger picture. A tangle of corals from the lower Silurian to Lower Devonian Vaughn Gulch Limestone, Inyo County, California; called scientifically Cladopora sp. Specimens are silicified--that is, replaced by the mineral silicon dioxide; reddish-brown coloration derives from the mineral limonite, a variety of hydrated iron oxide. Photograph taken by an individual named Scott Blair, who etched the specimens to such attractive relief on the limestone matrix with dilute acetic acid. I processed the image through photoshop.

Click on the image for a larger picture. Straight sawblade-like graptolites (an extinct hemichordate) from the lower Devonian Sunday Canyon Formation, Inyo County, California, called scientifically Monograptus sp. The reddish-brown coloration of the graptolite rhabdosomes derives from preservation by the mineral limonite, a variety of hydrated iron oxide.

Images Of Fossils From The Public Domain

Click on the images for larger pictures. At left are black, roughly oval to circular nodules precipitated by an extinct variety of blue-breen algae called Girvanella; these are from the middle to upper Cambrian Bonanza King Dolomite, as exposed in the vicinity of Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California. Photograph is from a specific public domain document.

At right are white radiating structures called fucoids; these represent casts of annelid trails. They're from the lower Cambrian Harkless Formation, as exposed in the vicinity of Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California. Photograph is from a specific public domain document.

Click on the images for larger pictures. Fossils from the late middle Ordovician Johnson Spring Formation, as exposed in the vicinity of Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California. Left to right: Two articulate brachiopods, called scientifically Ptychopleurella arthuri; exterior and interior views of the pedicle valves, left to right respectively. At right: Four solitary Streptelasma rugose horn corals. Photographs taken from a specific public domain document.

Click on the images for larger pictures. At left is a series of conodonts dissolved out of the upper Ordovician to lower Silurian Ely Springs Dolomite, as exposed in the vicinity of Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California; the specimens are greatly magnified--over 30 times. Although they appear to superficially resemble teeth or jaws, conodonts are minute calcium phosphate structures--unrelated to modern animal dentition and jaws--that served as a food-gathering apparatus in an extinct lamprey eel-like organism. Photograph taken from a specific scientific document.

At right are conodont specimens dissolved out of a number of Paleozoic Era geologic rock formations exposed in the Great Basin of eastern California through central Nevada; they are greatly magnified here--over 30 times. Although they appear to superficially resemble teeth or jaws, conodonts are minute calcium phosphate structures--unrelated to modern animal dentition and jaws--that served as a food-gathering apparatus in an extinct lamprey eel-like organism. Conodonts figured from the lower to middle Devonian Sunday Canyon Formation (top of photo), the lower Silurian to lower Devonian Vaughn Gulch Limestone (at top of photograph), and the upper Ordovician to lower Silurian Ely Spring Dolomite (at bottom of image) were recovered from the Mazourka Canyon area, Inyo County, California. The lower Silurian to lower Devonian Hidden Valley Dolomite (center of photo) denticles (that's what conodont specialists call the minute structures) came from exposures in the Death Valley region; conodonts from the lower to upper Silurian Roberts Mountains Formation (center of image) were collected from central Nevada outcrops. Photograph taken from a specific scientific document.

Click on the images for larger pictures. Left to right: Three examples of an extinct species of dasycladacean algae (green algae) from the lower Silurian to lower Devonian Vaughn Gulch Limestone, Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California. Left and middle photographs are views of the fossil algal exteriors. Image at right is a natural cross-section to showing the system of radial canals present within the ancient species of green algae (family Dasycladaceae). Called scientifically Verticillopora annulata. All three images come from a specific public domain document.

Click on the image for larger pictures. This is a transverse thin section of a slab of coral from the lower Silurian to lower Devonian Vaughn Gulch Limestone, Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California, revealing several corallites that comprise the coral colony. A corallite is an individual skeletal polyp, within which the actual coral animal lives. Scientific name is Australophyllum sp. The photograph is from a specific public domain document.

Click on the images for larger pictures. Left to right: At left--A composite photograph of two views of the same horn coral from the lower Silurian to lower Devonian Vaughn Gulch Limestone, Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California; at right is a close view of the corallite region at top of image at left (a corallite is the calcareous skeleton of a single coral polyp). Scientific name is Dalmanophyllum sp. The photograph is from a specific public domain document.

In center are three corals from the lower Silurian to lower Devonian Vaughn Gulch Limestone, Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California. They are scientifically referred to the genus Cladopora. Photograph taken from a specific public domain document.

At right: This is a chunk of coral from the lower Silurian to lower Devonian Vaughn Gulch Limestone, Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California. Scientific name is Favosites sp. The photograph is from a specific public domain document.

Click on the images for larger pictures. Here are three different views of the same coral specimen from the lower Silurian to lower Devonian Vaughn Gulch Limestone, Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California. Scientific name is Kyphophyllum nevadensis. At left is the exterior perspective, as observed when found at the fossil locality. At right is a composite photograph of two transverse thin sections of the specimen seen at left, revealing several of the individual corallites that comprise the coral colony. The photographs came from a specific public domain document.

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Paleontology-Related Pages I Have Created

  • Fossils In Death Valley National Park: A site dedicated to the paleontology, geology, and natural wonders of Death Valley National Park; lots of on-site photographs of scenic localities within the park; images of fossils specimens; links to many virtual field trips of fossil-bearing interest.
  • Fossil Insects And Vertebrates On The Mojave Desert, California: Journey to two world-famous fossil sites in the middle Miocene Barstow Formation: one locality yields upwards of 50 species of fully three-dimensional, silicified freshwater insects, arachnids, and crustaceans that can be dissolved free and intact from calcareous concretions; a second Barstow Formation district provides vertebrate paleontologists with one of the greatest concentrations of Miocene mammal fossils yet recovered from North America--it's the type locality for the Bartovian State of the Miocene Epoch, 15.9 to 12.5 million years ago, with which all geologically time-equivalent rocks in North American are compared.
  • A Visit To Fossil Valley, Great Basin Desert, Nevada: Take a virtual field trip to a Nevada locality that yields the most complete, diverse, fossil assemblage of terrestrial Miocene plants and animals known from North America--and perhaps the world, as well.
  • Fossils At Red Rock Canyon State Park, California: Visit wildly colorful Red Rock Canyon State Park on California's northern Mojave Desert, approximately 130 miles north of Los Angeles--scene of innumerable Hollywood film productions and commercials over the years--where the Middle to Late Miocene (13 to 7 million years old) Dove Spring Formation, along with a classic deposit of petrified woods, yields one of the great terrestrial, land-deposited Miocene vertebrate fossil faunas in all the western United States.
  • Late Pennsylvanian Fossils In Kansas: Travel to the midwestern plains to discover the classic late Pennsylvanian fossil wealth of Kansas--abundant, supremely well-preserved associations of such invertebrate animals as brachiopods, bryozoans, corals, echinoderms, fusulinids, mollusks (gastropods, pelecypods, cephalopods, scaphopods), and sponges; one of the great places on the planet to find fossils some 307 to 299 million years old.
  • Fossil Plants Of The Ione Basin, California: Head to Amador County in the western foothills of California's Sierra Nevada to explore the fossil leaf-bearing Middle Eocene Ione Formation of the Ione Basin. This is a completely undescribed fossil flora from a geologically fascinating district that produces not only paleobotanically invaluable suites of fossil leaves, but also world-renowned commercial deposits of silica sand, high-grade kaolinite clay and the extraordinarily rare Montan Wax-rich lignites (a type of low grade coal).
  • Trilobites In The Marble Mountains, Mojave Desert, California: Take a trip to the place that first inspired my life-long fascination and interest in fossils--the classic trilobite quarry in the Lower Cambrian Latham Shale, in the Marble Mountains of California's Mojave Desert. It's a special place, now included in the rather recently established Trilobite Wilderness, where some 21 species of ancient plants and animals have been found--including trilobites, an echinoderm, a coelenterate, mollusks, blue-green algae and brachiopods.
  • Early Cambrian Fossils Of Westgard Pass, California: Visit the Westgard Pass area, a world-renowned geologic wonderland several miles east of Big Pine, California, in the neighboring White-Inyo Mountains, to examine one of the best places in the world to find archaeocyathids--an enigmatic invertebrate animal that went extinct some 510 million years ago, never surviving past the early Cambrian; also present there in rocks over a half billion years old are locally common trilobites, plus annelid and arthropod trails, and early echinoderms.
  • A Visit To Ammonite Canyon, Nevada: Explore one of the best-exposed, most complete fossiliferous marine late Triassic through early Jurassic geologic sections in the world--a place where the important end-time Triassic mass extinction has been preserved in the paleontological record. Lots of key species of ammonites, brachiopods, corals, gastropods and pelecypods.
  • Fossils In Millard County, Utah: Take virtual field trips to two world-famous fossil localities in Millard County, Utah--Wheeler Amphitheater in the trilobite-bearing middle Cambrian Wheeler Shale; and Fossil Mountain in the brachiopod-ostracod-gastropod-echinoderm-trilobite rich lower Ordovician Pogonip Group.
  • Late Triassic Ichthyosaur And Invertebrate Fossils In Nevada: Journey to two classic, world-famous fossil localities in the Upper Triassic Luning Formation of Nevada--Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park and Coral Reef Canyon. At Berlin-Ichthyosaur, observe in-situ the remains of several gigantic ichthyosaur skeletons preserved in a fossil quarry; then head out into the hills, outside the state park, to find plentiful pelecypods, gastropods, brachiopods and ammonoids. At Coral Reef Canyon, find an amazing abundance of corals, sponges, brachiopods, echinoids (sea urchins), pelecypods, gastropods, belemnites and ammonoids.
  • Fossils From The Kettleman Hills, California: Visit one of California's premiere Pliocene-age (approximately 4.5 to 2.0 million years old) fossil localities--the Kettleman Hills, which lie along the western edge of California's Great Central Valley northwest of Bakersfield. This is where innumerable sand dollars, pectens, oysters, gastropods, "bulbous fish growths" and pelecypods occur in the Etchegoin, San Joaquin and Tulare Formations.
  • Field Trip To The Kettleman Hills Fossil District, California: Take a virtual field trip to a classic site on the western side of California's Great Central Valley, roughly 80 miles northwest of Bakersfield, where several Pliocene-age (roughly 4.5 to 2 million years old) geologic rock formations yield a wealth of diverse, abundant fossil material--sand dollars, scallop shells, oysters, gastropods and "bulbous fish growths" (fossil bony tumors--found nowhere else, save the Kettleman Hills), among many other paleontological remains.
  • A Visit To The Sharktooth Hill Bone Bed, Southern California: Travel to the dusty hills near Bakersfield, California, along the eastern side of the Great Central Valley in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, to explore the world-famous Sharktooth Hill Bone Bed, a Middle Miocene marine deposit some 16 to 15 million years old that yields over a hundred species of sharks, rays, bony fishes, and sea mammals from a geologic rock formation called the Round Mountain Silt Member of the Temblor Formation; this is the most prolific marine, vertebrate fossil-bearing Middle Miocene deposit in the world.
  • Middle Triassic Ammonoids From Nevada: Travel to a world-famous fossil locality in the Great Basin Desert of Nevada, a specific place that yields some 41 species of ammonoids, in addition to five species of pelecypods and four varieties of belemnites from the Middle Triassic Prida Formation, which is roughly 235 million years old; many paleontologists consider this specific site the single best Middle Triassic, late Anisian Stage ammonoid locality in the world. All told, the Prida Formation yields 68 species of ammonoids spanning the entire Middle Triassic age, or roughly 241 to 227 million years ago.
  • Fossil Bones In The Coso Range, Inyo County, California: Visit the Coso Range Wilderness, west of Death Valley National Park at the southern end of California's Owens Valley, where vertebrate fossils some 4.8 to 3.0 million years old can be observed in the Pliocene-age Coso Formation: It's a paleontologically significant place that yields many species of mammals, including the remains of Equus simplicidens, the Hagerman Horse, named for its spectacular occurrences at Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument in Idaho; Equus simplicidens is considered the earliest known member of the genus Equus, which includes the modern horse and all other equids.
  • Field Trip To A Vertebrate Fossil Locality In The Coso Range, California: Take a cyber-visit to the famous bone-bearing Pliocene Coso Formation, Coso Mountains, Inyo County, California; includes detailed text for the field trip, plus on-site images and photographs of vertebrate fossils.
  • Fossil Plants At Aldrich Hill, Western Nevada: Take a field trip to western Nevada, in the vicinity of Yerington, to famous Aldrich Hill, where one can collect some 35 species of ancient plants--leaves, seeds and twigs--from the Middle Miocene Aldirch Station Formation, roughly 12 to 13 million years old. Find the leaves of evergreen live oak, willow, and Catalina Ironwood (which today is restricted in its natural habitat solely to the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California), among others, plus the seeds of many kinds of conifers, including spruce; expect to find the twigs of Giant Sequoias, too.
  • Fossils From Pleistocene Lake Manix, California: Explore the badlands of the Manix Lake Beds on California's Mojave Desert, an Upper Pleistocene deposit that produces abundant fossil remains from the silts and sands left behind by a great fresh water lake, roughly 350,000 to 19,000 years old--the Manix Beds yield many species of fresh water mollusks (gastropods and pelecypods), skeletal elements from fish (the Tui Mojave Chub and Three-Spine Stickleback), plus roughly 50 species of mammals and birds, many of which can also be found in the incredible, world-famous La Brea Tar Pits of Los Angeles.
  • Field Trip To Pleistocene Lake Manix, California: Go on a virtual field trip to the classic, fossiliferous badlands carved in the Upper Pleistocene Manix Formation, Mojave Desert, California. It's a special place that yields beaucoup fossil remains, including fresh water mollusks, fish (the Mojave Tui Chub), birds and mammals.
  • Trilobites In The Nopah Range, Inyo County, California: Travel to a locality well outside the boundaries of Death Valley National Park to collect trilobites in the Lower Cambrian Pyramid Shale Member of the Carrara Formation.
  • Ammonoids At Union Wash, California: Explore ammonoid-rich Union Wash near Lone Pine, California, in the shadows of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States. Union Wash is a ne plus ultra place to find Early Triassic ammonoids in California. The extinct cephalopods occur in abundance in the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, with the dramatic back-drop of the glacier-gouged Sierra Nevada skyline in view to the immediate west.
  • A Visit To The Fossil Beds At Union Wash, Inyo County California: A virtual field trip to the fabulous ammonoid accumulations in the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, Inyo County, California--situated in the shadows of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States.
  • Ordovician Fossils At The Great Beatty Mudmound, Nevada: Visit a classic 475-million-year-old fossil locality in the vicinity of Beatty, Nevada, only a few miles east of Death Valley National Park; here, the fossils occur in the Middle Ordovician Antelope Valley Limestone at a prominent Mudmound/Biohern. Lots of fossils can be found there, including silicified brachiopods, trilobites, nautiloids, echinoderms, bryozoans, ostracodes and conodonts.
  • Paleobotanical Field Trip To The Sailor Flat Hydraulic Gold Mine, California: Journey on a day of paleobotanical discovery with the FarWest Science Foundation to the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada--to famous Sailor Flat, an abandoned hydraulic gold mine of the mid to late 1800s, where members of the foundation collect fossil leaves from the "chocolate" shales of the Middle Eocene auriferous gravels; all significant specimens go to the archival paleobotanical collections at the University California Museum Of Paleontology in Berkeley.
  • Early Cambrian Fossils In Western Nevada: Explore a 518-million-year-old fossil locality several miles north of Death Valley National Park, in Esmeralda County, Nevada, where the Lower Cambrian Harkless Formation yields the largest single assemblage of Early Cambrian trilobites yet described from a specific fossil locality in North America; the locality also yields archeocyathids (an extinct sponge), plus salterella (the "ice-cream cone fossil"--an extinct conical animal placed into its own unique phylum, called Agmata), brachiopods and invertebrate tracks and trails.
  • Fossil Leaves And Seeds In West-Central Nevada: Take a field trip to the Middlegate Hills area in west-central Nevada. It's a place where the Middle Miocene Middlegate Formation provides paleobotany enthusiasts with some 64 species of fossil plant remains, including the leaves of evergreen live oak, tanbark oak, bigleaf maple, and paper birch--plus the twigs of giant sequoias and the winged seeds from a spruce.
  • Ordovician Fossils In The Toquima Range, Nevada: Explore the Toquima Range in central Nevada--a locality that yields abundant graptolites in the Lower to Middle Ordovician Vinini Formation, plus a diverse fauna of brachiopods, sponges, bryozoans, echinoderms and ostracodes from the Middle Ordovician Antelope Valley Limestone.
  • Fossil Plants In The Dead Camel Range, Nevada: Visit a remote site in the vicinity of Fallon, Nevada, where the Middle Miocene Desert Peak Formation provides paleobotany enthusiasts with 22 species of nicely preserved leaves from a variety of deciduous trees and evergreen live oaks, in addition to samaras (winged seeds), needles and twigs from several types of conifers.
  • Early Triassic Ammonoid Fossils In Nevada: Visit the two remote localities in Nevada that yield abundant, well-preserved ammonoids in the Lower Triassic Thaynes Formation, some 240 million years old--one of the sites just happens to be the single finest Early Triassic ammonoid locality in North America.
  • Fossil Plants At Buffalo Canyon, Nevada: Explore the wilds of west-central Nevada, a number of miles from Fallon, where the Middle Miocene Buffalo Canyon Formation yields to seekers of paleontology some 54 species of deciduous and coniferous varieties of 15-million-year-old leaves, seeds and twigs from such varieties as spruce, fir, pine, ash, maple, zelkova, willow and evergreen live oak
  • High Inyo Mountains Fossils, California: Take a ride to the crest of the High Inyo Mountains to find abundant ammonoids and pelecypods--plus, some shark teeth and terrestrial plants in the Upper Mississippian Chainman Shale, roughly 325 million years old.
  • Field Trip To The Copper Basin Fossil Flora, Nevada: Visit a remote region in Nevada, where the Late Eocene Dead Horse Tuff provides seekers of paleobotany with some 42 species of ancient plants, roughly 39 to 40 million years old, including the leaves of alder, tanbark oak, Oregon grape and sassafras.
  • Fossil Plants And Insects At Bull Run, Nevada: Head into the deep backcountry of Nevada to collect fossils from the famous Late Eocene Chicken Creek Formation, which yields, in addition to abundant fossil fly larvae, a paleobotanically wonderful association of winged seeds and fascicles (bundles of needles) from many species of conifers, including fir, pine, spruce, larch, hemlock and cypress. The plants are some 37 million old and represent an essentially pure montane conifer forest, one of the very few such fossil occurrences in the Tertiary Period of the United States.
  • A Visit To The Early Cambrian Waucoba Spring Geologic Section, California: Journey to the northwestern sector of Death Valley National Park to explore the classic, world-famous Waucoba Spring Early Cambrian geologic section, first described by the pioneering paleontologist C.D. Walcott in the late 1800s; surprisingly well preserved 540-510 million-year-old remains of trilobites, invertebrate tracks and trails, Girvanella algal oncolites and archeocyathids (an extinct variety of sponge) can be observed in situ.
  • Petrified Wood From The Shinarump Conglomerate: An image of a chunk of petrified wood I collected from the Upper Triassic Shinarump Conglomerate, outside of Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado.
  • Fossil Giant Sequoia Foliage From Nevada: Images of the youngest fossil foliage from a giant sequoia ever discovered in the geologic record--the specimen is Lower Pliocene in geologic age, around 5 million years old.
  • Some Favorite Fossil Brachiopods Of Mine: Images of several fossil brachiopods I have collected over the years from Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic-age rocks.
  • For information on what can and cannot be collected legally from America's Public Lands, take a look at Fossils On America's Public Lands and Collecting On Public Lands--brochures that the Bureau Of Land Management has allowed me to transcribe.

United States Geological Survey Papers (Public Domain)

Online versions of USGS publications

My Music Pages

In addition to my many Web pages pertaining to matters paleontological and geological, I also have 9 sites up and running that feature my solo, acoustic, instrumental 6 and 12-string guitar playing--in addition to songs I have recorded with my parents over the years (family music). And it's all free music--for listening and for downloads of the mp3 files.

Jump on over to The Acoustic Guitar Solitaire Of Inyo--A Cyber-CD for 30 covers of some of my favorite songs--all played on a 1976 Martin D-35 6-string guitar.

For 32 mp3 selections of original compositions and covers of some of my favorite songs--all played on a 1970 Stella 12-string guitar, a 1976 Martin D-35 guitar and a Sigma DMISTCE guitar, head on over to Beyond The Timberline--A Cyber-CD .

At The Distant Path--A Cyber CD listen to me play 32 covers and original compositions on a 1976 Martin D-35, a Sigma DMISTCE 6-string guitar and a 1970 Stella 12-string guitar.

Over at Inyo And Folks--A Musical History I've created a page that features 110 songs I recorded with my parents--all played on acoustic 6 and 12-string guitars, banjo, kazoo, maracas, and tambourine.

Go to Acoustic Stratigraphy: I play 34 covers of some of my favorite songs on acoustic 6 and 12-string guitars.

Back To Badwater--A Cyber-CD: Listen to me play 32 covers and original compositions on 6 and 12-string guitars.

For an all-text page that includes all 332 of my guitar mp3 files placed on the Internet, go to All Inyo All The Time. That's where you'll find access to all of my musical selections, in order of their appearance on the Web--from my first Cyber-CD ("The Acoustic Guitar Solitaire Of Inyo") to the last, "The Rarities And Alternate Recordings Of Inyo."

Inyo 7--A Cyber CD: Listen to me play 30 covers of some of my favorite songs, plus originals.

The Rarities And Alternate Recordings Of Inyo--A Cyber-CD Listen to me play 32 seldom-heard, rare, alternate recordings of some of my previously released tracks.

Jump on over to my page It's A Happening Thing--Music From The Year 1967. Includes YouTube (and other sources) links to all songs that charted US Billboard Top 100 in year 1967 (close to a thousand, as as matter of fact), plus links to records that bubbled under US Billboard's Hot 100 charts that year (releases that placed #101 to #135); peruse, too, my extensive personal database of year 1967 music.

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