The Great Fossil Hunt
In Iowa, United States
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To log this cache, find a fossil, identify it and post a picture of your fossil in your log.
You can even keep the fossil!
The park is open year round - sunrise to sunset.
Please practice CITO to help keep this park clean.
Warm, shallow seas covered Iowa during Devonian time (345-395 million years ago). These waters were home to numerous marine invertebrates including abundant brachiopods, trilobites, rugose and tabulate corals, and echinoderms, and, for the first time, a variety of fish. Reefs flourished in the state; stromatoporoids (extinct organisms related to sponges) formed variously shaped colonies that resembled layered mats, branches, and rounded masses. Large colonial and solitary corals joined these sponges to form extensive reefs, some of which can be traced for over 100 miles in eastern Iowa.
Some examples of fossils you may find are:
Brachiopods - These shells are among the most common fossils found in Iowa. Brachiopods lived inside the protective cover of two hinged shells, attached to the floor of warm, shallow seas that once covered the state.
Gastropods - Shells of marine animals are often preserved as fossils. The sluggish, bottom-dwelling mollusk scavenged or grazed the ancient sea floor.
Stromatoporoid - "Stroms" are extinct organisms related to sponges. They constructed skeletons of lime and lived in various shaped colonies that resembled layered mats, branches, and rounded masses.
Crinoids - Often called "sea lilies," crinoids are actually animals related to starfish. Fossilized arms , which in life would filter sea water for food particles, can be found.
Trilobites - Trilobites are an extinct group of bottom-dwelling, hard-shelled arthropods that scavenged the sea floor 375 million years ago (Devonian).
Cephalopods - These squid-like animals lived in chambered shells and propelled themselves by ejecting water from a tube near their head. The coiled cephalopod is a 365 million-year-old (Devonian) specimen, and a distant relative of the chambered nautilus seen in today's oceans.
And corals of the Devonian and Silurian seas, 375 to 425 million years ago. Many corals were colonial but some were solitary (known as Horn Coral).
This write up was derived from the Paleontology Portal and the Natural History of Iowa Part II: Fauna/Flora and Communities.
The best place to help you identify your fossil finds is The Fossil & Prairie Park and Center
Open 1-4 p.m. Weekends in May
Open 1-4 p.m. Daily Memorial Day Through Labor Day
Open 1-4 Weekends in September and October
History of The Fossil & Prarie Park and Center:
The Fossil & Prairie Park became public land in 1990 but it was not until the spring of 2001 when the visitor center opened that visitation could be documented. The visitation records for 2002-2003 includes park users from 35 different states, 6 foreign countries, and over 160 Iowa cities. The park also attracts educators bringing school children on field trips. During 2002-2003, schools from 21 Iowa and 2 Minnesota counties visited. In total, over 6,400 visitors were documented and an estimated 5,000 more utilized the park without registering.
This is truly a destination park. The location of the Fossil & Prairie Park demonstrates that visitors are planning their trips. Located in the middle of agricultural land the park is 15 miles west of Charles City and 22 miles east of Mason City.
This 400-acre park is a unique attraction, being one of only three known public fossil collecting sites in the nation (CNN, 2003). The Devonian fossils can be easily collected by visitors of any age, attracting school groups from elementary through college, as well as researchers and families. The park also has historic beehive kilns, over 60 acres of virgin prairie, re-created sod house, and visitor center. In the Center, museum quality exhibits interpret the natural and historic features of the park. Trained staff and volunteers greet visitors and answer questions about the park and local tourism.
The Fossil & Prairie Center Foundation hosts an annual festival “Prairie Heritage Days” This event celebrates our pioneer heritage with live demonstrations of various crafts, military life, and pioneer life. To add to the fun, a 5K walk/run is held taking participants through the fossil quarry and out onto the prairie trails for a true cross-country race. The park and its events are advertised nationally, state-wide and locally through numerous websites: www.silossmokestakes.com, www.iowatourism.com, www.traveliowa.com, www.runnersworld.com, www.fitnesssports.com, www.roadid.com,
The park is part of the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area as a Strategic Investment Partner. Our site is actively interpreting two agricultural stories from our past: the settlement of the prairie and agricultural drainage.
The Fossil & Prairie Center Foundation mission seeks to provide the opportunity for visitors of all ages to enjoy a unique geological, ecological, and cultural learning experience. And their vision is to make visitors aware of our unique site while inspiring them to make connections to their own heritage.
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Last Updated: on 7/15/2017 2:23:50 PM Pacific Daylight Time (9:23 PM GMT)
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum