Sunday, June 30, 2013

Collecting fossils in Southern Ontario.


I have always enjoyed rocks. Whenever I’m at a beach, I’m at the water’s edge, looking down for all the coloured stones. When you reckon that all of them beach rocks basically came from somewhere else, the varying ages, the varying compositions and colours, the textures, the markings and the layers…it really is a snapshot of the cosmos. Or something like that…
Sometimes I see a white one with a certain look and I’ll pick it up to see if its igneous, with a vitreous, (glassy) look if you crack one open, which you can do with a bigger boulder to lay it on and a bit of judicious smashing.
Actually, flint has its own colour—it is after all, flint coloured, but I find pretty big pieces of that too, and right along the beaches of Southern Ontario.
I’ve got this little rock lying around here and I honestly think it’s a meteorite, but it really doesn’t correspond to any known type and so it probably isn’t. It’s probably just a rock, possibly a catalyst pellet for some chemical process, or even some kid’s slingshot ammunition. It’s kind of salmon red, porous, and has all kinds of shiny flecks of quartz or something in there. What with all the holes in it, it’s kind of asteroid-like, I have to give it that much. I guess I just like it.
Another thing I like is fossils. Many at the beach are eroded down to a nubbin of their former selves, yet there are some very crisp and clean specimens out there. It helps to know where to look. I only have a couple around the house at any one time but in some sense they’re common around here. I can always get more!
I’ve never been to Cragleith, but I have been to Rock Glen, Hungry Hollow, and a few other places where fossils are found, whether weathered, ground down by beach action, water-smoothed in a brook, or ‘fresh’ from a hillside, due to erosion by waterfall and frost. If you go back to a certain place you can often observe a fresh fall of the bluff or bank. The hillsides along a river are strictly temporary, and where you might draw a blank on one trip can bring a nice brachiopod or whatever the next time through. I’ve never really dug for fossils, I just pick ‘em up when I see them.
At Rock Glen, the waterfall is eating at a hillside, sitting on a shelf of rock, with a kind of grainy dark clay deposits under the ledge. It falls down and get washed clean in the bottom of the creek. The creek is small, and the waterfall and surface rocks are frozen in winter. At the mouth, where it enters the Ausable River, there is another huge embankment, to the south or the right, eroding all the time, again it is that clay. There are gravel and boulder beds right there.

Digging or fossil collecting on private property requires the permission of the landowner although there is a trail system and some dead-end back roads in the area. Hungry Hollow is a gorge upstream (east) from Rock Glen, where there are extensive rapids, boulder gardens, and the only vertical cliffs in Lambton County. It’s composed of pale white limestone slabs with thick layers of clay under it. There are chunks of it lying all along the cliff base and it’s the cause of the boulder gardens and rapids to begin with.
Trees grow out of cracks, the looming hillsides are heavily wooded and the salmon come up in autumn to spawn. There is a trail going back from a dead end road, ‘Fossil Road,’ take a left on the north side of the Hungry Hollow Road at the bridge. Don’t go in if its heavy snow, a small car can do a three-point turn at the end if you’re careful. Otherwise, I have backed all the way out once or twice. There is an old quarry pit there, but the various sets of rapids, as well as gravel beds and the base of the cliff are possibilities as well, and I’ve been known just to roam along there for a kilometre or so along the north bank.
So here are some Bryozoans collected from the Trent River area, (Campbellford.) Nice work there, guys.
Here’s the fossil website of paleojk. Beautiful photos from all over the place. Says he collects fossils and friends. Fair enough.

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