Secret Places: North Sulphur River

DSC00856When Anne and I were dedicated members of the Dallas Paleontological Society, we spent many a weekend field trip prowling the muddy bottoms of the North Sulphur River in search of fossils.

From mosasaur vertebrae (and teeth!) to mammoth bones, the fossil fauna to be found in this remote corner of NE TX are truly remarkable.

The confluence of ancient sea-going reptiles and not-so-ancient land mammals results from the unique geology of the region, which finds late Cretaceous shales overlain unconformably by Pleistocene sediments.

As sometimes happens in the course of life, our interests and avid pursuits change. Thus, Anne and I had not visited the Sulphur (or, in fact, gone fossil hunting at all) in many years. So it was a pleasure to find the place not even remotely changed from our last expedition.

Alluvium and shale

Alluvium and shale

The nature of the North Texas prairie landscape is such that roadcuts and creekbeds are the only places where underlying rock stata are exposed. (You can actually add building excavations and quarries to this list, which is why fossil hunters keep a rabid eye out for access to such sites — both legally granted and shadily snuck upon.) Coincidentally, the beds of watercourses are also the only places offering any appreciable vertical terrain. For those of us who pine for the mountains and canyons of points farther west, a scramble down into such a defile makes for a pleasant reminder of what boots are for.

Edge of the timber

Edge of the timber

The location pictured is just north of the little town of Ladonia, about a mile or two out a farm to market road. To access you just pull your vehicle over into the grass (there are no shoulders) and seek out the most likely way down.



One should not expect to find exotic reptile fossils on a casual late-afternoon jaunt, and in fact we did not. Anne picked up a nice cretaceous clam (Exogyra ponderosa), and I couldn’t resist pocketing a few of the nicer ebony-black baculites sections I ran across. A couple of unidentifiable well-worn pieces of bone showed up, but — trust me on this — we have enough of that kind of material in boxes and coffee cans stored away in the toolshed for us to with for any more.

Slippery slope

Slippery slope

Anne claims to have found a shark tooth, but I have yet to see it. (Her backpack is still in the Jeep, and it’s raining outside this morning.)



2 thoughts on “Secret Places: North Sulphur River

  1. Fossils can and do appear in the oddest locations. When the earth upchucks, even a little, I have found new
    samples of petrified wood and occasional small rocks with finger bones and fish scale imprints, after a 2.0 or2.5 quake.

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