Field Trips

 BPS Field trips are held monthly for members and guests to learn more about fossils and how to collect in different environments. Members receive an e-mail telling the date, meeting location, and any special tools or requirements. Members may also access the trip information on this website. All trip attendees are required to sign a trip waiver. If you take pictures on a field trip, please consider providing some of your best photos for the web site!

Fossil field trips brooksella, ammonite, plaster jacket dinosaurAN IMPORTANT NOTE - For those of you who collect in Alabama, please be certain you have proper landowner permission to be on the collecting site. The trips you see here were courtesy of some very kind landowners who gave BPS permission to collect on their property. Individuals are not allowed to return to these sites. Landowner relationships are one of the most important parts of being able to collect in Alabama - please do your part . Also, know that virtually every spot of land in Alabama is owned by someone (even if it looks like a public access place), perhaps by a company, or even state or federal agencies. Many times permits or waivers are required by the landowner. It only takes ONE trespasser to shut down a site. Always collect legally and responsibly!



June 22, 2024 - Cretaceous - Perry County

It was a gorgeous day to hunt fossils, and a hot one! Fortunately for us, the site we all visited had overhanging trees over the creek providing shade and pretty much dropped the temps to a comfortable range enjoyed by all. The water temp wasn't that bad either. Lots of Cretaceous marine fossils were found, Goblin, Cretolamna, Crow, Ptychodus shark teeth as well as fish teeth (Enchodus and Pachyrizodus) and vertebrates of small fishes. Pieces of Ammonites and Baculites along with other finds that swam the seas of Alabama during the Cretaceous Period. A really nice arrowhead was found by one of our members, the creek does yield a native artifact every now and then? Several mammal teeth were found too, there seems to be a time period overlap of sedimentary stone layer where these fossil are washing out. Makes for a fascinating time line to do some research on the matter? Yours truly, most of the time brings home gravel to search for micro fossils at a later date. This round produced some really nice, tiny teeth from sharks and shellfish! It was a great day for the group of fossil enthusiast who showed up. Many fossils were found and memories of a great day were made!

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May 18, 2024 - Cretaceous - Greene County, AL

Rain has been forecast all week... today was no exception! A planned fossil hunt for BPS on a creek, to hunt Cretaceous Period marine fossils! 88% chance of rain, and of course Alabama weather can turn on a dime! It turned out to be a gorgeous, pleasent day for the most part, and surprisingly the water levels weren't that bad either considering all the rain we'd been getting! The entire area down there had hordes of cicadas making their distinctive shrill in the background and it got deafening at times, dropping in the water after mating and floating by us while sifting for fossils. What a way to make an exit from this planet after spending 17 years underground, pupate, find a mate, create more of your kind to go underground, and die within 24 hours. Anyhoo, awesome fossils were found by all! Mosasaur, fish and shark vertebrate, fish and shark teeth! One of our members found a 2-inch Cretoxyrhina! Mosasaur and Enchodus jaw pieces and lots of teeth and other marine fossils were found by to others... what a beautiful day it turned out to be! The day was enjoyed by all ten members who made the trek to the creek! 


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May 3, 2025 - Pennsylvanian - Jefferson County, AL

Two hours of hunting time was allowed on this trip. We covered a lot of literal ground and found lots of fossils and then some! Three BPS members enjoyed the hunt because there were so many Carboniferous Period fossils to find! 3D Calamites, Stigmaria and fern fossils were abundant and what a day it was! It was an overcast day with a cool breeze, so the temperature was pleasant. I found a pile of shale and found lots of fern fossils, large slabs I had to say no to because I have no room to store them. Even though it was a short day, we were happy with our finds and hope to make it back to the site soon!

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April 13, 2024 - Cretaceous - Dallas County, AL

BPS was invited by Adiel at the University of Alabama to hunt the chalk gullies of South Alabama Saturday... couldn't of asked for better weather! Wow! It turned out to be a gorgeous day, with the weather cooperating and temperature not steaming hot like it usually is on days like this in the South. About 20 enthusiastic people showed up for this event including 6 if Adiel's students to hunt fossils as well and meet some of us who does this for a hobby. Many fossils were found that day by all and was just an awesome time to be out in nature and enjoying the presence of other who love to hunt fossils. Shark and fish teeth, Mosasaur and shark verts, shells, barnacles and an assortment of other fossils were found. Folks didn't leave there disappointed that's for sure! We look forward to the next trip down. Thank you Adiel and the University of Alabama! 

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March 30, 2024 - Cretaceous - Prentiss County, Mississippi

It was a gorgeous day to go creek hunting in Mississippi with BPS! We were the first ones, all seven members there and had the park to ourselves up till around 3ish. The water that morning was freezing cold, but our bodies acclimated to it, and it helped the temperature shot up to 78 degrees! After 3ish, about 20 people showed up to party with us... got a lil' crowded, but most left after an hour. Pictured is my haul for the day, all were found under the bridge where it has been picked over... the secret is ya gotta dig a lil' deeper! Most of the teeth found were Goblin Shark with maybe a Cretolamna and Squalicorax? A tooth that still is in the matrix with blade showing. Another tooth, has the root attached and looks like a Mosasaur tooth? Pieces of bone, broken Gastropod steinkern, Native American pottery sherds with faint designs on them, and the broken shark teeth found as well. What a gorgeous day to hunt for Cretaceous Period fossils for all!

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March 2, 2024 - Fossil Road Show, Jackson, MS

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February 24, 2024 - Cretaceous - Union County, Mississippi

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February 3, 2024 - Mississippian - Franklin County, Alabama

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January 22, 2024 - Pennsylvanian - Jefferson County, Alabama

(report to come later)

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2023 field trips.

November 18, 2023 - Oligocene - Smith County, Mississippi

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October 28, 2023 - National Fossil Day Exhibit, Tuscaloosa, AL

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October 7, 2023 - Cretaceous - Dallas County, Alabama

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September 23, 2023 - Cretaceous - Montgomery County, Alabama

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August 26, 2023 - Cretaceous - Perry County, Alabama

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July 29, 2023 - Oligocene - Smith County, Mississippi

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July 15, 2023 - Cretaceous - Greene County, Alabama

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May 20, 2023 - Cretaceous - Montgomery County, AL

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April 15, 2023 - Cretaceous - Dallas County, Alabama

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March 25, 2023 - Mississippian - Morgan County, Alabama

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February 18, 2023 - Cretaceous - Union County, Mississippi

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January 14, 2023 - Mississippian - Franklin County, AL

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Field trips for 2022.

December 10, 2022 - Mississippian - Morgan County, AL

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November 5, 2022 - Mobile County, Alabama

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October 22, 2022 - Cretaceous - Perry County, Alabama

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October 15, 2022 - Cretaceous - Covington County, Alabama

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September 24, 2022 - Cretaceous - Sumter County, Alabama

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August 13, 2022 - Cretaceous - Perry County, Alabama

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July 23, 2022 - Cretaceous - Montgomery County, Alabama

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June 4, 2022 - Cretaceous - Greene County, Alabama

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May 14, 2022 - Devonian - St. Clair County, Alabama

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April 9, 2022 - Cretaceous - Dallas County, Alabama

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March 26, 2022 - Mississippian - Morgan County, Alabama

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January 30, 2022 - Mississippian - Franklin County, Alabama

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Field trips for 2021.

November 7, 2021 - Pennsylvanian - Jefferson County, Alabama

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September 4, 2021 - Cretaceous - Butler County, Alabama

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August 21, 2021 - Cretaceous - Greene County, Alabama

On August 21, 2021, BPS took a trip to a Cretaceous creek in Greene County, Al.  Despite a high percentage prediction for rain, a group of 19 people took the chance that the rain would not stop an eagerly anticipated chance to collect fossils.  For most of the day, that gamble paid off.  Though the water was a little deep in places, the gravel bars that were present gave everyone the chance to sift, dig, surface collect and generally enjoy the summer weather in a south Alabama creek.  
As collectors began to perform their favorite method of collecting, fossils were found.  There were lots of Hamulus tubes picked up, some barnacles (Arcoscalpellum) found, Enchodus teeth, shark teeth, bone and turtle shell fragments, and a very interesting tooth (Protosphyraena) that was a very exciting find.  Also, a nice mosasaur jaw fragment containing some tooth remnants was found, as well as a mosasaur vertebra.  And a Native American arrow point.  AND, one of the guests was able to identify a large group of edible mushroom, Chicken of the Woods, which was partially collected and divided among those who wanted to cook and eat it.  Yes, supposedly it looks and tastes like chicken when prepared.  
About mid-afternoon, the thunderstorms broke up the collecting party.  We thought we would try to wait the storm out but, like another recent field trip, the storm had other plans.  Flashing lightning and pelting rain made our decision for us.  Though we all could have stayed a little longer, it was pretty much a perfect day on a really nice creek.    
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July 10, 2021 - Cretaceous - Montgomery County, Alabama

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May 29, 2021 - Cretaceous - Montgomery County, Alabama

On May 29, 2021, BPS members and guests had a much-needed and super fantastic field trip to a very special private property in Montgomery County.  This gorgeous property is lovely to visit and has a creek in the back that kept all attendees screening for hours.  The creek situated in the Mooreville chalk formation of the Cretaceous period so fossil finds from today included shark teeth, enchodus teeth, gastropod steinkerns, and Hamulus worm tubes.  Several very interesting and special fossils were found, including a fragment of mosasaur jaw containing 2 teeth, a nice, large fish vertebra, a possible mastodon cusp, a fossilized rodent tooth, a fossilized beaver tooth and a couple of enchodus jaw fragments including partial teeth.  No wonder everyone was eager to keep screening!
Also in abundance were Native American artifacts.  Well-worn pottery shards were common on the gravel bars but a couple of nice pieces of pottery with very distinct decorations were found.  Many quartz and chert points and tools were found also, including a hand sized scraper made from dark chert.  Considering the amount of pottery in the area and the number of points found, it is fairly clear that there was Native habitation somewhere very close to the creek.  
Also native to the area, a banded water snake was photographed.  His behavior indicated that he was in his stealth/hunting mode.  Don’t know if he caught anything but he was not terribly disturbed by the humans nearby.  The great photo is provided by our very own Michael – thanks for being in the right spot to snap this cool guy!!
This could not have been any nicer of a day and trip.  The weather was ideal and so was the site.  I am happily tired and grateful to have been a part of such a good trip.
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2020 Field Trip Reports

November 27, 2020 - Pennsylvanian - Jefferson County, Alabama

On Friday, November 27, 2020, seven BPS members and guests went to a working strip mine in Jefferson County to collect fossils from the Pottsville formation of the Pennsylvanian period.  The fossils collected today originated in a warm, steamy, oxygen-rich environment and grew to towering heights.  Some of the fossils found are pith casts, formed when sediments filled the hollow center of a stem and later hardened/mineralized into rock.  Other fossils are imprints and show beautiful details of fern-like foliage.
Some of the identified fossils found today include calamites, Lepidodendron, Stigmaria, Neuropteris, seed and cone fossils, brachiopods, gastropods and other inorganic remains (rain drops, fossilized waves and ripples). In one area, several cordaites with characteristic, strap-like leaves were spotted and photographed.  Several huge stumps were identified but were either too high in the debris wall or way too heavy to get into a car today.
The weather was ideal for quarry collecting today.  Early sun knocked the chill out of the air but clouds soon thickened which kept the temperature very pleasant.  Participants observed social distancing but still managed to keep up with the fossils that were being found.  All things considered, it seemed a very successful day.       
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September 5, 2020 - Cretaceous - Butler County, Alabama

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April 11, 2020 - Pennsylvanian - Jefferson County, Alabama

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March 21, 2020 - Pennsylvanian - Jefferson County, AL

On Saturday, March 21, 2020, a baker’s dozen members and guests of BPS went to a site that we’d never visited.  A tip from a member’s neighbor and a scouting outing was awarded by permission to collect in a strip mine in Jefferson County.  The spoil piles that held fossils were from the Pennsylvanian period – Coal Age fossils that were formed as warm moist coastal swamps gave way to periodic flooding and sedimentation during continental drift changes.  Interestingly, similarities between Pennsylvanian coal deposits in the Black Warrior Basin and those in South America indicate that they were once the same seam.  
During this time, as changes occurred, fossils of both plants and animals were very well preserved.  In the overburden piles where we collected, the majority of the fossils were lycopods, Calamites components, Cordaites impressions and fern-like plants.  Many lovely lycopod leaf scar pieces were found, along with Calamites pith casts.  There were numerous, large stigmaria casts, some with roots (hope some photos will demonstrate) and lots of lovely, very detailed fern leaf sections – most too fragile to collect except by photo.  In addition, a few bivalve and limpet fossils were found – some collected and some photographed.
The day was overcast and chilly and the recent rain covered all the cars with sticky grey mud but the group was too busy collecting to worry about minor complaints.  The area that was collected was huge – probably many more fossils to find there AND there’s a whole different area to explore.  Sounds like another field trip!  
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February 1, 2020 - Mississippian, Franklin County, Alabama

Trip number 2, for the win! On Saturday, February 1, 2020, eight BPS members and guests met in a parking lot in Russellville to gather permits, supplies and biscuits before returning to the lake where we had collected just a short time ago. The weather was nearly a repeat with gloomy skies and chilly temps and winds but no one was thwarted in the least. We intended to have a leisurely look along the shore that was so forthcoming last time but had a lucky change of direction instead. A long-time friend/member of BPS happened to spot, collecting on the shore, a local fellow he knew who HAD A BOAT and offered to ferry us across the lake to spots that are not as heavily collected. Yes, PLEASE!!! Several whole crinoids, a couple of trilobite pygidium, a possible large trilobite (on its side) and some nice hash slabs were claimed. When our boat captain had to go, he ferried us to the spot we had originally wanted to visit. We found a few blastoids, horn and other coral pieces, Archimedes, brachiopods, a badly broken shark tooth in matrix, and other fun bits of Mississippian fossil treasure. As the day extended and the wind continued, it was decided to make way back to the cars. At one point, it seemed like maybe more collecting would happen but the appeal of warmth and food overcame the need to collect more. That nice Mexican restaurant in Cullman was beckoning – food and conversation were enjoyed by those who stopped. Even though it was the second trip in short succession, it was a very good day!

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January 25, 2020 - Mississippian, Franklin County, Alabama

On Saturday, January 25, 2020, several BPS members and guests decided, despite the dismal forecast, to travel to a lake in Franklin county to collect fossils.  The selected field trip site is a favorite and did not fail to please.  Despite the raw and biting winds and persistent clouds, our group visited 3 sites throughout the day.  Though two of the sites were less than forthcoming with fossil finds, one site was a treasure trove of Mississippian fossils.  There were lots of crinoid stems, many blastoids (one HUGE one), nice corals (also a HUGE horn coral), a couple of trilobites, some hash plates that were not to be left behind, a stunning arm of a feathered star crinoid and many other nice collectibles.  No one really wanted to leave the site but there was one more that we all wanted to visit so that’s what we did – staying until the daylight was all but gone.  It was probably the cold and the wind but we all decided to head home instead of having the usual Mexican dinner.  Even without the dinner and discussion, it was a good field trip.    

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For 2019 Field Trip reports

November 16, 2019 - National Fossil Day Exhibit

BPS participated in the National Fossil Day exhibit on the campus of the University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa.


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November 2, 2019 - Cretaceous, Chilton, Al

How many attendees does it take to make a great field trip?  Today, the answer was four!  Maybe it was the cold weather or maybe it was schedule conflicts but, for the folks who came to Chilton County for the field trip, it was very pleasant!

The water in the creek was a little high and was a LOT COLD but that didn’t stop the BPS members who wanted to look for petrified and permineralized wood specimens.  The summer drought has kept several sites from the usual surface material turnover so the larger specimens of petrified wood were not evident.  Smaller samples were plentiful and the colors and visible petrified wood grain that were seen were beautiful, as usual.  Two spectacular Native American artifacts were found as well. 

Some interesting local fauna was seen:  a busy beaver (seemingly unconcerned by our presence), a pair of racing kingfishers, following the creek and chattering loudly, and a small flock of guinea fowl by the fishing lake.  There were tiny minnows in the creek – wonder how they feel about the temperature change?? In spite of the cooler temps, their location is one of the best.  We were fortunate to share their space for the day!! 

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October 15, 2019 Teacher Workshop, Sumter County, Al

The teacher workshop was held at the University of West Alabama in Livingston this year due to weather issues.  It was taught by professors from the University of West Alabama and geologists from the Geological Survey of Alabama.  There was a full classroom of students, including several BPS members who attended as students.  Other BPS members provided assistance in the workshop and behind the scenes with food preparation and clean-up, and also set up the BPS traveling fossil display. 

Although the attendees were confined indoors due to an all-day rain, buckets of material from a Bashi site that is no longer available were provided by one of the instructors. It was chock full of tiny, almost perfect fossils. One of the workshop tasks was for the students to research available fossil documentation to identify their specimens.  Students were very engaged and actively involved in the lab project, and no one had to get muddy boots.  After the classroom activities were completed, most of the group left to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Black Belt Museum. 

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September 28, 2019 - Cretaceous, Perry, Al

On Saturday, September 28, a sizable group of BPS members and guests got together to take advantage of the unseasonably hot weather to visit a favorite creek in Perry County.  After a stop at a local burger restaurant that served very tasty biscuits, we caravanned to the site – off-roading a little bit at the end.  The dry weather was definitely in our favor there! 

This particular creek has historically been loaded with fossils but, due to the recent drought, was a little less forthcoming with fossil finds.  Not to be daunted by the circumstances, the trip attendees found deeper water gravel or searched shallower areas for things that might have been previously missed.  And, that diligence paid off!  Among the finds were 2 (!!) Cretoxyrhina mantelli teeth, other varieties of shark teeth, Ptychodus teeth, oyster shells, a turtle flipper bone, Baculites segments and even some Native American artifacts.  This creek always delivers, even after heavy collecting and little material turnover.  No wonder it’s a favorite location!   

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July 27, 2019 Cretaceous, Sumter County, Al

On Saturday, July 27, 2019, a much-anticipated field trip took place.  A good sized group of BPS members and guests met at a pre-determined spot in Sumter County and then caravanned to a lovely Cretaceous chalk gully site that has not been surveyed for several years.  Because of a tightly-strung barb wire fence, James made a lovely pair of steps (stiles) for getting the group up and over.  There was reference made to accessing the gullies “in STYLE”.  Funny but not quite time to give up your day job. 

Once in the gullies, searchers immediately found mosasaur and shark teeth, turtle bones, fish bones, clam and crab pieces, shrimp burrows, Hamulus tubes, shark, fish and mosasaur vertebra, and more.  One member found complete turtle skull which James collected for reconstruction.  In another area, James found several pieces of mosasaur bone, jaw and teeth fragments as they were being revealed through the chalk erosion.  There were many interesting fossils (and some non-fossils) found while attendees were searching the gullies.  The heat was a factor, as it usually is in chalk gullies in the summer, but everyone took breaks and kept hydrated so everyone stayed safe and had fun.  Again, I am deeply appreciative of the owners who allowed us access to their property.  I hope I speak for everyone  when I say it was a great day. 



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June 15, 2019 - Cretaceous, Dallas and Perry County, Alabama

On Saturday, June 15, 2019, a group of BPS members and guests met at a pre-determined meeting spot for a visit/pit stop/supply gather before heading to the field trip destination.  The weather was warm but with slightly lower humidity which was much appreciated.  After a short drive to the site and a short hike to the gullies, James gathered everyone for an informative talk about the age, formation and fossils in the gullies, as well as some collecting etiquette. 

Fossil collectors spread out across the gullies in hopes of findings nice specimens but the gullies weren’t revealing many finds on this day.  Still, not a total shut out, though, with shark teeth, enchodus teeth, fish vertebra, Hamulus tubes, turtle bones, Inoceramus clam fragments, shrimp burrows and other fossils being found.  James checked on some of his previously tagged finds and reinforced them for stability where needed. 

At noon, the group went to the shed for lunch.  It’s always very comfortable there with shade and usually a fresh breeze – just what is needed to recharge the biological batteries!  At that point, too, everyone has an opportunity to compare fossil finds and have them identified.  Then, after a pleasant break, it’s time to move to the second part of the day – the creek!

Just a short drive away, there’s a lovely, shady creek with Cretaceous fossils that are slightly older than the fossils found in the chalk gullies we’d just visited.  There are usually gravel bars by the creek access point but the ever-flowing water moved the gravel from the usual places.  James hiked overland to find a sizable gravel bar for the group to screen.  Everyone was able to find very nice shark teeth as well as gastropod casts, ammonite and baculite segment casts and other fossil and non-fossil pieces.  It is a special place and will remain one of my favorite trips.     

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May 25, 2019 - Cretaceous Fossils, Butler Co, AL

Weekend trip to a creek in Butler county, Alabama, with several members camping out for the long holiday.

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March 30, 2019 - Cretaceous, Chilton County, Alabama

On a very pretty March 30, 2019, a great group of BPS members and guests met at a predetermined spot in Chilton County before a much-needed field trip.  On a scouting outing several weeks before, the scouting party ran in to a very chatty and generous landowner.  During a pleasant conversation, permission was granted for the group to access his lovely, winding, gravelly creek.  On the day of the field trip, the temperature had gone up and the water level had gone down, making creek access not only possible but nearly enjoyable. 

The wide gravel bars were covered with small pieces of beautiful permineralized wood.  On some, the colors were spectacular but without much detail while others had nice, identifiable wood grain still visible.  The majority of pieces were under two or three inches but some very large pieces were found by members wading in deeper parts of the creek.  At some point, (not while we were there), a 12-foot permineralized log and a smaller (5’) log was recovered.  Goals!!

It’s usually found that time on the water really builds an appetite and this was no exception.  A little after mid-day, a lunch break was called and the group set off to the nearby small town where there was a tasty Mexican restaurant.  Lunch and conversation were great, as was the trip and day!     


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March 2, 2019 - Mississippian, Morgan County

On Saturday, March 2, 2019, numerous BPS members and guests traveled through the pouring rain to a fairly close limestone quarry to look for fossils.  The rain stopped by the time we reached the rendezvous location but the temperature began to rapidly drop.  That did not deter any of the fossil enthusiasts nor did it deter our hosts, thankfully!

After a brief lecture in safety and collection from the quarry host, we headed out.  The way to the collection site was slick and muddy but no one got stuck.  We parked in the mud, gathered our tools and headed to the spoil piles to find fossils.  And, as usual, we were not disappointed.  This site has plentiful Mississippian fossils – crinoids, blastoids, bryozoans, brachiopods, and horn corals.  Not so plentiful but also present were several genera of shark teeth.  We all had our strategies planned for finding the elusive shark teeth; some even proved successful.  The quarry chaperones again found nice two Petalodus teeth and maybe more than one BPS member found shark teeth also.  And, as an addendum to last year’s trip report, the large, museum-quality slab was collected and moved to the educational building for sharing – well done!!

At about 2:00, we called a halt to the collecting in order to give the indulgent quarry chaperones the rest of their Saturday.  A handful of collectors reconvened at the nearby (still colorful) Mexican restaurant for refueling and good conversation before the trip home.  This site is so very fun and lucrative for collecting.  I know I’ll look forward to the next visit!

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February 2, 2019 - Mississippian, Franklin County, Al.

Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 was an absolutely PERFECT day for a field trip!  There were 14 BPS members and guests who got together to spend a much-needed day in the great outdoors looking for fossils.  The general area was a lakeshore in Franklin County (lower Bangor limestone formation) and our leaders selected 3 sites from which to collect.  The first site, a public boat launch, was fairly void of fossils (except for a nice shark tooth in limestone matrix) but we had heard that the area had been over-collected recently so it was not unexpected.  Even with slim fossil findings, the beautiful very spring-like weather had everyone enjoying the hunt. 

It was decided to relocate to the site we collected last year so we all packed up and headed over.  Thanks to expert navigation by Bob, we made it to the next site quickly and without a hitch – good job, Bob!!  And this site proved to be as productive as it was last year.  The shore consists of fossil slabs and loose fossils that had washed out of the matrix.  Copious crinoid components, bryozoan components, horn corals, bivalves, brachiopods, and blastoids were all found while at this site.  A non-fossil but interesting find was a pharyngeal dental plate from a freshwater drum fish.  It was very pleasant to sit in the warm sun, with the fresh breeze, sifting and searching the washed-out fossils along the shoreline. 

Some called it a great day after this but the remainder of the group ventured on to a road cut several miles away.  Still in the Mississippian strata, we found a few blastoids, a brachiopods and even a couple of trilobites or, rather, the infamous “trilo-butts”.  One specimen was very nice, being in pristine shape as if newly exposed.  By this time, the sun was beginning to set so the remainder of the group wrapped up the hunt and bid the fossil hunt good day.  There’s a great Mexican restaurant on Hwy 157 that is convenient to the interstate so the last of the Mohicans stopped there for good food and conversation before heading the rest of the way home.  What a great day!         

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Section for 2018 field trip reports

Oct 16, 2018 - Fossils of the Black Belt Hands On Teacher Workshop

The Annual Fossils of the Black Belt, Hands-On Field Workshop.

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Oct 17, 2018 - National Fossil Day Exhibit

BPS participated in the National Fossil Day exhibit on the campus of the University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa.

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September 22, 2018 - Cretaceous Fossils, Dallas and Perry County, Al.

On Saturday, Sept. 22, a nice-sized group of BPS members and guests gathered in anticipation of a gully and creek exploration and discovery.  The day was predictably hot but spirits were high – fossils out there, waiting to be found!!  After a brief orientation and explanation of potential finds, the group moved into the gullies and began searching.  Finds from this site included shark and enchodus teeth, shark and fish vertebrae, shell fragments, worm tubes, shrimp burrows, and ubiquitous, sparkly pyritized organic material (still hard for me to resist).  While talking to another member, James spotted a string of shark vertebrae (5-6) on an adjacent gully which he carefully collected and wrapped for transport.  Still really spectacular and incredible to me that an animal used those vertebrae to swim around and live his life and here we find them 80 million years later.  And, they are still in pretty good shape (considering)!

After a lunch break, we moved to the second site (my personal favorite) which is the very productive creek in the next county.  After the hot gullies, a cool wade through a very fossiliferous creek is just what the group likes!  Before we made it to the creek, I had the opportunity to meet the owner and express gratitude for his hospitality and generosity in allowing us access to this treasure on his property.  He told me he was glad we were enjoying it and that he was also glad that so many fossils were being found and appreciated.  Me, too!!

In the creek, my first screen yielded 5 shark teeth!  How can this not be a favorite location?!?!  James and several others went upstream to find gravel bars and while some stayed at the downstream spot that seemed to be yielding nice and plentiful teeth and bone fragments.  Also found were 3 ptychodus teeth of unknown species, 1 Ptychodus polygyrus tooth (way to go LEISA!!!) a piece of Native American pottery (also Leisa) and other interesting fossil, geofact and late hominid artifacts (vintage glass, metal, pottery mostly).  If someone leaves this site empty-handed, it’s because he or she chooses to do so!  There’s something here for everyone!  So, a little before daylight started dimming, the group called a halt to the searching, changed into dry clothes and shoes and bid the lovely creek site good-bye until next time.             

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2018-09-22

August 11, 2018 - Oligocene Fossils, Smith County, MS

On Saturday, Aug 11, 2018, a small group of BPS members and guests traveled to Smith County, Mississippi where we were joined by our enthusiastic, knowledgeable host.  We were led to a small working lime quarry that featured, from the Oligocene, outcrops of Bucatunna clay, Glendon formation limestone and Marianna limestone.  The quarry process yielded specimens from the Mint Spring unit but the unit itself was underwater. 

Participants were given some geological facts and some collecting hints and then were free to roam around the quarry.  There were large mined limestone boulders all around the quarry that were fossiliferous and a paddock area where the initial crushing of mined slabs took place that contained fossils.  There was lots of material that was rinsed by rain run-off from collecting shed’s roof, making some fossils in that area easier to spot.

As collectors spread out and began searching, some of the things collected were:  echinoids, scallop shells, tusk shells, forams (coin-sized, single-celled organisms that are still around today), shark and ray teeth, a broken shark vertebra, delicately branching bryozoans, pyritized cone shells, echinoids, pyritized burrows, ghost shrimp claws and lignite.  Lots of treasures at this site!

And, if things were exciting enough, James stepped on a shifting boulder which caused him to lose his balance and grip on his pick.  Who knew those things would bounce??  And, bounce it did – right into James’s head.  Paleontologists are tough and prepared, though.  George retrieved his first-aid kit from his truck and applied a nice field dressing which enabled James to make his way back to his truck.  We couldn’t pass the up the opportunity to record the event for posterity so group photos were taken with Bloody James front and center.  I’d like to nominate that as his new pirate/field name!!  After the photos, James was chauffeured to the hospital where his hard head was declared uncracked and the wound sutured, then he was escorted safely home.  Unfortunate as it was, I’m glad that he’s okay. 

Many thanks to our wonderful host for a great day at a great site!  I hope we’ll be invited to Mississippi again!!       

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2018-08-11

June 30, 2018 - Cretaceous Fossils, Dallas and Perry County, Al.

I want to start this trip report with a huge thank you to Tim for escorting the group on the first half of the trip and for patiently answering all of the questions.  We couldn’t have done it without you!!! 

A baker’s dozen of BPS members and guests, all eager for a field trip, met  in Dallas county to collect in chalk gullies.  It was suggested that we go to a gully that hasn’t been surveyed in over a year so we were all very eager to get to it.  Tim mentioned a few collecting techniques as well as some collecting etiquette, showed an aerial photo of the area to be collected and, after a short hike, we were in the gullies!  Almost immediately, Tim found a mosasaur vertebra and a jaw fragment – a very positive sign!  As groups do, we spread out to explore and mark interesting finds.  There were copious shrimp burrows and strangely hard to resist pyritized organic material (sparkly fish poops), barnacles, some enchodus and shark teeth, a large fragment of a rudist clam, a section of lignite, a previously flagged and recovered fish jaw, and a group of turtle vertebra.  It was, of course, blazing hot so, even though the exploration was exciting, no one complained when the lunch break was called.  We went to a shady place to pause, refresh, and recharge biological batteries.

For the second site, we went to another privately owned, very productive creek  where James joined us.   The recent rains had scoured some areas and deposited about 2 vertical feet of sand onto what used to be lovely gravel bars.  While some of us tried sifting material in old familiar spots, James scouted upstream and alerted the group that there was a gravel bar that would support all of our attention and exploration.  So, after a short hike, we all settled on to the new spot where we were delighted to find large and small, mostly well preserved, shark teeth, gastropod casts, ptychodus teeth, bone bits, a pectoral spine, baculite and ammonite segments and many other fossil and non-fossil finds.

The weather, which is always a gamble this time of year, cooperated all day.  It was hot in the gullies but there was a breeze and the bright sun really helps with fossil spotting.  Clouds started moving in at noon and thunder was heard in the distance (rained on us as we drove to second site) but it never rained on us in the creek and we never had to leave the creek because of lightning.   Based on the smiles and shared finds at the end of the day, I think a great time was had by all!     


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2018-06-30

March 31, 2018 - Mississippian Fossils, Morgan Co, Al

On March 31, thirteen BPS members and guests had the pleasure of visiting a working limestone quarry in Morgan County.  The weather was superb, the attendees were enthusiastic and the fossils were everywhere!  The fossils found were primarily Mississippian (Paleozoiz era).  Many crinoid stems and whole crinoids were found as well as blastoids, bryzoans, brachiopods and corals.  There were many nice examples of these fossils and even a "museum quality" slab of whole crinoids that was just too heavy to carry out.  Maybe someone will remember to bring the helicopter next time!

The quarry employees who accompanied us were very helpful and even managed to maintain a positive attitude while giving up a part of their Saturday to be with those of us who love to look for fossils.  One of the employees was lucky enough to find an elusive shark tooth, as did one of the BPS members.  Though we could have stayed much longer, the group ended their searching at 2:00 (as promised) to give the employees the rest of their Saturday afternoon.  After the quarry, the group headed to a nearby Mexican restaurant for good food and conversation.  It was another very enjoyable field trip on a nearly perfect day!  

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2018-03-31

March 3, 2018 - Fossil Road Show, Jackson, MS

Dr. George Phillips of the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson, Mississippi, held the 15th Annual Fossil Road Show, where various groups from around the south were invited to set up exhibits and help identify fossils.  The BPS exhibit showcased Alabama fossils, and photos of various BPS fossil digs in Alabama.

The mid-day presentation "An Introduction to the World of Tiny Fossils" was by Dr. Mark Puckett of The University of Southern Mississippi.

There were several professional paleontologists assisting with fossil identification.  Dr. David Dockery was quite interested in the collection of tiny shells collected by Vicki on the February 2017 trip to Blue Springs, MS.  He is considered the expert on these shells.  James Lamb of UWA set up a working 3D printer to show how they are used in replicating fossils.  Dr. George Phillips and several other experts were scattered around the venue, helping the public, and enjoying the exhibits.

Image GalleriesExhibits2018MSRoadShow

February 24, 2018 - Mississippian Fossils, Franklin Co, Alabama

For the February field trip, six stalwart fossil hunters ignored the gloomy forecast and journeyed through a storm front to a lovely Franklin County lake site.  As it turned out, the weather was perfectly suited to fossil hunting with partly sunny skies, comfortable temperatures and a fresh breeze - no rain the entire day!  Accompanied by the sound of waves lapping the shoreline, the amiable group had no trouble finding many different Mississippian fossils:  Crinoid stems and several whole crinoids with calyx and arms, bryzoans (Archimedes), blastoids, horn corals, bivalves, unresistable (sizable!) hash slabs and even coral heads at a second site.  For a day with a marginal forecast, a good time was had by all.   

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Section for 2017 BPS Field Trips.

November 11, 2017 - Cretaceous, Dallas County, Alabama

Last trip to the gullies before hunting season starts.

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October 17, 2017 Fossil Teacher Workshop

The 2017 Fossil Teacher Workshop held jointly by the University of West Alabama and the Geologic Survey of Alabama In Dallas County, Alabama.  Students attended a lecture in the morning, then went into the field to learn about how to find and identify fossils.  BPS volunteers provided assistance setting up meals and materials, and support in the field.

Image GalleriesUWA Teacher Workshops2017-10-17

October 11, 2017 - National Fossil Day in Tuscaloosa

The Alabama Museum of Natural History hosts an annual National Fossil Day event in the Grand Gallery.  BPS set up an exhibit table, as did numerous groups from around the area.

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August 26, 2017 - Cretaceous - Dallas County, Alabama

Best day ever for collecting in the gullies - weather was cool, only low 90's, unlike the usual 110 or higher in the shade.


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July 22, 2017 - Cretaceous, Dallas County, Alabama

Hot, hot, hot today.  Creek was a welcome relief.


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May 20, 2017 - Sumter Co, AL

BPS members were invited to participate in a salvage operation at Ft. Tombecbe, where debris and artifacts were falling into the river and being lost to science.  A number of BPS members showed up to assist Dr. Dumas.  As buckets of debris were funneled down, various members took turns screening to remove the worst of the silt/dirt.  The material left in the screens was taken to the lab for a more detailed examination.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2017-05-20

March 11, 2017 - Bibb Co, AL

On a rainy Saturday, a number of BPS members braved the weather to collect in a quarry in Bibb County.  Numerous brachiopods, a few trilobites, a whole sponge, and bryozoans were found.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2017-03-11

February 4, 2017 - Cretaceous Fossils - Union Co, Mississippi

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Section for 2016 field trip reports.

October 18, 2016 - Fossil Teacher Workshop

The annual Fossil Teacher Workshop held jointly by the University of West Alabama and the Geologic Survey of Alabama was held at a gully site this year, and was set up a bit differently.  After the morning lecture, teachers and leaders were divided up into 3 groups, and each group went their own direction to map the stratigraphy of the layers between Point A and Point B.  After lunch, and discussion of the exercise, students went to another area to collect fossils.  One BPS student, Andrew Barnes, found the bones of an ancient bird, most likely a pterosaur.  These are extremely rare, and this excellent find will probably turn out to be the most complete bird specimen found in Alabama.  BPS volunteers provided assistance setting up meals and materials, and support in the field.


Image GalleriesUWA Teacher Workshops2016-10-18

October 12, 2016 - National Fossil Day in Tuscaloosa

The Alabama Museum of Natural History hosts an annual National Fossil Day event in the Grand Gallery.  BPS set up an exhibit table, as did numerous groups from around the area.  This year, BPS highlighted photos of the dinosaur dig for the newly named species of hadrosaurid (duck billed dinosaur), Eotrachodon orientalis.

Image GalleriesExhibits2016NatlFossilDay

August 20, 2016 - Museum Collections Tour

The BPS August field trip was to the UA museum archives in Tuscaloosa, where we were treated to a behind the scenes look at the collections.  Many items are from the 1800's or early 1900's, so their preservation is remarkable.  The collections include not only items from Alabama, but from many other states, and around the world.

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2016-08-20

May 21, 2016 - Cretaceous Fossils, Dallas County, AL

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March 5, 2016 - Fossil Road Show, Jackson, MS

BPS members were invited to participate in the 13th Annual "Fossil Road Show" held in Jackson, Mississippi, at the Mississippi Museum of Natural History.  BPS showcased Alabama fossils, and set up a display of photos of the dinosaur dig for the newly named "Eotrachodon orientalis" that was found and excavated several years ago by BPS members under the leadership of James Lamb. 

Rock and fossil clubs from around the south (mostly Mississippi) set up very interesting exhibits and had fascinating stories to tell about their display items.  A number of professional paleontologists and "amateur experts" attended the Fossil Road Show to assist in identifying odd rocks and fossils brought in by members of the public. Thanks to George Phillips for this opportunity for fossil enthusiasts to share their love of fossils!

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2016-03-05

January 30, 2016 - Mississippian Fossils, Colbert Co, AL

On probably what turned out to be one of the most beautiful days in January, BPS members set off for North Alabama, to a site that hasn't been collected in at least 25 years.  Numerous archimedes, blastoids, crinoids, and trilobites were found.  With a Mardi Gras cake for a lunch treat, then dinner that evening at a local restaurant, we couldn't have asked for a more pleasant day.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2016-01-30


BPS field trips during 2015.

October 21, 2015 - National Fossil Day Exhibit, Smith Hall, Tuscaloosa, AL

The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa celebrated National Fossil Day at Smith Hall on October 21 - a week late this year - all the paleontologists were attending the annual SVP meeting on National Fossil Day!  BPS was invited to set up an exhibit, along with a number of other exhibitors, including the Geologic Survey of Alabama, the Marine Science Club, the Alabama Museum of Natural History (who had spectacular specimens on display), geology classes, and the Evolutionary Studies Club.  There were a couple of paleontolgists giving lectures, and the opening of a new exhibit at Smith Hall later that evening.


Image GalleriesExhibits2015 Natl Fossil Day

October 10, 2015 - Mississippian Fossils, Morgan Co, AL

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2015-10-10

September 26, 2015 - Cretaceous Fossils, Dallas Co, AL

A trip back to the gullies, not as hot as usual, actually very pleasant.  A number of shark vertebra and various fish fossils and jaws were found.  Several shark teeth and enchodus teeth were also found.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2015-09-26

September 6, 2015 - Cretaceous Fossils, Butler Co, AL

Weekend trip to a creek in Butler county, Alabama, with several members camping out for the long holiday.

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May 23-24, 2015 - Cretaceous Fossils, Butler County, Alabama

Trip to a creek in Butler county, Alabama.  A good turnout for the hot weather.  Creek was good for cooling off while hunting fossils.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2015-05-23

May 18, 2015 - Mississippian Fossils, Morgan Co, AL

A beautiful Monday morning, with lots of clouds keeping heat to a bearable level.  We went to a new area this trip, where several crinoid heads and pieces, blastoids, archimedes, horned and other corals were found.  Just after moving to a new collecting location, the bottom dropped out, and though we were quite ok with collecting in the rain, the quarry managers said the roads would get slick, so we had to make an early exit.  The group enjoyed lunch at a very interesting Mexican restaurant.


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April 25, 2015 - Cretaceous Fossils - Union Co, Mississippi

Report to come.

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March 7, 2015 - Fossil Road Show - Mississippi

The Mississippi Museum of Natural History in Jackson presents a "Fossil Road Show" each year.  The public is invited to bring their "mystery rocks" and have them identified.  It also provides a venue for local groups to showcase their rocks, fossils, and club activities.  BPS members Don and Jill Hill set up a fossil exhibit for BPS, and spent the day telling visitors about the Alabama fossils on our exhibit tables, visiting with other like-minded groups, and checking out the numerous exhibits.

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2015-03-07


November 19, 2014 - Homeschool Hangout

BPS members went to North Shelby Public Library, where they did a presentation to approximately 53 students and their parents.  Riley Chandler gave the presentation on Dinosaurs, and Don Hill and Vicki Lais set up the fossil exhibit.  There were numerous give-aways available, including posters, postcards, and fossils.  One young attendee announced to Ms. Higgins "this was the best Homeschool Hangout, ever!"  Thanks to all those who came to hear the talk!


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2014-11-19

October 19, 2014 - BPS Lecture & Exhibit

BPS traveled to Munford, AL one beautiful Sunday to do a lecture and fossil exhibit for the Alabama Freethought Society.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2014-10-19

October 21, 2014 - Teacher Workshop, Dallas Co, AL

The teacher workshop was held near Selma, Alabama this year.  It was taught by professors from the University of West Alabama and geologists from the Geological Survey of Alabama.  Volunteers from BPS assisted with fossil identification, food preparation, and generally provided assistance as needed.  Teachers visited several large outcrops. Fossil finds included oysters, bivalves, snails, mosasaur vertebra, bryozoan, worm tubes, turtle, and shark teeth.   A very rare brittle star fossil was found by one of the teachers, which will be housed in a museum.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2014-10-21

October 25, 2014 - Dallas Co, AL

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October 4, 2014 - Montgomery Co, AL

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August 2, 2014, Covington County, AL

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April 26, 2014 - St. Clair County, AL

Another trip back to the January location.  Several members were psyched up about wanting to find another of the very large crinoid heads.  Alas, while we found nice brachiopods and crinoid stems, no more heads were found.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2014-04-26

January 25, 2014, St. Clair County, AL - Site 2

After a BBQ stop to warm up and fill our bellies, we proceeded to a site that contains some Frog Mountain formation.  Most of our finds at this site were horned corals and trilobites, though many shells and various forms of other coral were also found.  Most of the trilobites ended up in the museum.

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January 25, 2014, St. Clair County, AL - Site 1

In spite of the freezing cold weather and strong wind, a good group showed up to hunt fossils in an old quarry area, with lots of chert rubble containing mostly brachiopods and crinoids.  Sam found a large, quite rare, crinoid head at the site.


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Nov 16, 2013 - Cretaceous Fossils - Union Co, Mississippi

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2013-11-16

October 22, 2013 - Teacher Workshop

The annual Science Teacher Workshop was conducted by the University of West Alabama, and the Geological Survey of Alabama.  Volunteer assistance was provided by members of BPS.


Image GalleriesUWA Teacher Workshops2013-10-22

August 24, 2013 - Cretaceous Fossils - Dallas Co, AL

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2013-08-24

July 28, 2013 - Open House at Homewood Library

The "Fossils of Alabama" exhibit was in the Ellenburg Art Gallery at the Homewood Library during the month of July.  On Sunday, July 28, BPS hosted an open house for the community.  It was a big hit with kids of all ages, who had the opportunity to get up close and personal with fossils, and dig for their own fossils in the sand pit.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2013-07-28

July 20, 2013 - Perry & Dallas County, Alabama

After a morning spent collecting in the HOT gullies, we cooled off at lunch in a torrential downpour.  Luckily the weather cleared up in time for collecting in a nearby creek, which was delayed a bit while we had to find the access road under all the kudzu!  Yes, it's taking over Alabama!


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May 25, 2013 - Butler Co, AL

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May 4, 2013 - Cretaceous Fossils - Union Co, Mississippi

This trip is always popular in spite of the distance.  It's always well worth the drive, and again this year, a number of fossils in very good condition were found.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2013-05-04

March 16, 2013 - Tool Making Workshop

This month's "field trip" was to the garage of James Lamb, paleontologist at the University of West Alabama.  He presented a hands-on workshop on how to forge your own tools of the correct firmness, hardness, and resiliency.  A forge was set up, and various metals including springs were cut to size to make specialty tools.  Members also brought store bought chisels and and other tools to temper them so they would last and work properly in the field.  It was quite interesting learning to determine temperature and hardness based on the color of the hot metal.  Members also had the opportunity to make their own screen for finding all those shark teeth hiding in the creeks!  This workshop was a follow-up to the March program, titled "Paleontology on a Budget: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap".


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2013-03-16

March 4, 2013 - Fossil Road Show - Mississippi

The Birmingham Paleontological Society participated in the Fossil Road Show, presented yearly by the Mississippi Museum of Natural History in Jackson.  It was a very well attended event, and members spent the day telling visitors about the Alabama fossils on our exhibit tables, and visiting other tables to enjoy the fossil show.

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2013-03-02

January 26, 2013 - Central Alabama

This trip we had quite a few friendly faces show up to enjoy the beautiful day, the scenery and of course help find fossils. Some of the items we found included; brachiopods, crinoid stems, trilobite parts, worm burrows and some interesting rocks that could not be identified. Wish we had more time to explore this site, as its treasures were well hidden.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2013-01-26


BPS 2012 field trips.

October 23, 2012 - Teacher Workshop

The annual Science Teacher Workshop was conducted by the University of West Alabama, and the Geological Survey of Alabama.  Volunteer assistance was provided by members of BPS.


Image GalleriesUWA Teacher Workshops2012-10-23

July 28, 2012 - Cretaceous Fossils, Greene Co, AL

Hot summer day, cold creek, shark teeth, an excellent combination!


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2012-07-28

June 30, 2012 - Cretaceous Fossils, Pickens County, AL

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May 26, 2012 - Cretaceous fossils, Butler County, AL

In May BPS members showed up for a weekend of camping and fossil collecting on a private creek in Butler County. Since our last visit a number of high water events had alterered the creek. Places that had been covered in sand were now bare, with rocky, clay bottoms. Numerous small shark teeth, cochina stone, fish vertebrae, and a few pottery shards were found. One area of clay that was seen appeared to be filled with fossil leaves, with ancient leaves. There is a strong possibility that the woody and leaf material found in the clay layers is Cretaceous age.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2012-05-26

April 28-29, 2012 - Washington County, Alabama

BPS members took a weekend trip to Washington County, to an old quarry where they found echinoids, sand dollars, numerous shells,  and foraminifera, plus a few scattered shark teeth were found.

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March 3-4, 2012 Colbert, Franklin Co., AL

What a wonderful two day trip we had in March. The weather was sunny; light jacket weather, just right for being outside. Saturday we were at a quarry in Colbert County, and Sunday we were at a lake in Franklin County. The spoil pods were massive and extremely steep making them difficult to navigate. But being the adventureous spirits that we are, we conquered the spires and were greatly rewarded for our efforts. Among the spoils we found, Crinoids, blastoids, burrows, a few very tiny shark teeth, fenestra, hound coral, calcite crystals, stigmaria and whole rocks covered with brachiapods.

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2012-03-03

February 4, 2012 - Devonian Fossils-St.Clair County, Al.

BPS went to St. Clair County this month and found various coral, including horned corals, and a number of trilobites. Shells were also found, including a few bivalves. It was an excellent collecting day, the temp was cool but not overly so and the humidity was perfect.

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2012-02-04


2011 Field Trips

December 3, 2011 - Pennsylvanian fossils, Bibb Co, Alabama

 Have you ever wondered what an ol’ mine has to do with paleontology? Just ask 8 year old Antonio who went with us on our last field trip; that is if you can get him to slow down as he chatters about his finds at the mine while grinning from ear to ear.
When you first visit the mine, it looks like a vast wasteland with piles of rocks just scooped from the earth and placed in mounds away from the actual work area. Not much to look at to the untrained eye, but these mounds and areas that had been cleared to house them produced many fossils that had been underground for millennia’s. Among the finds  found that day were Sigillaria, and Lepidodendron from the Carboniferous period and Calamites from the Carboniferous and Permian periods.
A great time was had by all, and we look forward to more outings. Who knows, maybe we will find you with us on our next adventure.

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2011-12-03

October 18, 2011 - UWA Teacher Workshop - Sumter Co. AL

Tuesday, October 18, 2011, educators from all over Alabama and even a few from neighboring states got together in Livingston for the 13th Fossils of the Black Belt teacher workshop.  The first workshop was held in 1997, and was organized by the late Richard Thurn of the University of West Alabama and David Kopaska-Merkel and Andrew K. Rindsberg, then both at the Geological Survey of Alabama.  Over the years, at least 250 teachers have been exposed to the Cretaceous rocks and fossils of west Alabama.  The workshops are currently supported by, in addition to the two founding organizations, the Birmingham Paleontological Society, the Alabama Geological Society, Discovering Alabama, and the Black Belt Museum.

This year, 25 teachers had registered for 26 slots.  At the last minute, three were unable to attend and one more was added, for a total of 23 attendees.  The weather was excellent.  There were seven instructors in the field, which meant that every participant had access to knowledgeable advice and assistance.  Everyone returned to the lab smiling, having had a great time and having found good fossils.  Several mosasaur vertebrae were found, including linked vertebrae constituting part of a tail with who knows what else just beneath the surface; a possibly significant find.  James Lamb’s backup shark-tooth-filled mud, 15 gallons of material collected just in case we had rain, was extremely popular.  It came just in time, as we have finally given away almost the last of the fossils generously donated to the Geological Survey of Alabama education program over the years by Don Williams.

We are always looking for ways to improve the workshop, and received several suggestions this year from participants.  Most people said they wanted more time in the field!  Several people were not able to attend because of lack of funds.  Funding cuts in Alabama's education budget make it harder every year for teachers to participate in workshops like this.  We plan to look into finding a way to provide scholarships to teachers who don't have financial support from their school systems.

Will there be a fossil workshop in 2012? Count on it!  Eight people who wanted to attend this year were unable to do so for one reason or another.  And every year we hear from teachers who have just started teaching or just found out about the workshop.

                                                                                            --Dr. David C. Kopaska-Merkel


2008 Teacher Workshop photos

2009 Teacher Workshop photos

2010 Teacher Workshop photos 


Image GalleriesUWA Teacher Workshops2011-10-18

October 22-23, 2011 - Eocene Fossils - Clarke, Rankin, Madison, & Hinds Counties, MS

BPS members took a long weekend and on Saturday the group collected in 3 Eocene sites in Mississippi, finding echinoids, sand dollars, coral, worm tubes, crabs, oyster, gastropods, fish vertebra, and one shark vertebra.  Then on Sunday the group visited a couple of tourist locations - the Mississippi Petrified Forest in Flora, MS, and the Mississippi Museum of Natural History in Jackson, MS.


Photo links:

Stop 1 - Chickasawhay River in Clarke County, MS

Stop 2 - Roadcut in Clarke County, MS

Stop 3 - Construction site in Rankin County, MS

Stop 4 - Mississippi Petrified Forest - Flora, Madison Co, MS

Stop 5 - Mississippi Museum of Natural History - Jackson, Hinds Co, MS


2011-10-22 Stop 4

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2011-10-222011-10-22 Stop 4

2011-10-22 Stop 5

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2011-10-222011-10-22 Stop 5

July 30, 2011 - Cretaceous Fossils - Dallas Co, AL

Report to come... Photos now posted.


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May 28-29, 2011 - Cretaceous Fossils - Butler Co, AL

Report to come... Photos now posted.


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May 7, 2011 - Mississippian Fossils, Morgan Co, AL

Report to come... Photos now posted.


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April 2, 2011 - Cretaceous Fossils, Union Co, MS

Report to come...


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2011-04-02

March 5, 2011 - Mississippian Fossils, Franklin Co, AL

Okay, how many of you let a 90% chance of rain stop you from coming on the field trip?

Six of us showed up to hunt fossils in spite of the predictions of 90% rain over the entire south.  The weather report was correct this time!  It didn't rain on the way there, lulling us into believing it would hold off most of the day.  

With such a small group we decided to go to a location where we have not been in several years.  This location has a very poor road with large potholes, not much room to park, and a short hike to get to the lake.

On the way to the first site, we got quite a scare.  The sky lit up like a fireball, and there was an extremely loud explosion, like dynamite.  Later as we headed to another site, we saw a huge oak tree that must have been 3-4 ft in diameter, literally blown to pieces, and they had recently removed the large limbs from the road.  It looked like someone had blown it up.  It was about a mile from where we had heard the explosion.

After minor sprinkles and even periods of no rain at all, the minute we got to site one, the rain started.  We tried to wait it out to no avail.  The rain was as determined as we were.  However, everyone was in a good mood and ready to collect fossils, so we donned our rain suits, ponchos, and rubber boots, grabbed our umbrellas, and walked down to the lake in the rain. This location has a lot more mud than what we are accustomed to.  The intent was to avoid one of the more muddy roadside cuts, but we managed to get just as muddy here as we would have at the other location.  We found a number of rocks with weathered out fossils showing extremely clear detail, and the first rock Ann picked up contained a trilobite.

At site two we found numerous horned corals, the bryozoan Archimedes and its filter feeding structures (fenestrae), crinoid stems, a trilobite, blastoids, and tiny shells, and of course the ever present rocks covered with fossils.

After that we decided to proceed to another site along the lake where large corals have been found in the past. We also found a complete crinoid head and legs, which was the find of the day. Around five o'clock as the rain had still not let up and a chill wind started blowing, we decided it was time to head home. Most of us decided to stop at a local steak house for dinner where we dried out, warmed up, and filled our bellies.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2011-03-05

January 22, 2011 - Devonian Fossils - St. Clair County, AL

BPS members headed to St. Clair County this month to search for Devonian fossils.  With the past week having numerous days below freezing, we were hoping the predicted 48 degrees would be bearable.  It actually turned out to be a very pleasant sunny day.  After a too-long hiatus from fossil trips, we had members showing up from Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile, Anniston, Montgomery, and Georgia to spend the day outside digging in the dirt.  Quite literally!   We had been asked to collect soil samples for Jun Ebersole so the first order of business was to collect baggies of dirt. Each person had a card with a number and their name on it and positioned themselves from top to bottom on the hillside.  Their chosen spot was where they collected their soil sample.

After the soil samples were collected and stored away safely, we started searching for fossils.  Though we haven't been to this site in several years, it was not weathered as much as we'd like.  In fact, it's getting grown over, and eventually will be "reclaimed" by mother nature.  Weathering out of the red dirt were numerous bits of corals and sponges, with only a few whole specimens.  Fossils were much more difficult to find on this trip, and most of what we found on the surface were worn and broken.  In one area, a few impressions of archimedes and crinoids in Ft. Payne chert were found. Some of rocks in the area are light yellow sandstone or siltstone, and split rather easily.  Inside are mostly brachiopods and trilobites.  Normally we find only the trilobite cephalon (head) at this location, but this time we also found several pygidiums (tail). On a large limestone boulder high on the mountain, and very difficult to reach, is the impression of a gastropod and "something else".


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2011-01-22


2010 BPS field trips

September and October, 2010 - Cretaceous Fossils - Dallas Co, AL

During September and early October, BPS members had several field trips to find fossils and help excavate in the Cretaceous gullies of Dallas County.  Over a period of several days (September 19, 24, 26, October 1, 2, 3) a turtle and mosasaur were excavated.  Also, a number of other fossils were found, including shark teeth, upper and lower Xiphactinus fish jaw with teeth, a variety of shells, shark coprolite, shark vertebra, fish vertebra, and enchodus teeth.  Most of the important finds will be used in exhibits at the (now in development) Black Belt Museum in Livingston.

Each field trip is similar to a class, in that participants are taught proper collecting techniques, how to find and identify fossils, and how to excavate fragile fossils out of the ground intact and make plaster jackets.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2010-09-19

July 31, 2010 - Cretaceous Fossils, Dallas and Perry Co, AL

BPS members defied the extreme heat and went to south Alabama to assist in collecting fossils and close down the dig site until the weather cools off some.  A number of mosasaur bones were found, and a mosasaur jaw still containing a tooth.  Other fossils found included shark teeth, shark vertebra, various varieties of fish, turtle bone, and enchodus jaw and teeth.  The thermometer read 110 degrees, so after lunch under a covered pavilion, we headed to a nearby creek to cool down.  The creek yielded numerous shark teeth, brachiopods, and a few cephalopod pieces.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2010-07-31

June 19, 2010 - Eocene Fossils, Covington Co, AL

This month the group went to a shallow river in Covington Co, AL we haven't visited for a long time.  Our memory of this site is that the pickings were better in years past.  It took a while to find fossils.  We don't dig, as the landowner has requested "no digging", but most of our honey holes were empty, possibly from the recent rainy seasons or over-collecting by commercial collectors.  Whatever the reason, everyone left with a small handful of shark teeth, and we had a great day visiting and keeping cool in the river.  Jan and Lea decided to arrive at the site via kayak, making for an interesting upriver paddle.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2010-06-19

May 29, 2010 - Cretaceous Fossils, Union Co, MS

This month's trip was to northern Mississippi, where we collected in the Coon Creek formation.  The area was once a bay in the Gulf of Mexico.  This is a Late Cretaceous site, where we found numerous turritella (most in an extremely fragile condition), and even more crab and lobster parts, mostly looking like they had exploded, though several intact "bellies" and a couple of claws were found.  The finds of the day had to be the mosasaur tooth found by Don H., and the fragment of a duck-billed dinosaur (hadrosaur) tooth found by David.  This site is being studied by George Phillips, paleontologist at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, who will be reviewing our finds for anything of scientific interest.  The hadrosaur tooth fragment has already been sent to him for inclusion in his research.

Don C. had this to say about his collecting efforts for the day:  "I'm very happy with my haul of crabs and shrimp (7 different genera and species in all), plus I got quite a few gastropods and bivalves, a squashed nautilus, a good piece of an ammonite with sutures, an Enchodus fang, and a small shark tooth.  I brought home a bag of clay to sift and I'm still finding all manner of micro goodies too."

The diehards of the group had an evening of BBQ at a local restaurant, and as everyone headed home, two additional sites were scouted, neither of which appeared promising.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2010-05-29

April 17, 2010 - Cretaceous and Tertiary Fossils, Butler Co, AL

Our annual trip to Butler County turned up several shark teeth, fish vertebra, ray teeth, turritella in cochina, and a number of pottery pieces.  The day was spent roaming the creek, playing in the sand and creek, or just hanging out sunbathing.  Several members camped out for the weekend on the bald, where more fossils were found.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2010-04-17

April 3, 2010 - Pennsylvanian Fossils, Shelby Co. AL

On a chilly rainy day a few BPS members braved the weather to view a spectacular waterfall in Shelby County.  After the waterfall hike another stop was made to find some wonderful plant material.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2010-04-03

February 27, 2010 - Mississippian Fossils, Colbert and Franklin Co, AL

There must have been a lot of people concerned about the weather report, which predicted snow and ice in North Alabama.  Only 5 of us showed up, but what a wonderful day it turned out to be.  It stayed cold in Birmingham, but the weather at the collecting sites warmed up to the 50's, and Don remarked we better tell the field trip planner thanks for picking such a great day!  The smaller number of people meant we could stay at each location longer, and it really paid off. We found numerous crinoid stems, several varieties of blastoids, part of a straight cephalopod, brachiopods of all sizes, trilobites, and lots of horned coral.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2010-02-27

January 16-17, 2010 - Cambrian Fossils, Cherokee Co, AL

This weekend trip to northeast Alabama was delayed due to several weeks of below freezing weather.  When the day arrived, a high percent of rain was predicted.  However, being the troopers we are, and seeing that it has been so long since we've been on a field trip, 21 of us showed up anyhow!  Amazingly, the weather cooperated.  A light drizzle first thing in the morning that cleared up by mid-day, and the temperature rose to 50.  We were excited, and Bob had brought his boat so we could go to our favorite site on the lake.  We got to our first collecting location, and began scrounging through the pebbles.  Nothing.  More looking.  Still nothing.  This is the first time in many years that we have had such poor collecting at this site, and since we missed coming for the past 2 years, we thought more would have been washed in.  Not.  So, off we went to a different site that the group hasn't been to.  A few of us scouted it 3 years ago and found a few small trilobites.  Pickings were slim at this site too.  Yes, there was plenty of Conasauga shale, but it was low in trilobites.  Ok.  Let's go to the main lake site.  We showed up there fully intending to put the boat in first.  However, the weeks of below freezing weather had frozen the lake!  Never had we seen it like this.  Several members spent some time skipping rocks on the frozen lake, to see where the ice ended.  It didn't.  Every rock thrown sat on top of the frozen lake.  So we resigned ourselves to collecting near the boat ramp, and saving the other site for another trip.   

Eight members stayed in a cabin overnight, playing games, watching tv, and generally having a good time.  The next morning, the lake had thawed, but we decided not to go out without the bulk of the group being there.  After about an hour of collecting along the lakeshore, we headed home.

Several nice trilobite pieces were found, but the collecting was sparse at all the locations where we stopped.  Whether this area played out due to our once a year collecting, or the site is frequently collected by locals and other people who found out about it is unknown, but it looks as if this site may be on the back burner for a while.

Photos courtesy Claire Smith, Ted Nicolle, and Vicki Lais


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2010-01-16


Field Trips

February 7 and 8, 2009 Mississippian Fossils, NW Alabama, various sites

BPS members gathered in NW Alabama for a full weekend field-trip  February 7 and 8.   We couldn't have begged, pleaded or prayed for better weather!  Since we were slogging through a great deal of mud culling for Mississippian fossils, the unseasonal warmth was a treat!  Lots of conglomerate "collections" were found, featuring the remains of archimedes, brachiopods and crinoids.  Some blastoids were found, and Bob found a beautiful starfish on the scouting trip last week.   We visited several sites, met some nice folks who were curious about what all those adults were doing, crawling around on their hands and knees etc.

Saturday night brought camping in the Cane Creek Canyon Preserve.  This entire area is owned and beautifully-maintained by Jim and Fay Lacefield.  They welcome guests and keep clean (and welcome) rest-areas and picnic areas featuring well-stocked little privies and fresh drinking-water.   On Sunday, we were treated to a guided tour by Jim and heart-stopping rides around the trails on a six-wheeler with Fay.   Makes the biggest roller-coaster you've ever been on seem tame!   There are several overhanging caves in the area and Jim gave us a great overview of the tribes who made them their living-areas at various times of the year.  We then went on to the creek where Jim talked about the geology of the rocks all around, how they came to be there and discussed the flora that was starting to bloom.   At least one variety manages to survive the deers' grazing by appearing on the tops of some of the boulders that the animals cannot reach.

BPS owes a HUGE THANK-YOU to Jim and Fay for a fascinating day in a beautiful setting.  IF you wish to visit, be sure and call ahead and check in with the Lacefields and PLEASE clean up behind yourselves, making sure that campfires are completely out and pack OUT anything you packed IN!

Sunday photos taken at Cane Creek Canyon Preserve.

Saturday photos of fossil trip are below.

Photos courtesy Claire Smith, Jaimie Hill and Vicki Lais.

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2009-02-07

February 8, 2009 - Cane Creek Canyon Preserve, Colbert Co, AL

Sunday was spent hiking in the Cane Creek Canyon Preserve.  Pictures are below.

Photos courtesy Nancy Lea and Vicki Lais.

Return to the Saturday fossil field trip in Franklin County, Alabama.

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2009-02-08

February 21, 2009 - Pennsylvanian Fossils, Bibb Co, AL

Well, sometimes things happen unexpectedly.  A call on Monday to the landowner to schedule a field trip for March.  Well, actually he said, the site is ready to be reclaimed.  Next week.  Can you come this Saturday?    Well  . . . . .  Sure we can!  A hastily planned trip to Bibb County, Alabama caught many members by surprise.   We came here a couple of years ago, but our collecting area was severely restricted due to ongoing construction.  This time - no restrictions - we had access to the entire site.  Those who could come found beautiful plant material at this old coal washing facility.  Numerous specimens of lepidodendron, calamites, some delicate ferns and numerous other fossil plants were found.  Afterwards a quick trip to the Cahaba River where the Cahaba Lilies bloom in May, then to a beehive oven location.  Our last stop of the day was to collect graptolites.

Photos courtesy Bill Fowler and Vicki Lais


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2009-02-21

April 11, 2009 - Mississippian Fossils, Morgan Co, AL

On 11 April, BPS visited a quarry in Morgan county.  After signing in and filling out all the release forms we were escorted to the dig site.  The quarry contains limestone, and the fossils found were primarily from the Mississippian Period of the Paleozoic Era. 

The Mississipian Period is known as the "Age of Crinoids". This period spanned approximately 360-320 million years.  It was named for the exposed rocks in the Mississippian River valley near St. Louis by geologist Alexander Winchell in 1870.  The quarry visited was mining limestone.  Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the mineral calcite (calcium carbonate: CaCO3).  Shells and other marine byproducts settle on the ocean floor and are compressed for millions of years as layer by layer of the calcite are depostited.   Limestone also contains variable amounts of silica, chert, sand, silt and other impurities.  It can be crystalline, clastic (composed of fragments of other rocks), granular or massive  depending on the method of formation.  


We had an excellent turn out.   It turned a bit cold, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the members.

After being briefed by the quarry escorts, who remained with us, we began to spread out and search for treasures.  Most of the material found was in limestone rock, and some was very difficult to extract without heavy chisels and hammers.   


Several Blastoids (Pentremites pyriformise and Pentremites godoni) were found by most on top of the ground in small washes.  Blastoids originated in the Ordovician period and reached their greatest diversity in the Mississippian period.  The picture below shows the main body or theca of the blastoids.  It was protected by a series of interlocking plates made from calcium carbonate.  This was attached to a stalk, which in turn was anchored to the sea floor by a holdfast.  Similar to the Crinoid.  


Most of the blastoids were found on the surface in small washes.  Here Ron is praying to the fossil gods to show him a blastoid as everyone else had found them and he had not.


There were many occurrences of Bryozoans at the site. Several nice finds were made.  Below is a picture of an Archimedes, and Fenestella Bryozoan.  Fenestella bryozoa colonies, are lace-like in construction, and the individual bryozoan animals lived in microscopic tubes or pores on the lace branches.  The fenestrate bryozoan colony called Archimedes lived attached to a screw-shaped support structure.  Most often only the support structure is found.  Bryozoans have existed for hundreds of millions of years (since the early Ordovician) and are common fossils in marine deposits.   Thousands of Byrozoans species exist today all over the world.   

Becky found an unusual item.  James Lamb ( Paleontologist at McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama) was called over to help identify it.  The find turned out to be a nice Petalodus (Petalodontidae (Petalodontiformes) sharks tooth.   It took over an hour and a half to extract it from the limestone it was embedded in.   Becky donated the specimen to the McWane Center museum.  


Here's a closer look at the Petalodus tooth. Petalodus sharks were estimated to reach a length of about 2 meters.  Their basic diet consisted of sponges and other invertebrates. 

A few Brachiopods were also found.   Brachiopods are two valved animals, similar to the bivalves today. 

Most Brachiopods were attached to the bottom by means of a fleshy stalk and were not free swimming like many of the bivalves today.  The Brachiopod in this picture (spiriferina transversa) was 4 cm across.


Not just fossils were found.  Here's one of many calcite crystal clusters that were also found.  Incidently these crystals are simply the crystalline form of limestone (CaCo3).


Many Crinoid and Blastoid stem parts were found on the surface of the collecting area.  



Several specimens of horn coral were also found.  Horn corals are from the extinct order of corals called Rugosa.  Rugosa means wrinkled.  The outside of these corals have a wrinkled appearance.  Horn Coral grows in a long cone shape like a bull’s horn.  The fossil is the skeleton of the coral animal or polyp.  The animal lived at the top of the cone.  They had many tentacles sticking out to gather food.  The tentacles gave the horn coral a flower like appearance.


Several outcroppings of other coral were also found.  The species of coral has not yet been identified.

Leisa found a small trilobite.  The species is not known at this time.   Tiribites are found in many other counties in Alabama.  In the geologic time scale, they came to dominate the seas around 540 million years ago and became extinct around 245 million years ago. 

Here Martha shows her prize of a limestone slab containing numerous fossils.

Here's a closeup of the  limestone slab containing a collection of many different fossils including crinoiod, blastoid, stem parts, archimedes and various other bryozoans. 

Don and Jamie discuss their finds near where many blastoids had been picked up.

Pictures courtesy Vicki Lais and Ron Beerman

Part 2 - More Trip Photos


April 11, 2009 - Mississippian Fossils, Morgan Co, AL, Part 2

Part 1 - Trip Report
Part 2 - Trip Photos (this page)

This Mississippian limestone quarry yielded a variety of fossils, including crinoids, blastoids, a very ancient shark tooth by the name Petalodus, archimedes, bryozoans, brachiopods, Rugosa and other corals, and even part of a trilobite.

(Photos courtesy Ron Beerman, Becky Guthrie, and Vicki Lais)
Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2009-04-11

May 16, 2009 - Cretaceous Fossils, Sumter County, AL

Old hands as well as new joined up early on Saturday morning for a trip to some great Cretaceous gully sites in West Alabama.   Dr. John Hall and Dr. Andy Rindsberg, both from the University of West Alabama, led us down chalk roads (more later on the chalk roads!) and through the woods to the bottom of the ancient ocean.   The landscape looked like the remains of an ancient clam-bake!  Literally MILLIONS of fossilized shells including exogyra, various clams, shark and sawfish teeth, crab claws, oyster shells, echinoid spines, and at least one small shark vertebra.   One of our teen-aged guests, Megan, discovered a large Rudist clam.   This was only her second trip with BPS and her find was sufficiently rare from this location that Dr. Hall claimed it for the nascent Black Belt Museum in Livingston.  Her name will remain with it and she will get a letter of recognition.

Many who drove up from Birmingham were watching the weather, and at least one member called to see if the trip had been cancelled.  Cancelled??? Hey, this is BPS, guys!  But later in the day rumbling could be heard and the clouds looked angry.  The landowner sent word that the rain was about an hour away, so we started moseying back to the cars.  Oops, not fast enough, we were drenched by the time we made it back to the field.  So.  How many people remember James Lamb telling us over and over - GET OUT OF THE GULLIES BEFORE IT STARTS RAINING???  Let's see. . . chalk . . clay . . water . . slick . . stuck in mud.  Yeah, right.  At least 3 vehicles had to be pushed out, um, slid out, perhaps?  Needless to say, we were all pumped up with adrenaline by the time we made it back up the long winding road to the top of the hill! An exciting trip we will be discussing for years to come!

Edited by Vicki Lais

Pictures courtesy Nancy Lea,  Larry Herr, Vicki Lais

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2009-05-16

June 13-14, 2009 - Artifacts, Butler Co, AL

Since many BPS club members are interested in both Paleontology and Archeology, it seemed important to find out a little bit about the culture which might have made the pottery chards which many found in the creek on the June 2009 BPS field trip.   

My first thoughts were that it might have been the Creeks.  Actually they originally called themselves the  Isti or Istichata, but began to identify themselves as the Muskogee soon after Europeans arrived.  Early settlers and traders called them Creeks after the Ocmulgee Creek in Georgia.  When the first Spanish explorers came into this area in the early 1500's,  The Muskogee were more of a loose confederation of small tribes, living in small villages along lakes and rivers.  There are still Muskogee living in the area today.

While researching the information available on these Indians, a friend mentioned an archeologist by the name of Ned Jenkins near Wetumpka, Alabama.   He is extremely knowledgeable about Alabama Indians.  I decided to send a couple pictures of the pottery chards found, and also my write up on the Muskogee Indians.

Imagine my surprise when he said that the chards came from what archeologists call the Weeden Island Culture which existed between 800 – 1100 A.D.   This pre-dates the Muskogee !  So let’s travel back a little bit in time around where the pottery chards were found.  Perhaps 1300 years ago.  It is sometimes referred to as the Woodland Period of Pre-history.  The people of the Weeden Island culture had a broad-based economy that included hunting, fishing, gathering, and, probably, gardening.
There is growing evidence that they cultivated such native crops as sunflower, gourds, marsh elder, and knotweed, and possibly non-native plants including corn and beans.  During the later part of the woodland period there is evidence of bow and arrow technology, and arrowheads used for hunting have been found.  Not too long ago in Pinellas County, Florida, a 39 foot pine canoe dating back to approximately 1100 years ago was found, indicating these Indians had those skills also.

Late Weeden Island culture made complicated, stamped pottery, characterized by a design impressed on the surface of unfired pots with a wooden or clay paddle.

This culture eventually became part of the Mississippian culture which is where the Muskogee originated.

More about the fossils found on the trip.

--Photos courtesy Claire Smith and Vicki Lais

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2009-06-13-artifact

June 13-14, 2009 - Cretaceous and Tertiary Fossils, Butler Co, AL

This month the group traveled to Butler County, Alabama, to a sandy creek which runs through early Tertiary and late Cretaceous material.  The weather was overcast on Saturday, making collecting very pleasant.  A number of members camped out for the weekend.  Sunday the sun was out, and it made us grateful for the cloud cover on Saturday!

The sandy beaches and gravel areas yielded up shark teeth, ray teeth, some nautiloid sections, and recent mammal material which was sometimes as fasinating as the fossils. 

We had quite a few young people on the trip who enjoyed both the fossil collecting and swimming, splashing and running in the shallow creek.  There is an area of soft clay, and some enterprising young men fashioned bowls from it.

More about the artifacts found on the trip.

--Photos courtesy Claire Smith and Vicki Lais.

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2009-06-13

July 11, 2009 - Cretaceous Fossils, Greene Co, AL

BPS members and guests headed down to Greene county, Alabama for our July trip.  This site is a creek covered with pea gravel - making screening for shark teeth and other fossils quite difficult.  However, most found it fairly easy to spot the fossils lying on top of the gravel.  Numerous shark teeth were found, a couple of mosasaur teeth, several ptychodus teeth, a gar vertebra and tooth, crocodilian bone, clams, oysters, and bryozoan.  Vicki found a tooth so tiny (about 1/8 inch), that when she put it on her finger to get a closeup, it rolled off.  The next 45 minutes was spent digging through the gravel in an ever widening circle, trying to find the tiny tooth again.  As we finally gave up, she rolled the gravel around again, and there it was!  It went in a medicine bottle for safekeeping, until a photo could be taken in a "safe" location!  It has been identified as a gar tooth, which is more rare than mosasaur teeth in this area.

--Photos courtesy Vicki Lais


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2009-07-11

August 29, 2009 - Late Cretaceous, Perry County, Alabama

This month BPS members went to Perry County, in south Alabama, and collected in a creek where it has been said, this is the furtherest north that cretaceous material is found.  It has been a while since we collected at this site, and kudzu and other grassy plants had grown over the road, making it a challenge to find our way to the site this time.

As Vicki searched for the elusive "easy way down" for over an hour, the others slid down the steep embankments to reach the fossils found in the creek.  The fossils consisted mostly of various varieties of shark teeth.  A few mosasaur teeth, gastropods and ammonite parts were also found.  One of our visitors even found an arrowhead.

Photos courtesy Vicki Lais


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2009-08-29

December 5, 2009 - Mississippian & Ordovician Fossils, Jefferson Co, AL

A hastily put together field trip ended up being on a snowy day, and most members decided to stay snug in their warm homes.  Three of us were ready to brave the snow, cold, and wind, so we headed to Ruffner Mountain, to enjoy the old quarry, and check on the rock we etched many years ago so visitors could see the range of fossils in the limestone.


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2009-12-05


Field Trips

February 23, 2008 - Lawrence and Franklin Co, AL

A large crew of BPS members and guests headed to northwest Alabama this month, in hopes of finding crinoid heads and trilobites. Well, we found both! We left Birmingham expecting a high of 50, however, that must have been in the wee hours of the morning, as the temperature hovered in the mid-30's all day. Brrr!! But that didn't keep the fossils inside, nor did it deter detemined fossil seekers.

Our first stop was a roadcut where numerous specimens of coral were found, many too large to carry home.

The second stop was another roadcut, where numerous pieces of archimedes were found, a few horned corals, and even a whole crinoid head!

At stop #3, our primarly collecting location, a lake in NW Alabama, fossils were litterally laying all over the ground. Almost every rock was covered with weathered out fossils which stood in nice relief, and many had weathered out totally, so that individual specimens could be found by carefully examining the ground. At this site, numerous blastoids were found, archimedes, two types of coral, crinoid stems, trilobite parts, and Jan N. found a tiny, complete, rolled up trilobite! On a side note - the trip photographer had a difficult time organizing a group picture, and did not manage this feat until stop #3 - imagine trying to control a herd of cats who see FOOD, and you have a good idea! But it was finally managed with only 2-3 missing (already in action, hunting those fossils!).

Our last stop of the day was a different location on the lake, where similar items were found as at stop #3, and also some larger corals and crinoid "legs".

As it got colder and colder, people were calling for warmth and food, so we made our way to an out-of-the way steak house where we continued to talk about fossils and visit until our bellies were full, and finally after a wonderful day spent with like-minded friends, we left for home.

(Photos courtesy Vicki Lais)

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2008-02-23

March 29, 2008 - Pennsylvanian Fossils - Walker and Jefferson County, AL

This month BPS spent our field trip exploring road cuts along a new highway, which included 10+ stops to survey various likely looking areas. Though rain was widely predicted, it didn't happen, and the weather was perfect for being outside. The fossil collecting wasn't as prolific as expected, but everyone found quite a few nice specimens, including brachiopods, tracks, and ferns. We also discovered an upright hole that appeared on first glance to be a blasting hole, but on closer examination one could see the impression of a lycopod, perhaps a lepidodendron. Several people worked on an exposed rock shelf where an extensive plate of fossil marine creatures were found.

We also had a quick visit from a couple of guys from North Alabama, who were passing through the area, and stopped to see what we were doing. Amazingly, they had just seen the BPS website the previous week, and were excited to see us out in the field.

Mid-day, we stopped at a local BBQ joint for nourishment and visiting, and then slowly proceeded in the general direction of home, stopping at roadcuts on the other side of the road. We searched carefully for more starfish at the location where they were originally found, but none were spotted this time. As members drifted off home, a few die-hards kept going until almost dark. Our last stop of the day was a construction site, where some pieces of poor quality petrified wood was found.

(Photos courtesy Vicki Lais)

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2008-03-29

April 26, 2008 - Cretaceous and Tertiary Fossils, Butler Co, AL

The April 2008 field trip brought beautiful weather and a nice relaxing weekend. Claire, Martha and Leisa were able to get to the site on Friday and enjoyed an evening gazing up at the stars and listening to the night birds. Saturday morning brought the arrival of the rest of the field trip party. Members ventured up stream and down stream. Several shark teeth and ray teeth were found, along with cochina stone embedded with turritella, gastropods, and nautiloids. A few Native American pottery shards were also found. After a relaxing cook out and campfire on the beach, four members of our party left for the big city, while the rest of the group had come prepared to camp for the weekend.

Sunday morning was a little foggy, as some of the early risers found out, but it lifted shortly after true light. Two members headed home early to care for pets while the remainder hiked the creek and other parts of the property. Several nautiloids were collected from an area that was newly exposed. In spite of dire weather reports, the weather at the creek was perfect for the weekend.

--Edited by Vicki Lais

(Vicki sends tons of thanks to those who shared their field trip stories, let her paw through their fossils, and took pictures while she was under the weather a bit.)

(photos courtesy Leisa Whitlow, Jan Novak, Claire Smith, and Vicki Lais)

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2008-04-26

May 31, 2008 - Late Cretaceous Fossils, Dallas County, AL

This Saturday in late May was HOT! A large group of 27 people met at a private site in central Alabama to search several very extensive gullies for fossils. BPS has not visited this site in at least 10 years, so we were excited about this opportunity. This gully has been a treasure-trove of fossil material over the years, most of which is currently housed at the Museum of Natural History in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This day was no exception, and a number of important finds were made, including various mosasaur bones at several locations, including a juvenile vertebra, at least two fish skeletons, turtle bones, several partial and deformed starfish replaced with marcasite, Enchodus teeth of all sizes, a bird tooth, and another fossil bird. From the items being shown for photo documentation, it seemed that most people found at least one shark tooth, oysters, shell material, and plenty of shrimp burrows. Claire even found an echinoid.

Several people decided to brave the tall grass and poison ivy to check out a gully off the beaten path. Along with the fossils were plenty of chiggers!

Did I mention that it was HOT? James Lamb's thermometer in the middle of the gully registered 115 degrees. Coupled with the lack of vegetation, the stark white chalk of the gullies made this day almost unbearable, though we attempted to get in early to avoid the heat. When one is not accustomed to heat, hyperthermia can set in quickly, with symptoms of dizzyness, dehydration, confusion, and a feeling of exhaustion. Also, the gullies were so steep, once deciding it was time to go find a cool drink and some shade, just climbing out of the gullies was a major undertaking. A number of people decided to leave by early afternoon, or sit in the shade of the trees to cool off. One group took off to tour Old Cahawba, with a swim afterward, and Becky was headed out to North Dakota to hunt fossils for a couple of weeks. A smaller group managed to stay late; once it starts cooling off around 5pm, the late evening sunlight is often polarized, which makes it much easier to spot fossils, and collecting is very pleasant.

Photos courtesy Jan Novak and Vicki Lais


June 28, 2008 - Cretaceous Fossils, Sumter County, AL

Trip to Sumter County, Alabama. . . more to follow, wanted to get pictures up for everyone.

(Pictures courtesy Jan Novak and Vicki Lais) 


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2008-06-28

August 2, 2008 - Late Cretaceous Fossils, Dallas County, AL

A small group of dedicated fossil hounds arrived in Dallas County to assist James Lamb in searching for ancient bones and teeth of extinct animals in the Late Cretaceous chalk gullies.  Suffering miserably in the heat of the day where temperatures were recorded at 109 degrees, our spirits were frequently lifted by the amazing fossils that were being found.  We had the opportunity to search in gullies where no one had searched recently.  The years of rain and weathering provided a treasure trove of a large variety of fossils, and no one had such a good day as did Claire.  After arriving a little late, the first thing after arriving in the gully, she practically tripped over pieces of a fossil fish, including jaw and teeth, that others of us in a bigger hurry had stepped right over.   She had her eyes set to find bone, and continued to find very nice specimens throughout the day.  Most of the specimens found now reside at the McWane Science Center, where they will be available to researchers around the world.

 [This is considered our "July field trip", since it took place between the July and August business meetings.]

Photos courtesy Jan Novak, Claire Smith, Don Hill, and Vicki Lais.

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2008-08-02

August 15, 16, 17, 2008 - Cretaceous Fossils, Dallas and Perry Counties, AL

A weekend trip to the Cretaceous chalk gullies of Dallas County Alabama and a creek in Perry county turned up numerous fossils.  Ancient creatures, including shark, turtle, mosasaur, ptychodus, fish, clam, and ammonite were found during the three day weekend trip.

Day 1 Friday         Day 2 Saturday         Day 3 Sunday



On Friday morning, Jan, Becky and a co-worker joined James Lamb on a search for ancient bones in a set of gullies that had not been visited for a number of years.  Very nice specimens of  fish, shark, mosasaur, enchodus, and rudistid clam were found.  To excavate shark vertebra which were scattered over a large area, an awning was erected to provide protection from the 100+ temperatures of the gully.  Later that afternoon, other members of the group began showing up for the weekend campout.

That night we set up camp in a cow pasture, where we fended off curious cows and hungry fire ants that seemed to find every crack into anything.  One could literally not stand still without finding several ants crawling up their boots. Beautiful spider webs and large cow patties were obstacles to dodge during the night.  Then, about midnight, the rain started.  A slow, gentle rain.  And it continued through the night.  Not good, since it would make the gully chalk as slick as oiled glass. 

(photos courtesy Jan Novak and Vicki Lais)


Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2008-08-15

September 20, 2008 - Cretaceous Fossils, Dallas County, AL

Once again, BPS took a trip south to Dallas county, Alabama, to search in the extensive Cretaceous chalk gullies found there.  This was our last gully trip of the season, since hunting season is about to start, so we were in a frantic hurry to collect the items we had previously flagged, and find as much as we could so it could be preserved, and not get washed down a gully, and potentially lost for research.  In addition to the normal variety of shells, shark teeth and vertebra, fish including enchodus, and turtles, this month a baby crocodile was found, the first one found in Alabama, so we were quite excited. 

(Photos courtesy Joey Golson and Vicki Lais)

Image GalleriesField Trip Photos2008-09-20

October 21, 2008 - Teacher Workshop, Sumter County, AL

The "Fossils of the Black Belt - A Hands-On Field Workshop" was a huge success!  This fossil workshop was sponsored by the Geological Survey of Alabama, The University of West Alabama, and Discovering Alabama.  Approximately 35 teachers from around the South arrived bright and early in Livingston, Alabama to learn about fossils and field geology.  After a morning lecture, the group visited several sites in Sumter County, including Jones Bluff beside the Tombigbee River, the Hawkins Overlook, and the Blackland Prairie Restoration Area on the UWA campus, and Jefferson. Cretaceous fossils were collected at a site where the K-T boundary is exposed.  The afternoon was spent cleaning and identifying fossils, and ended with drawings for numerous door prizes.  The workshop leaders were Dr. David C. Kopaska-Merkel (Geological Survey of Alabama), Dr. Andrew K. Rindsberg, Dr. Doug Wymer, and Dr. John C. Hall (all of the University of West Alabama).