February 5, 2005 - Cambrian Fossils, Cherokee Co, AL

Our January trip was delayed a week, due to the ice storm that hit the eastern part of Alabama on our scheduled day. Just a week later, it was a very nice, sunny day, with a slight breeze coming off Weiss Lake. Isn't this Alabama weather wonderful! If you don't like the current weather, just wait a few days!

This year we decided on a boat trip to a new, uncollected area of the lake, where everyone found a plentiful supply of trilobites. The water level was up higher than expected, due to the recent rain, but the area where we collected had a very wide beach, so the water level was not an issue. Shown in the pictures are the best samples, though there were numerous specimens of tiny trilobites, no more than 1/4 inch long, and some rocks were covered with these small ones (ask Clare how much a 5 gallon bucket of rocks weighs!). Though there was shale covering the ground in many locations, we focused on collecting nodules. This site is from the middle Cambrian Conasauga Fm. Albertan stage, approximately 530 million years old. Cephalon (heads), pygidium (tails), and several whole specimens of the following were found: Coosella, Coosia superba, Kingstonia, Densonella, Holcacephalus, and Norwoodella. Also found were a number of "Brooksella" which are believed to be the internal mold of a "primitive jellyfish", possibly from the Conasauga Fm, Dresbachian stage, late Cambrian approximately 515 million years ago.

Late in the day, some of the diehards in the group proceeded to another site we checked out last year, to see if more of the larger triloibites (possibly Tricrepicephalus) had weathered out. Alas, the water level was too high, and all we collected were shots of the rock formations, and a great sunset. What a pleasant way to end the day!

(pictures courtesy Lea Martin and Vicki Lais)

group gathering for fossil trip
Most of the group, waiting on the rest of the crew in the parking lot.

new bps logo collecting pouches for fossils
Paige's mom (Lea) made pouches with the BPS logo to collect the finds of the day.

hunting fossils by lake
Hanging out at the boat ramp, and of course everyone has to search, just in case. Paige did find a nice trilobite, almost whole, see the "hands" picture below, the 3rd hand down on the left.

boat ride to fossil collecting site
On the way again with Captain Steve . . .

hunting fossils by lake
Claire and Nancy hoping to spot the "big one"!

hunting fossils by lake
Nancy found a nice brooksella!

hunting fossils by lake
Everyone scattered along the shoreline after we landed.

fossil trilobites hide in the rubble
So many rocks to turn over, so little time!

hunting fossils by lake
Greg and Paige.

fossil brooksella
Paige and Nancy show off their brooksella specimens.

hunting fossils by lake
Wide but muddy shoreline provided lots of collecting space.

fossil brooksella
Leisa found several brooksella.

fossil trilobites
Various members found some nice specimens throughout the day.

fossil trilobite hidden in center
With so many rocks, the trilobites are difficult to spot.. Look closely in the center.

muddy boots from fossil site
Wished I had lined everyone up, Claire's boots are relatively clean at the end of the day! Note the small pieces of shale covering the ground, there was so much, it was almost like a carpet in places. We collected very few fossils in this thin shale, it is very fragile and difficult to transport without crumbling, and there were plenty of nodules to examine.

hunting fossils by lake
Vicki with her bag of rocks (and many more pounds in the backpack!)

hunting fossils by lake
Leisa, Steve, and Greg get ready to head back, after a very nice day of collecting.

fossil trilobites
The prize of the day goes to Greg, who found this wonderful specimen on the scouting trip.

fossil trilobites
Same specimen from a different angle.

fossil trilobite and brooksella
Specimens after cleaning. The shine is from a protective coating of Elmer's Glue and water solution.

fossil trilobite
More samples shiny with protective glue.

taking boat out of lake
Thanks, guys, it was a fun trip!

dinner after collecting fossils all day
We must fill our bellies before that long trip home! The food and company were excellent!

A few members went to another site to check for larger trilobites, but the water level covered the collecting area. Instead, we studied the geology.
geologic layers
This interesting bluff shows where the river has deposited layers in smooth bands over thousands of years.

probably fossil clam attachment points
We have been told these are snail attachment points.  The odd marks cover many of the rocks in the area.

A beautiful sunset to end the day!