Finding fossils in one of the largest beds in the world – in Indiana

U.S. Odysseys
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I love my hometown area of Jeffersonville and Clarksville, Indiana, but it’s not necessarily known for much.  However, there are two things that are VERY cool.

1. It has one of the largest fossil beds in the world at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.
2. It was the launching site for the Lewis and Clark expedition.

And, these are in the same location.

On a recent trip down to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, we decided to go fossil hunt for the afternoon.  The area is pretty amazing, it’s just west of Louisville, Kentucky right on the Ohio River below a dam that controls the water flow.  Most days the water is calm and peaceful and you can canoe and kayak on it, but if the dam is open, it can be very dangerous and they will close access to the fossil beds.

There are acres of geological finds along the bedrock – a glimpse into a sea from the Devonian period that stretched over most of North America 400 million years ago.  Over 100 species of coral and sponges are embedded into the rocks.  A volunteer guide helped us identify some of the more common species.  You may also find shell, snail and trilobite (like crab) remenants.

You can look and touch all you want, but you may not take any fossils from the habitat.

However, a few days a year, they bring in piles of rock and dirt from the area and allow you to be a palentologist for the day to hunt and gather your own treasures.  Luckily, it was one of those days and the boys collected a couple of 400-year old treasures.

You could spend all day fossil hunting, hiking along the riverbed and bird watching (eagles are nesting in the area). But there is also the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center which features exhibits and displays that provide the history and science behind the Falls as well as an auditorium and wildlife viewing rooms.

My boys have fairly short attention spans, but they wanted to stay longer than we had time for and asked to come back again soon.

There aren’t many places in the world where you can get a view into the world before dinosaurs and when the earth was mostly covered in water – turns out, it’s my birthplace of Southern
Indiana.