Digging fossils

Trip Start Jul 07, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Wednesday, August 8, 2012

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I'm in Kemmerer to dig fish fossils from the Green River Formation. I did this last year but I couldn't remember how to get to the pay-to-dig place I visited last time so I went to Creative Creations, one of the rock shops on the triangle (the joke is that Kemmerer is too small to have a town square so they just have a triangle) in the middle of town to get directions. With directions in hand, I drove out to Warfield Fossil Quarries, Inc., the same place I went last time. I like it because it's the only pay-to-dig place in town that I know of where you don't need a reservation and there is no minimum group size so I can just show up. I paid $75 for half a day, was given an area to hunt in and started splitting rocks.

The folks who work there know which layers of rock are productive. Someone showed me where the ash layer is, which is a layer that frequently contains a high density of fish fossils. I spent the first couple hours clearing the nonproductive layers from above the ash layer. Once that was done, I started carefully splitting the rocks around the ash layer.

Unlike last time, I was rewarded with a pair of large plates (one from each side of where I split the rock) that contained over a dozen fish fossils. When you split a rock you get a positive - the actual fossil - on one side of the split and a negative - an outline that looks like the fossil but doesn't actually contain any fossil material - on the other. It's best to get a good positive but the negatives are sometimes clear enough to be worth saving. Each plate in the pair contained some positives and some negatives. I could tell I had something good but without further preparation it's hard to tell just how good I had done. I also found a couple other fossils that looked promising.

I finished up a little early, loaded the rocks in the car and headed back to town. I went to Creative Creations to talk with the man who does their preparation work to see what my options were for the rocks I had. We also discussed what the fossils were likely worth and while it's too soon to tell just how the pieces will turn out after they're prepped, I definitely did much better than last time.  The total value of the fossils is somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,500.

I wound up leaving everything there to have the work done. The total bill was $460, most of which is for packing and shipping the pieces to me.  The pair of plates are going to be turned into mirror images of each other and should end up around 2x3 feet with aound 15 fossils on each. The other two pieces will be on individual pieces of rock. The finished pieces will be shipped to me after I get home so it's going to be a couple months until I get to see them.
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