West Virginia Fossils: Roadside Quarry near the Lost River by Wardensville, West Virginia
A ~390 Million Year Old Devonian Reef
Early - Middle Devonian - The Needmore Formation
The Roadside Quarry near the Lost River in West Virginia - Fossil Hunting
Fossil Hunting in WV at the Lost River site
About the Roadside Quarry Fossils in WV
Fossil here are from a tropical reef envrionment that lived in the Kaskaskia Sea
During the Middle Devonian time period, this place looked very similar to 18-Mile Creek in New York, as it was perched at the edge of the Kaskaskia Sea. The Acadian Oregony (a mountain building event) was beginning. This mountain building occured when when a landmass called Avalon collided into, what is today, eastern North America. This collision crumpled the crust and created a large mountain range called the Acadian Mountains along eastern North America.
Rivers running down the Acadian mountains picked up sediments and carried them into the Castskill basin, a basin just west of the Acadian mountains, running parallel to it. This basin was flooded by the Kaskaskia Sea. This ancient sea covered most of West Virginia (including this site), as well as many other states down to, what is today, the gulf of mexico. Sediments that flowed into the Kaskaskia sea created sedimentary deposits that formed the sedimentary rock layers. These fossil bearing layers were eventually thrust upward during the Appalachian Oregeny (Mountain building phase), and are now seen today at this site.
This fossil site was also near the equator during the middle Devonian, and the earth was much warmer than it is today. As a result, this warm shallow sea was the home of a large array of animals, including coral reefs, trilobites, cephalopods, and brachiopods.
A similar nearby formation is the Mahantango Formation. The Mahantango page has a diagram showing the paleogeography of the area at this time.
Location: Directions to this Fossil Site in West Virginia
This roadside quarry is just west of Wardensville, WV. About 4 miles west of
Wardensville on old rt. 55, you will cross a small bridge. A little less than a half mile past
the bridge, going up a steep hill, you will see the roadside quarry.
It's kind of easy to spot if you start looking after you cross the
bridge and start up the hill.
Remember, this is OLD route 55, not the new one.
Also, most road cuts in this area have the same formation exposed. You may want to do a little exploring.
View of the fossil site from old Route 55
If you go...
Please be respectful and help maintain the site for future fossil hunters. You don't need to dig much, there is plenty of material that accumulates at the base of the slopes to search through.
Identification of Fossils from the Devonian Quarry: West Virginia
Other Recommendations for this Fossil Location
There are two types of shale here. A grayish shale that has well preserved, but fragile fossils, and
an orange colored shell, that is incredibly fragile and has poorly preserved fossils.
The fossils in the orange shale need protected after you prepare them. I soaked all of mine in the good old Elmers glue solution (1/2 glue & 1/2 water), soak for a half hour, and carefully wipe off the white excess with a cotton swab.
You'll be splitting shale, so the standard shale splitting gear is recommended:
A rock hammer
Newspaper or aluminum to wrap the very fragile fossils
Elmers Glue to glue fragments together on the spot before you lose them!
This book is a must for West Virginia! It's also a classic!
Out of the 45 fossil collecting sites, 22 are from West Virginia, and another 10 or so are just across the border! Although the book is getting old, many of the sites are roadcuts and are still accessable.
What makes this book a classic is Jasper Burns incredible sketches of the locations and the fossils found at each location. It is a very descriptive and useful guide book. Even after all these years, I still find myself referencing it!
Fossil Collecting Locations in this book are from Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware.