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Lost River Fossil Hunting


Guide to Fossil Hunting at Lost River, WV

Lost River West Virginia

Lost River: Roadside Quarry for Devonian Fossils

Lost River - Near Wardensville, WV 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

Why Are There Fossils Here? 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 that housed 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. These fossil bearing deposits 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.

Google map of the Lost River roadside Quarry

Identification of Fossils from the Devonian Quarry: West Virginia

Click on the image to go to the Lost River Fossil Identificatio Page

Other Recommendations for this Fossil Location

Fragile Fossils

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.

Recommended Equipment:

You'll be splitting shale, so the standard shale splitting gear is recommended: A rock hammer
Safety Goggles
Newspaper or aluminum to wrap the very fragile fossils
Elmers Glue to glue fragments together on the spot before you lose them!

Recommended Books:

101 American Fossil Sites You've Gotta See
By Albert B Dickas, 2018
This is a great updated fossil sites book with at least one fossil site in each state. Each site is broken into 2 pages. One has detailed information, such as directions, GPS coordinates, formation information, etc... The other is dedicated to images of the site and the fossils found there. It also gives information on fossil 'viewing' sites such as dinosaur trackways, museums, and active excavations.

This book is great for both beginning and expert fossil collectors. Beginners will find fossil hunting much easier with this book and experts will find it to be a great reference.
Plus, my fossil photos are peppered throughout this book!

Here is a link to my Review of the book.

Fossil Collecting in the Mid-Atlantic States: With Localities, Collecting Tips, and Illustrations of More than 450 Fossil Specimens
by Jasper Burns, 1991

This book is a classic! Although some of the fossil hunting site listed in this book no longer exist, it shows what fossils can be found in the same area. 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!

Included are numerous Carboniferous plant sites in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

About the Author

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