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Potomac River Fossil Hunt

POTOMAC RIVER

Fossil Hunting along the Potomac River


Potomac River Trip

Summer Potomac River Trip - 2008 - Finding a Paleocarcharodon

Potomac River - Aquia Formation - Paleocene Fossils

Fossil display at the Nanjemoy Heritage day

Fossil display at the Nanjemoy Heritage day


Many months ago I received an email from someone in Nanjemoy, MD about setting up a display at the Nanjemoy Heritage Day to show Charles County's rich fossil bounty. The date was Sept. 20th. As the months flew by, and the date quickly approached, I decided to rope Paul of Chaptours into helping out at this event. I have no idea why he did so, but his help was greatly appreciated. We set up 3 tables full of fossils and had a kiddy pool filled with Pungo River sediment from the Phosphate mine at Auroa, NC for the kids (and some adults) to search through.

The event was nice. There was a parade, clowns, horses, a live band, and many booths and vendors. The event went flew by while we watched countless kids turn into enthusiastic paleontologists as they discovered prehistoric beasts in the kiddy pool. If only one could hold onto that passion.

The only glitch to the event was the lack of an ATM machine. In a society becoming more and more cashless, I tend to not carry much of the green stuff. Unfortunately, the event was cash only and the nearest ATM machine was nearly an hour round trip drive away. Knowing we had to eat, I scrounged up a whopping $10.00 and figured we could purchase a small snack to hold us over. To my surprise, $10.00 allowed me to buy 4 cheeseburgers, 2 sodas, 1 water, 1 piece of carrot cake, and 1 brownie! We feasted like kings on $10.00! It felt as if 10 years of inflation was taken off the dollar!

Anyhow, here's the fossil part... This event just so happened to be a short drive from a nice Potomac River fossil site. At sunrise before the event, we met along the Potomac for a fossil hunt.

Unfortunately, the water level was VERY high. Waves were washing against the cliffs. There were only small patches of beach exposed to collect on. After a few hours of fossil collecting, we found less than 10 fossils between the three of us. The day would have been a wash; however, the very first tooth I picked up happened to be a Paleocarcharodon orientalis fossil shark tooth. A very rare "Pygmy White Shark" from the Paleocene. These oddities are only found in a few places on earth and are the reason why many collectors hunt this area.

On our way out, we happened to run into Kevin, a collecting acquaintance. He decided to wait it out for the water level to lower. He emailed me pics of his finds afterward. When I saw some nice Otodus fossil tooth he found, I knew his waiting it out strategy paid off!






Images and Fossils found from the Aquia Formation


Kids become paleontologists as they dig through Pungo River sediment from Aurora.

Kids become paleontologists as they dig through Pungo River sediment from Aurora.


Here, Paul and Amy search along the Potomac cliffs.

Here, Paul and Amy search along the Potomac cliffs.


Unfortunately, the seaweed was in full bloom and washing ashore.  This makes for a stinky mess.

Unfortunately, the seaweed was in full bloom and washing ashore. This makes for a stinky mess.


Here are the finds.  Nothing notable except for the Paleocarcharodon orientalis.

Here are the finds. Nothing notable except for the Paleocarcharodon orientalis.


This is the Paleocarcharodon orientalis, or Pygmy White Shark.  The serrations are very worn, and the cusps are 
probably worn off.

This is the Paleocarcharodon orientalis, or Pygmy White Shark. The serrations are very worn, and the cusps are probably worn off.




Recommended Books for Shark Tooth Identification



Fossil Shark Teeth of the World
, A Collector's Guide
by Joe Cocke, Copyright 2002

A great book for identifying all those teeth. This book is laid out "as simple as possible." It's ease of use and small size makes it great to carry during collecting trips. This book shows teeth from around the globe, but all the Calvert teeth can be found in it.




Fossil Sharks of the Chesapeake Bay Region
, A Collector's Guide
by Bretton W. Kent, Copyright 1994

This is a classic for identifying all those teeth at the Calvert Cliffs. It's a must for any beginner collector that fossil hunts in the Maryland/Virginia area.
Unfortunately, this book is out of print. There's used ones on amazon for super insane amounts of money, but SOMETIMES there is a used one available for a few bucks.



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