Ammonite Fossil Site

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					                           AMMONITE FOSSIL SITE


General Information

                                     This spectacular fossil area is located in a
beautiful canyon in the heart of the Lassen National Forest in the Tehama
County of Northern California.

                                    Over millions of years, a creek named Mill
Creek had cut deep into the Sierras exposing Late Cretaceous strata (approx. 80
to 90 million years ago).
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A few million years after that time, an extraterrestrial body hit the earth causing
the extinction of the dinosaurs and the ammonites. From an ecological point of
view, this strata witnessed the evolutionary "last stand" of survival made by the

                                                         a sea already
conquered by bigger predators.

Close relatives of the ammonites, the rare Nautilus and the Argonaut still exist

Directions to Red Bluff

The last town you will reach before heading to a campground at the side of the
Mill Creek is the town of Red Bluff, which is located along Interstate 5.
The town has all the comforts you will need before heading up the mountains for
a real camping adventure. Sport Utility car rentals are available there. Red Bluff
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is located approx. 30 miles south of Redding and approx. 100 miles North of

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Directions to Black Rock Campground

From Red Bluff take Highway 36 North for 25 miles until the locality of Paynes

                                    There you take Plum Creek Rd. for 9 miles

                                   ...until you see a sign that reads: 'Ponderosa
Way to Black Rock'. Take it.

Ponderosa Way is a very drivable dirt road that goes up the mountains crossing
several creeks. The road provides really spectacular scenery. Drive for 19 miles
until you reach the bottom of a deep canyon.

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                                    That is the Mill Creek and the Black Rock

Directions to the Fossil Site

                                         Once you have reached the Black Rock
Campground and you have settled down, you will need to hike for approx. 1
mile. The trail head is at the western end of the campground.

                                  The trail is easy and goes for up to 6.5 miles.

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                                               After approx. 0.5 miles of hiking at
the side of a private farm, you will see an eroded sedimentary cliff at your left.

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Soon after, you will go through an iron gate. Cross 4 gullies. Walk for approx.
300 yards, and head straight down the creek.

                                   You will reach a beach with a prominent big
“purple” rock in the middle. This beach is the most convenient collecting site.

Finding Ammonites and Giant Clams

                                    Once you are in the creek beach...

                                        you will see several hard rocks with fossil
shell fragments laying on the ground.

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You will also see big boulders of a softer chalk type gray-green sediment
material that has fallen from the big cliff up river though natural erosion.

                                          This material is easy to break with the
hammer. You can find extinct clams (figure)...

beautiful ammonites...

                                  ...and other mollusks.

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Occasionally, you will encounter smooth and foot long round dark brown rocks
(concretions) buried inside the sediment material. If you split this rocks open you
may find giant fossil clams.

Tools and Equipment Required

Camping equipment and supplies
Geological hammer
Goggles (important for chiseling hard rocks)
Video and/or photo camera (some fossils may be to heavy to carry)

Rules and Regulations

This region is called the "Ishi Wilderness" and is within the Lassen National
Forest. Permits are not required for the casual fossil collector. If you plan to
collect inside the private farm boundary you must ask for the landlord
permission first. Also for your safety, you must read carefully the Black Rock's
hiking precautions regarding the presence of wildlife displayed at the trailhead.
You must respect the area. Do not dig indiscriminately. You must clean-up and
carry all the garbage with you. Please be aware that this fossil site is a gift from
nature for everyone to enjoy.
If you think you found an unusual fossil, please contact your nearest museum of
Natural History. If you discover a new species, it will be named after you!

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Further Reading

                  The following book is recommended for further reading:
"On Methuselah's Trail" by Peter Douglas Ward, W.H. Freeman and Company,
New York, 1991. A very educative and fun book to read. It has a section that
describes an ammonite collecting adventure from this fossil site region.

More Information

Detailed paleontology documentation for all the fossil sites described at the
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regular mail. The documentation includes illustrations with scientific names of
all the specimens that are collectable at the fossil sites described in the website. It
was compiled from paleontology papers, booklets, Ph.D. thesis dissertations,
trail maps, park brochures, etc. The compendium is over 100 pages.

There is a $15 cost to cover compilation and mailing expenses.

If interested in receiving this documentation, please e-mail at:


Your Virtual Guide

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