Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center

If you are a fossil collector, then Buffalo, NY is a great place to visit. Forget the Niagara Falls, there are so many roadcuts and creek beds to explore nearby! One of the best places to visit and collect is at the Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center. This is an open, relatively flat area where many layers of the Moscow formation are exposed at the surface of an old gravel pit. The Hamburg Natural History Society runs and maintains the site as a natural and paleontological resource. Anyone can come and collect fossils there and it's safe for all ages since there are no steep walls.

Here is a panorama of the site (click to make it larger):

The geology exposed has been studied and charted by the club to produce this stratigraphic view:

The diagram has an exaggerated elevation so that more details about the layers can be illustrated but what it does show is how the layers dip gently to the southeast. The southernmost parts of the site, near the asphalt walkway above, have the youngest layers.

Most of the digging on site is focused on the "Smoke Creek Trilobite Bed" where Phacops and Greenops trilobites are fairly common.  The club maintains the site and occasionally will come in with a bulldozer to clear spent rock and expose more of the desired layers. Here is a group working the trilobite bed:

Any of the rocks lying on the ground in the above picture could hold a trilobite. If you don't want to work the exposed layers then you can take a turn at cracking the debris pile.

Just below the trilobite bed is the Tichenor limestone which is a very hard and resistance layer. You can find outcroppings of the layer near the northeast corner of the site where the water drains off.

The water has carved some deep channels which look like miniature canyons.

You can easily spend a few hours at any one point on the site exploring the many exposed layers and fossil zones. Some of the fossils I've found at the site are: Ambocoelia, Athyris, Emanuella, Mediospirifer, Mucrospirifer, Pseudoatrypa, Rhipidomella, Spinatrypa, Megastrophia, Phacops, Greenops, Amplexiphyllum, Aulocystis, Stereolasma.

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