Marine and Mineralized Fossils
Maysville, Kentucky and Georgetown, Ohio
May 1, 2005
By JR in WV

Maysville is a well-known locale for fossil collecting. There is a limestone formation hundreds of feet thick, much of it laden with marine fossils. Various spots around the town produce fossils of different marine life. One locale produced horn coral. We've collected horn coral on most field trips to the area, and this was no exception. This locale is nice to collect at as every rock is composed of fossils all welded together, so the only real work is deciding which specimens are the most attractive form the day's perspective.

A second locale produced a wide variety of marine floor life, gastropods, bryozoans, shells of various species, and trilobites. This was my first time to actually collect several enrolled "bugs", and the best one is right in the mouth of a gastropod! Pretty cool. This locale is also very prolific; every rock is fossiliferous, you just have to pick the best one for your collection. Both of these locales are low benches on the AA highway just a few miles east of Maysville proper.

The third locale we visited was the huge road cut on US 62 as the highway approaches the Ohio River bridge. This road cut is several hundred feet long and a couple of hundred feet high. There are probably a couple of miles of benches alongside the highway that you can walk/climb along.

This rock is especially hard for limestone. It has a sparse population of marine life compared with the first stops, but is quite diverse. There are different populations at different levels of the formation. I especially like to watch for straight cephalopod fossils here. They frequently have geode-like growths of crystals in the open sections of their shell, with multiple minerals represented. Many of them, sadly, are solid crystal inside, and thus aren't nearly as attractive to me.

The ground here is hard to cover, as the benches are partly buried in rocky slopes as the wall erodes above the bench. It can be quite dangerous, as it is easy to trip. One stumble in the wrong direction, and there's a short trip down with a hasty and painful stop at the bottom. With my luck, I'd bounce from bench to bench, breaking a new set of bones with each bounce!

We each collected a backpack full of attractive marine fossils. I was a little disappointed that I didn't find any really good cephalopods, the ones I found were partial, and mostly completely filled, so the geode-effect was totally missing on most of them. Dan did find a couple of nice ones, and knowing that I had a pretty nice display of these puppies, gave his best ones to me. I did buy him lunch, so I suppose we're even!

Then, after getting our breath back, we headed across the big beautiful suspension bridge to Ohio. It's only a 20-30 minute drive from Maysville to Georgetown. Ohio route 125 passes east-west through town, and the brachiopod collecting site is just a mile or so west of town. There's a pair of good-sized road cuts down to a bridge over a creek, and back up to the plateau on the other side of the creek. We've collected mostly on the west side of the bridge, just because the parking is a little better.

There is a nice waterfall (after a rainy day, at least) on the north side of the western road cut. There's a very complete article on the WWW that discussed the various minerals found in these hollow shells. [ ]

This bedrock is pretty easily dealt with, at least compared to the US Rt 62 bridge cut near Maysville. The collecting goal here is intact brachiopods. The fact of their intactness is important because as an intact shell, they provided a void wherein crystals can form. Many of these shells have beautiful crystals inside, of a pretty nice variety of minerals.

Some shells that you find are already broken open so you can see they're interesting, but many you just need to collect and open carefully in a more controlled environment than the side of the road. The contents of the best shells are too fragile for just smacking them around with a rock hammer.

I have one open shell that is lined with tiny (2-5 mm) calcite dogtooth crystals, has several dolomite sheaf-like crystals, and some long straight crystals that pass completely across the void that are most likely celestite. One bigger rock that I broke into handy sized pieces turned out to have several voids in it; one was quite complex inside. I'm sure you can imagine my disappointment when a nice long straight crystal of celestite fell right out onto the ground! But several of these mineralized vugs were recovered intact. And I have a couple of dozen brachiopods to open some weekend when it's raining too much to go collecting.

By 5 pm we were about done for the day. I did have a (harmless) trip and fall down episode at the US 62 bridge cut stop, and by the end of the afternoon, I was feeling a little beat up. We headed back to WV, and I was home warming up some supper by about 8:30.

For the first adventure of the 2005 collecting season, it was a pretty nice start!