Walking on Fossilsat Falls of the Ohio State Park
25 August 2017 | Mri Grout - A Lifelong Vagabond
You wouldn't know it if you were just passing through, but on the Indiana banks of the Ohio River, right across from the bustling city of Louisville, KY lies one of the biggest fossil beds in the world. Covering 220 acres, the Falls of the Ohio State Park is home to thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of fossils from the Devonian period. The Devonian fossils are visible within the very rockbeds that you walk on, making spotting 390 million year old lifeforms extremely easy; even the most amateur of paleontologists will thrive here. So if anyone is looking for a unique and free thing to do in New Albany, Indiana, then walking on fossils at Falls of the Ohio State Park is a definite must. *Entry into the Falls of the Ohio State Park is free, but an entrance fee is required to venture inside of the Discovery Center.
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Life During the Devonian Period
Though the Jurassic Period is undoubtedly the most widely known era of our history, the Devonian Period is arguably one of the most important periods for life as we know it. For it was during this time, a whopping 416-358 million years ago, that life first began to crawl out of the oceans and start the long process of evolving into tetrapods so that they may live fully on land. So in a way, when you are discovering all of the amazing fossils at Falls of the Ohio, you're also looking back at the time of your direct ancestors from millions upon millions of years ago. But though the Gondwana and Euramerica landmasses were just beginning to be explored by evolving lobe-finned fish, the oceans were already swimming with predatory marine creatures. The top predators during this time were the placoderms, or armored fish, and they dominated both the freshwater and saltwater sources. Other marine life included trilobites, brachiopods, lobe-finned fish (the ones to begin walking on land), ray-finned fish (the ancestors of most of today's fish), and later the first signs of sharks and rays. Eventually, however, a combination of the growling plant-life and lower sea levels depleted the oxygen from the oceans, causing many of the marine animals to die and some species, such as the placoderms, to go extinct entirely. This was known as the Hangenberg Event and is what led us into the Carboniferous Period.
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Discovering Devonian Fossils at Falls of the Ohio State Park
Most, but not all, of the fossils you'll find at Falls of the Ohio State Park will be of Devonian corals due to these fossil beds having been under an inland sea 358 million years ago. However, that does not mean you'll be staring at the same shape over and over again. As you can see below, there are many different types of fossilised corals (and other species) just waiting for you to find them.
A guide to identifying fossils at Falls of the Ohio State Park can be found on their official website.
Collecting Fossils at Falls of the Ohio State Park
The only places one can legally collect fossils at Falls of the Ohio is at the three collecting piles behind the Discovery Center. However, there isn't a sign for any of them and it's more of a hush hush operation. All signs at Falls of the Ohio State Park will claim that collecting of any fossils or rocks is illegal and nowhere other than their official website will claim that fossil collecting here is allowed. For this reason, it is always best to speak to a park ranger (they can be found around or inside the Discovery Center) about doing so.
Directions to Falls of the Ohio State Park
Paid parking is availabe at the Falls of the Ohio Discovery Center; however, free parking is easily found just before it. Please be aware that there's LITTLE SHADE out on the fossil beds, so make sure to bring plenty of drinkable water and sunscreen if you're visiting here on a hot summer's day. Or any hot day.
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Travel Tip #4
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