Search and Rescue Report

9/21/2006 to 9/24/2006
Central Oregon - Hudspeth, John Day, and Clarno Formations
Andrew Bland


This trip was a long time coming for me. I love to get out of the valley and into the high desert of Central Oregon. Fall was fast approaching and after a week of rain I was ready for a little more warm dry weather before I could write summer off.

Jerry and I headed out Thursday after work and made our way over the Cascades. After 3 1/2 hours we found ourselves in Prineville and gassed up and grabbed some dinner. The rain was behind us but a few cloud remnants made their way over the Cascades. Wanting to get to camp we pushed ahead.

The first leg of this trip was to prospect localities in the Hudspeth Formation (cretaceous). We've been to this area numerous times but we wanted to scope out a few areas we haven't been to in the past. Camp was also a new location and was right in the middle of where we wanted to scout for fossils.

It was an hour past sunset when we got to camp and in no time had the tent setup and a campfire going. It was pretty windy and I had a few concerns with the fire. Only a few days prior was the fire ban lifted but it was still very dry out. We kept the fire small and after a few hours the wind died down and I felt a little more comfortable with it.

Now we waited for Bill and Jim. I provided them with a map but in the dark it's a tough place to find. I tuned my two-way radio to our predetermined frequency and soon picked them up and guided them into camp.

Tim rolled into camp early the next day and after breakfast we hiked out of camp in search of ammonites. We pretty much went our own way and I headed to a nearby hillside that was covered in the unmistakable gray mudstone of the Hudspeth formation. I was getting a little disappointed after an hour of searching and not finding anything but I soon found a small 1 ammonite. I continued to search in the general area and found a small cast fragment of what was once a large heteromorph ammonite. I continued to search but nothing else of it was found. After a few more hours and not finding anything more I headed back to camp.

Bill was the only other member to find an ammonite so we decided to load up the trucks and visit another site. This site was completely unproductive so we continued on to another.

This site was what we were looking for. Even though I only found a few ammonites the preservation was the best I've seen from this formation. Tim did well and found several nice ammonites.

Back at camp I wasn't ready to call it a day yet so I headed out once more with Jerry's dogs, Frank and Steve in tow. After 30 minutes I found a zone of concretions on a hillside. Most were septarian type nodules and 6 contained ammonites of good size and quality. I continued to search the general area but the sun was dropping and I headed back to camp.

Saturday's agenda was to head toward Spray, Oregon to see if we could get permission to collect in the John Day formation on private ranches. This was our first attempt as a group to search for mammal fossils. We knew it would be a long shot but we had to give it a try. Prior to this trip I identified an area that looked promising. Unfortunately the ranch was vacant and later found to be owned by someone out of state.

We lucked out at the next location and the rancher gave us permission to collect on this 8500 acre ranch. There were only a few areas of John Day formation exposure but we were eager to search them. The first, most promising, locality didn't produce anything more than a few unrecognizable tiny bone fragments. At the next exposure we faired better. My first find was a small bone that looks to belong to a rabbit and I'll work on getting it further identified. The next discovery was an explododont. I'm sure a few years back it would have been a nice Oreodont skull but now all that remained from years of weathering were a few skull and teeth fragments. Even so I was very excited to find it.

It was getting late and our plan was to catch up with Skip at a location for Clarno Flora. I didn't do my homework as well as I should have. What I expected to be a 1 hour drive to camp turned into 3 and eager to get there Jerry and I lost track of Bill, Jim, and Tim. We waited at the turn into camp for an hour but the rest of the group was no where in site. It was getting dark so we posted a sign and headed in the direction of camp.

As we rolled into camp there everyone was sitting around the fire waiting for Jerry and I. They must have been closer to us than we realized and at the previous turnoff, which we initially missed, they snuck past us. I was just glad we all made it.

Sunday morning Skip directed us down the road to a few sites to collect. I've seen some of the material that he's collected in the past from this site and I was hoping to find specimens as nice. The Clarno Formation (Eocene) was a tropical environment and was buried under several thousand feet of volcanic rock by a series of mudflows. Because of the violent nature of burial most of the flora I've found in the past was just leaf hash. This site was is the only one I know of that produces complete specimens and I was eager to find a few.

After getting onto a productive layer I found a very nice Magnolia imprint. The others didn't seem to be doing as well so Skip led them down the road to a site that he found a palm in the day before. I continued to work for another 30 minutes before joining up with them. It was a nice exposure and Bill directed me to the palm (Sabalites eocenica) that was still in place. It was a real beauty and I would love to find a specimen as nice. I walked up the road to Skip, Jim, and Tim and they seemed to be on a layer of palm material.

I hiked up this hill and in no time found a layer of rock with palm leaf showing. Man I was excited. I worked off the overburden down to the layer. With pry bar in hand and with Skip's help I lifted the final layer off the palm. As the top slid down the hill I was disappointed to see that my palm was missing the center section and stalk but it was still cool. We decided to flip the top layer over to see what was there. It measured 6' x 3' and must have weighed 600 lbs. It was almost too much for 3 of us to flip but we managed. And there it was, a beautiful palm with about 10 other leaf imprints scattered about the slab.

We spent 30 minutes chiseling off 150lbs of the slab in order to get it too a more manageable size. Luckily Jerry's trailer had a dump bed and in no time we had it loaded up and ready for the return home.

I had my prize now I wanted to get it safely home. Jerry and I said our goodbyes and headed home.

NARG members in attendance: Andrew Bland, Bill Sullivan, Tim Fisher, Jerry Rawdon, Jim Sherbeck, and Skip Cadman
Canines: Victor, Steve, Frank, Kiwi, and Hershey

Trip Pictures

Frank the troubled dog
Frank the troubled dog
Victor
Victor
Bill
Bill
Jim
Jim
On the ridge overlooking camp
On the ridge overlooking camp
John Day Formation
John Day Formation
More John Day Formation
More John Day Formation
First collecting site in the John Day Formation
First collecting site in the John Day Formation
Jim and Tim
Jim and Tim
Tim looking for an oreodont
Tim looking for an oreodont
View from above
View from above
Bill on the ridge
Bill on the ridge
Clarno Formation site
Clarno Formation site
Magnolia from the Clarno Formation
Magnolia from the Clarno Formation
Sabalites eocenica
Sabalites eocenica