Friday, October 24, 2008
Arbuckle Mountain, Oregon
Last weekend the North America Research Group (NARG) sponsored a fossil dig at Arbuckle Mountain, about 20 miles southeast of Heppner, Oregon. The big attraction here is a giant palm frond, Sabalites eocenica, from the Eocene Clarno Formation. In addition to palm fronds that can reach four feet in size, the area is noted for avocado, magnolia, willow, and other leaves. There is a weak lignite zone through the area, with some short-lived coal beds worked at nearby Coal Mine Hill.
Some of the NARG team camped at Arbuckle Corral on Friday night; others stayed in town or made other arrangements. Digging began in earnest before noon on Saturday. Soon the team had zeroed in on a productive strata. Tim Fisher, who lists about ten separate GPS coordinates for this area on his invaluable OreRockOn DVD and website (http://www.orerockon.com) soon got into a nice zone and pulled out an unidentified flower, along with palms about a foot in length. The team also recovered nice specimens of cypress and metasequoia.
Tim's zone extended across the top of the road cut, and at least five different excavations produced good material. The team continued digging until dinner, retired to an excellent meal around a roaring campfire, and settled down to a cool evening in the pine forests of eastern Oregon.
The next morning, the team went back at it. We cleared some more material, gathered up the best stuff, emptied out the ditch along the road to keep the Forest Service happy, and generally cleaned up. A nice lady came down the road in an ATV with a big harvest of Shaggy Mane mushrooms, but she reported that there was a new gate at the top of the road.
For an October fossil search and rescue, the weather was ideal. Maybe that was why the camaraderie was so great, but I don't think it's the only reason. I'm always struck by how easy it is to get along with other fossil hunters, rockhounds, and gold prospectors. We shared a ton of information over the campfire, pressing each other for insight into new areas. I like that part the best; there are so many spots to hit out here.
I know I should put the GPS coordinates in this article, but I'm going to resist the temptation. Join NARG at http://www.narg-online.com and you can visit the area with us next year!
The Ore Bin, June 1961
The Oreg Bin, May 1969