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VIDEO: Riders find fossils in Rockford

  • 28 July, 2010

No khaki or pith helmet required: Hundreds of bikers-turned-archaeologists squatted in spandex to find 365-million-year-old souvenirs from the Fossil and Prairie Park Preserve in Rockford. The dime-sized clams (pelecypods) and snails (gastropods) from the Devonian Period were free for the taking – and plentiful.

Scott Wassmer, 35, of Valkaria, Fla., filled a small plastic bag during just a short break from his ride.
“Who ever thought we’d be beach-combing in the middle of Iowa?” he said, showing off the loot.

Nearby, 10-year-old Braden Heikens and his grandfather Randy Van Dyke, both of Spencer, scoured the dirt for brachiopod shells. The boy proudly displayed a few in his outstretched palm.

“I’m going to try to find more and put them in my room,” he said before heading off to celebrate the dig with a smoothie.

Floyd County Conservation naturalist Heidi Reams explained – many times over – that the site used to be a clay quarry for the Rockford Brick and Tile Company, which closed in the 1970s. The exposed layers of land now yield all kinds of critter remnants from Iowa’s prehistoric past.

She responded diplomatically when someone asked if she believed in global warming.

“On some days, yes, I do,” she said. “We’ve gone from being an ocean to cropland, so I’m afraid to see what’s next.”
But she spent most of the day simply helping people identify whatever they happened to hold up for inspection.
“Everyone has found something,” she said. “As long as you can bend over and get to the ground somehow, there are fossils there for you to find.”

— Michael Morain

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