Step into a river

and step back in time

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Think of Florida rivers and creeks as time machines, offering direct access into the past. They perform the same work as a shovel, cutting down through the sediments. Year after year, rainy season after rainy season, fossils are flushed out of the banks and river bottoms by flowing water. Other fossils are covered up as sand and silt is moved from one area to another.

Animals have always lived near rivers to drink, making them easy targets for human and animal predators. If parts of their skeletons were washed into a river, or dragged in by alligators, it's a good bet that whatever wasn't consumed would be carried off by the current and eventually sink.

If an animal died in a swamp, parts of the body might also be buried quickly in the soft material by its own weight. Later, a river might form and plow through the wetland-uncovering the now fossilized bones.

Once a skeleton is covered and protected by sand, mud or clay, oxygen and bacteria are unable to reach the bones. However, Florida's abundance of minerals, including carbonates and silicates, are able to penetrate the bones. The preservation process starts immediately in Florida. Destructive elements, such as earthquakes, volcanoes, or the shifting of tectonic plates-have not been present here over the last 30 million years. We have had hurricanes, but they tend to do much more damage along the coastline than inland. These "calm" conditions are ideal ingredients for fossilization to occur. The exception to these calm conditions were rising oceans throughout various ice ages.

In the last two million years alone, Florida has been covered by ocean at least 24 times. If the water rose slowly enough to keep moving the surf inland, a lot of fossils would be broken up in the process. But the oceans didn't always rise rapidly or destroy large pockets of marine and terrestrial fossil deposits in the process. That is until rivers and creeks came along. Now, all we have to do is understand them. Which ones contain fossils? Are they shallow enough to screen-wash or snorkel, or do we need SCUBA gear? What time of year is the water too high? When is it low? What dangers are present? Alligators? Snakes? A strong current? Bacteria in the water?

The first thing you should know about Florida rivers and creeks is that every one of them is different. The more you know about their unique personalities, the better your chances are for finding great fossils. With over 1700 creeks and rivers in the state -- 40 of which are major waterways -- the opportunities are limitless. Flip through the following pages and see what we're finding, not just in the waterways, but on dry land as well.


More Random Finds by Random Folks

Random Finds by Random Folks

The Simermeyer Family

Sophie and Rod Tomaszewski with Nicole and Phil Miller

The Taylors and Healy-Hull Clan

Kelley Zenchuck's students

Caloosahatchee River (Part 1)

Peace River (Part 1, Polk/Hardee counties)

Peace River (Part 2, Polk/Hardee counties)

Peace River (Part 3, Polk/Hardee counties)

Peace River (Part 4, Polk/Hardee counties)

Karen and Laura Roraff Expedition

Pine Crest 6th Grade Expeditions

Treasure Coast Shell Club (Fossil Shell Trip)

Bob Simmons & Friends

Theresa Kuy Kendall & Megan...Willie & Sharon

Matt Marsh and his mammoth

Tequesta Trace Middle School
Field Trips

Peace River

Coral Springs High School Biology Class Field Trip #2

Sloth Creek

Phosphate Mine - Dugong Dynasty