OAK SPRING SUMMIT
Following our visit to the U-Dig Quarry, we visited Great Basin National Park and then headed south on Highway 93. If Highway 50 claims to be the "loneliest road", it is only because nobody ever traveled on 93 to discover that it is even lonelier. Aside from stark vistas there were a tremendous number of mouse-sized animals crossing the road. After swerving several times to avoid hitting them, we stopped to discover that they were huge ground crickets. Continuing south, we came to Pioche, an old mining town known in the 1870's as the "toughest town in the West". While Pioche produced a lot of precious metals, it is well known among trilobite collectors for its rich deposits of Cambrian critters. The area is riddled with old mines and it was apparent that it would really help to know where to look before setting out on dirt roads that don't always appear on maps. Given constraints on our time, we decided against wandering in the wilderness and headed down the road a short distance to our next planned stop, Cathedral Gorge, a beautiful Nevada State Park. On the way back to the main road, we spotted a Nevada Regional Visitor Center and stopped in to ask about the possibility of finding fossils. The lady at the counter was happy to oblige and showed us some trilobites in the display case that she had personally collected. She handed us a flyer from the BLM about Oak Spring Summit and assured us that it would be accessible to a passenger car and easy to find.
The road led south past the town of Caliente and over a pass where we found a turn onto a small dirt road and after a short drive we arrived at a parking lot.
After some wandering about, we noticed some piles of shale with obvious pieces of trilobites. Some of the cephalons and pleurae must have been attached to very sizable animals although we didn't find any complete specimens after around an hour of searching.
Probable Olenellus fowleri
These trilobites date back to around 530 million years ago, making them some of the oldest multicellular lifeforms.
For an unplanned excursion, this site was a real treat. It is about a hundred miles from Las Vegas and we may head back up for a longer outing the next time we are in the area. For further information, you can contact:
Bureau of Land Mangement
Ely District, Caliente Field Station
P.O. Box 237
Caliente, NV 89008
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