CANCELLED – Natural History Society of Maryland: Looking for Fossils at Stratford Cliffs

Date: February 3, 2019

Time: 9:30 am - 3:00 pm

Location: Stratford Hall, 483 Great House Road, Stratford, Montross, VA, USA

THIS TRIP HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO ICY CONDITIONS. We will be rescheduling a trip in the spring/summer.

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We are returning to Stratford Cliffs for some fossil hunting and hope you can join us! This time of year provides the best water clarity which makes seeing fossils in the water easier.

Stratford Cliffs, located in Montross, Virginia (on the south side of the Potomac River, adjacent to Westmoreland State Park) is part of the Stratford Hall plantation owned by four generations of the Lee family (and is now cared for by the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation). The estate encompasses 1900 acres of farmlands and forests on a high bluff overlooking the Potomac River. The Cliffs, which are part of the Calvert Formation, are a rare geological phenomenon. The Calvert Formation cliffs along the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River rank among the most important fossil research sites in the Mid-Atlantic region. They were formed when land replaced an ancient sea. Fossils found here are composed of compacted marine plant and animal matter dating from the Miocene Epoch–approximately 17 to 10 million years ago.  

Fossilized remains found at this site indicate a sea filled with primitive shark-toothed porpoises, salt-water crocodiles, sea cows, gopher turtles, rays, whales and sharks. Thousands of shark teeth found along this area attest to the frequency of the sharks, largest among them being Carcharodon megalodon, or Giant White Shark, with teeth measuring 7 inches or more.

Most of the land along the shoreline is privately owned, and public access is severely limited, so we are lucky to have this opportunity!

The driving time from Baltimore is an estimated 3 hours.

Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous (derived from the combination of cold weather and decent hiking, please don’t underestimate the cold!) Depending on what storms have impacted the river, there could be washed up trees and debris on the beach, as well as broken glass. There could be a few scramble spots.

What to wear: PREPARE FOR THE COLD!!! It’s always cooler by the water. Dress in warm layers with non-cotton articles of clothing, and don’t forget to wear gloves, mittens, hats, scarves, etc. If you have waders or tall boots, it is strongly suggested that you bring them so you can wade into the water to search for fossils.

What to bring: If you have a backpack you can wear frontwards, or have a fannie pack to stash your finds in, bring it. Bring plastic bags that you can place your wet fossils in. Do you have a scoop, a screen, small shovels, sieves? Bring them! Pack snacks, water, and a brown bag lunch. If you have room in your car, bring a set of dry clothes in case you get wet.

Additional information will be provided to attendees closer to the trip date.

Weather: As always this time of year, snow is a possibility! Please check back on Meetup or our Facebook page in the case of cancellation or postponement if snow is a possibility. We will try to make the call the day before at the latest.

Opportunity:  A volunteer is needed to assist with participant sign-in and collecting waivers. If you would like to volunteer the event cost is waived. Please contact Emily at eglaeser@marylandnature.org for more information.

Cost:  $30 NHSM Members / $40 Non NHSM-Members / $15 Kids. Payment in advance is REQUIRED. Please pay online at http://marylandnature.org/events/ – (scroll down to get to the event.)

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The Natural History Society of Maryland is a volunteer-led non-profit organization, so the fee you pay will go directly to support the programs, the nature collections, and the building that make this kind of nature education possible. We hope you consider becoming a member of NHSM, please follow this link to join: https://marylandnature.org/support-maryland-nature/. Thank you for your support!

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