2 April 2018
Mountain Press has released a new volume by frequent author Bert Dickas: it’s a compilation of 101 places in the United States where fossils can be viewed. Some sites are collection sites on public land; others are museums or protected areas. The book is a useful collection of information in a concise, well-illustrated form. Each of the sites gets a name, a latitude/longitude (but not directions), a short tag line, and then a page of description. Facing the text on the opposite page is a suite of three to six images illustrating the fossils or setting of the site. Two pages per site, and an average of two sites per state. A map shows the distribution of the sites across the country, but I think a stratigraphic column showing their distribution in time would have been a good addition too. The book also includes a relatively dense introductory section with an overview of key happenings in the history of life for each eon, era, and period, but its strength is the lean, efficient, “intermediate” level discussions of each site (and the accompanying photographs) that make up the bulk of the book. There’s a lot of variety in North American fossils, and this book captures that well, though I noticed that an awful lot of them feature Cenozoic shark teeth. The sites I was most familiar with were here in Virginia, and they are good choices. I was delighted to learn of a bunch of new places I’d never heard of – opalized acorns, fossil forests, the details of the Two Creeks site in Wisconsin, a glaciated stromatolite outcrop in New Jersey, and the Berlin (Nevada) ichthyosaur site. Reading this book has populated many future travels for me! Furthermore, it turns out that some of my own local go-to spots for structural geology are also good for trilobites and corals – I never knew, so now I’ll know to keep my eyes peeled next time I visit. 101 American fossil sites you’ve gotta see would make a great gift for the amateur paleontologist or rock hound in your circle of family and friends.