A few weeks ago I got the chance to visit one of my favorite fossil sites while I had a break from school. The W.M. Browning Cretaceous Fossil Park is a public roadside park in Mississippi best known for its fossil shark teeth. Equipped with a shovel and a sifter, I braved the frigid waters of Twenty Mile Creek and rounded up a decent collection of fossils.
The sand in Frankstown, MS, where the park is located, is a relic of the Mississippi Embayment, a shallow bay that covered much of Mississippi during the Cretaceous Period. The fossils in the sand are 75 million years and include shark and dinosaur teeth, ammonites, bivalves, and gastropods.
Most of the teeth I found were from Scapanorhynchus texanus (goblin shark) with the exception of a few Squalicorax kaupi? (crow shark). After about two hours I yielded almost 30 teeth. I also found a couple of chambers from an ammonite phragmocone and a few bivalves (Exogyra). Some fossils are visible in the creek bed but most have to be sifted for. I used a 2’x2′ sieve made from a 2″x4″x8′ and quarter inch chicken wire.
December might be one of the best times to go since people tend to avoid wading around in cold water, and after a large rain fossils are pretty abundant. It still surprises me that after 20 years of being picked over there are still loads of fossils waiting to be found. I had better luck collecting in this Mississippi creek than I did at Venice Beach, Florida, the “shark tooth capital of the world.”
This is a fun spot to visit. Even if the collecting is slow, there is still an outcrop (which is a rarity in this part of MS) to explore and boulder-sized concretions packed with bivalves. Frankstown is also pretty close to some exposures of the Coon Creek Formation that is world famous for its crab and mollusk fauna. Check out my video for more information and directions to the park:
*The land where the park now resides was donated by W.M. Browning, a local farmer who worked with the Soil Conservation Service. His children and grandchildren enjoyed collecting shark teeth in the creek. A special thanks to his children, Anne and Bill, Jr. for this additional information!
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