NEWPORT, Ore. – In the days of the dinosaurs, ocean waves crashed on Idaho beaches. And long before that, in a time when armored fish plied ancient waters, the North American coastline was dotted by islands that would one day become eastern Oregon.
Curious? How and why did the beach move to Newport? How is climate change recorded in beaches and fossils across Oregon? These are among the topics to be presented at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport during the annual Fossil Fest, Saturday, Feb. 17.
Ellen Morris Bishop, of the Oregon Paleo Lands Institute, will tell the moving-beach story at 11 a.m.; at 1:30 p.m., William Orr of the University of Oregon will give an illustrated presentation on fossil insects, which he terms “a most improbable happenstance."
Both Morris Bishop and Orr will also be on hand to identify fossils brought in by visitors.
In addition, representative fossils from the local Astoria and Nye formations (15-20 million years ago) will be on display. Other table displays will include local fossils collected by Guy DiTorrice and fossils from both Oregon and Washington collected by the North America Research Group.
Hands-on activities include a fossil swap, in which visitors can trade their extra fossils, and the chance to grow-your-own fossil, using seeds of Oregon's new official State Fossil, a Metasequoia tree. And children will enjoy sifting through an archaeological collection for Bone Valley fossil shark teeth.
“Kids will get to screen for these and keep two or three that they find,” said Bill Hanshumaker, Sea Grant marine educator at the HMSC Visitor Center.
A field trip or two is also in the offing. From noon to 1:30 p.m., the Oregon Paleo Lands Institute will lead a trip to explore the coastal outcrops of Columbia River basalts in Yaquina Head and pillow lavas at Depoe Bay. These two very different kinds of lavas underlie the coast, and fossils might even be discovered on the trek, said Hanshumaker. Weather and light permitting, the trip will repeat at 3 p.m.
The Visitor Center opens for Fossil Fest at 10 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m.