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Fossils Of Prehistoric Species Discovered In Calaveras County

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Valley Springs, CA — A trove of fossils, estimated to be anywhere from 5 to 10 million years old, was located in the Mokelumne River watershed in Calaveras County.

The discovery was made in July of last year by East Bay Municipal Utilities District Ranger Greg Francek.  He was patrolling the 28,000 acres of protected land near Valley Springs. In the months that followed, researchers investigated from the California State University Sacramento, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, California Geological Survey, Sierra College, and other institutions. Francek first spotted the fossils after identifying petrified trees in the area. Hundreds of individual specimens from a dozen prehistoric species have since been recovered by teams. They include a two-tusked mastodon, a four-tusked gomphothere, a rhinoceros, camel, horse, bird, fish, tortoise, and tapir.

While the initial discovery was made nearly a year ago, East Bay MUD just announced the discovery this week.

The district adds that the discovery provides insights into ancient history along the Mokelumne River near Valley Springs. The high concentration of fossils suggests that the area was made up of multiple river channels with an abundant and diverse grassland and forest ecosystem.

Francek says, “The diverse collection of fossil flora and fauna reveals so much about the dynamic natural history of the land we work with every day.”

East Bay Mud Board President, Doug Linney adds, “This historic discovery has revealed that the Mokelumne Watershed plays a much deeper role in our understanding of the natural history of North America. It is simply wondrous that these fossils will help fill gaps in our understanding of the formation of the region and planet.”

The fossils remain the property of East Bay MUD, but some are now on display at the CSU Chico Gateway Museum.

  • Fossil Discovery in Valley Springs