CHOWCHILLA — The Third Annual Fossil Day at the Fossil Discovery Center is Saturday, Oct. 19 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. It’s a great time to stop by and explore the Center during this special celebration.
The day will include tours of the museum including some new exhibits, visits with exotic animals from the Fresno Zoo, a free Mock Dig for kids and other fun stuff.
General admission prices will apply – Adult admission is $8, Seniors/Military $6 and students $4. Usually the Mock Dig is an extra $4 but on Fossil Day there is no charge.
Organizers also promise an ATLATL throwing and suggest that those who don’t know what an ATLATL is, this is the perfect opportunity to find out. There will be stations for real fossil screen-washing, plus free cross rocks on a finders-keepers basis.
“Cross Rocks, or Chiastolite, occur locally and have an “x” or cross in them from the crystal forming process millions of years ago,” Bufford said.
Representatives from Fresno Chaffee Zoo will be on hand from 11-1 with a skunk and barn owl for kids to get an up-close and personal chance to see these modern animals.
A Native American bead making stop will be set up for kids. We also hear there’s free popcorn.
The Fossil Discovery Center is located next to the Fairmead landfill in Madera County, the site of one of the largest middle-Pleistocene fossil excavations in North America.
“Fossils are actually very rare,” says museum Director Blake Bufford,” and to see them is a unique experience that most people never have, especially fossils of animals that used to live here in our own backyard.”
Inside the facility, experts interpret both the paleontology activity and the landfill activity. These diverse themes combine to show how the world of the past became the world of the present and how modern activities, including waste disposal, will create the world of the future.
The Discovery Center also serves as a satellite visitors center for the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau, overlooking the current landfill operations and the paleontology dig. The view also spans the valley floor and the rising foothills to the east, the place where prehistoric rivers washed down the bones that have become the Fairmead fossils.
Offering a variety of exhibits documenting prehistoric life in the local area during the last Ice Age, the Fossil Discovery Center was completed following the first discovery of fossils in the Fairmead Landfill in 1993. Visitors can view a short movie that shows a peek into the first fossil discovery, what the area used to look like and what animals roamed here 700,000 years ago.
Fossil remains on site include those of horse, camel, giant sloth, saber-tooth cat, and extinct antelope. Besides the fossils there are full-sized skeletal replicas of these animals. Be on the lookout for a 12′ Short faced bear and a 13′ Colombian mammoth. Hands-on discovery centers are ideal for students of all ages to explore.
“Fossils tell us about the past and what life was like on earth before people, and how life has changed over time,” reminds Bufford. “Children and people in general learn more from actually seeing, touching and experiencing things first hand than they do just reading or listening in school.”
Museum-goers can look forward to exhibits on the environment, extinct animals and current fossil discovery and preparation. A lab allows people to see some of the techniques used for excavating and preserving fossils.
Inside the museum sits an impressive collection of local rocks and minerals, along with artifacts from the Yokuts local Native American tribe. Outside is an accurate recreation of a Yokuts Indian house made from natural materials in the old ways.
Among the most popular places for kids is the “Mock Dig,” where children can excavate 22 replicas of some of the fossils that have been found around the neighborhood. This includes skulls of Saber-tooth cats, Dire wolves, camels and giant sloths.
“The Fossil Discovery is the only museum of its kind on the entire San Joaquin Valley,” Bufford reminds would-be visitors, “and we make learning fun.”
The National Park Service and the American Geosciences Institute are partnering to host Fossil Day during Earth Science Week. National Fossil Day is a celebration organized to promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils, as well as to foster a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational value.
The Fossil Discovery Center is open to the public and is also available for field trips, parties and events.
Read more about the Fossil Discovery Center and Fossil Day here.
Learn more about Earth Science Week “Mapping Our World” here.