The Great Basin Desert offers some of the best rock hounding grounds in the entire west. There are rich mineral deposits awaiting in remote places, while the gem collecting destinations are far easier to access because they are well known. Rubies, garnets and the ever so rare black fire opal can be found in this vast expanse if a rock hound knows where to go. There are even places in the Great Basin where fossil hunting is allowed and one of the most interesting definitely is the Oak Springs Trilobite Site.
The Oak Springs Trilobite Site is managed by the Ely BLM as a recreation area and basic facilities are available at this small roadside attraction. No water is available, so be sure to stock up plenty because the arid conditions will leave a fossil digger parched on a hot day. For this reason, the cool weather seasons are best time of year to visit this remote destination along the Great Basin Highway. Fuel and necessities can be found in the towns of Alamo or Caliente, which are only about 45 minutes away. There are several state parks nearby that offer developed campgrounds and there are plenty of BLM public lands camping opportunities in this area too.
There definitely are some tricks to the trade to learn before the first trilobite fossil is extracted. Figuring out where to look at Oak Springs is easy, because the shale rock dig is easy to spot at the end of the foot trail. Careful digging, prying and sampling will yield whole trilobite fossil specimens in this area, if a visitor has an abundance of patience. Freeing the specimen from the shale is an art in itself, while other trilobites look better when left on the surface of the rock. Ancient plant leaf impressions can also be seen in this shale bed, so even if no trilobites are found, the venture will still be a good learning experience. Be sure to set at least a half day aside for this family friendly destination and pack a picnic basket for the ride!
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