COLUMBIA — Millions of years ago, Columbia was covered by water. The evidence is still with us today.
Lined throughout many of the creek beds and road cuts that dot Columbia today are fossils from that time.
Missouri’s official state fossil, the crinoid, is the most common fossil found in the area. Crinoids are an ancient species that is hundreds of millions of years old. The sea lily as it is commonly referred to, is a marine animal that is still living today and remains very much unchanged from the crinoids that are now fossilized. It is one of a number of types of fossils that can be found in the area.
Other fossils that can be found in Missouri include brachiopods, corals, gastropods and bryozoans. Almost all of the fossils found in the area are those of marine animals.
Crinoid fossils are typically found embedded in limestone. Sarah Bush, a professor in the MU biology department, said that crinoids sometimes can even be located in building structures or parking lots if they are made out of limestone.
According to Bush, the best bet to locate them would be to go down to a creek or a quarry when it is relatively dry. The fossils will typically line the creek bed. Waiting until a creek dries up again after it rains is a great time to go because there is a good chance the rushing water uncovered more fossils.
With a bevy of creeks, streams and rivers, there are plenty of places throughout the area that are home to fossils.
“Some of the most interesting fossils I’ve seen in Columbia have been in the Grindstone Nature Area,” Bush said.
Other places to find fossils in the area include Rockhill Park and the quarry at the Cosmopolitan Recreation Area. Just outside Columbia is Pinnacles State Park to the north and Three Creeks State Park to the south. Both are teeming with creek beds where the fossils are located.
It is not permitted to remove the fossils from state parks, however, so if you want to keep the fossils it is best to collect them with permission from a private property.