Saturday, October 15, 2011

Monument Rocks

These rock formations are about 20 miles southeast of the town of Oakley. Just before turning off the dirt road, which leads to the formations, we stopped at an old restored stone building. A sign by the road said it was the Keystone Gallery, an art gallery/fossil museum. I grumbled a bit about making the stop, as I just wanted to see Monument Rocks. It turned out to be a very informative stop, however! Barbara Bonner, who owns the museum with her husband Chuck, greeted us warmly and was very eager to share with us their stories of fossil hunting in the surrounding area. The land having the fossils covers two counties of Kansas. We saw some of their collection of fossilized ancient fish which they have found over the twenty some years they have had their museum. Chuck's primary occupation is painting and his work is also displayed in the museum. Barbara and I also discovered that we both have sons, of of the same age, out on the west coast and in the gaming industry. Despite that rather long stop we did make it out to the rock formations. The wind-carved and water-eroded limestone towers average about 70 feet in height. The site can be described best as a  many layered ancient Cretaceous seabed sitting on a semi-arid plain.
Weathering has exposed many marine and reptilian fossils in these rocks. While walking around the formations I could find many small rocks on the ground with clam shells embedded in them. We also visited the Fick Museum in Oakley on Friday where some more marine fossils are on display. Paleontologists have been able to remove large pieces of rock with the skeleton of the ancient marine creatures still embedded in them.It is quite an involved process to remove the fossilized limestone and then to mount it for study and display.  On exhibit in the museum is xiphactinus audax, which is figured to have been about 16 feet long. He is similar to modern day Tarpon . The fish was collected and prepared by paleontologist George Sternborg.
Also on display in the museum are 11,000 shark teeth, as well as many other fossil artifacts. Vi Fick, wife of the paleontologist Ernest Fick, created a lot of fossil folkart using such materials as fish vertebrae and oyster shells. Indian artifacts are also on display on the museum.  Native Americans used the fossils to make jewelry as the crinoid necklace pictured below. Crinoids are marine invertebrates as sea lilies and feather stars.
It was quite a fascinating museum with a wide variety of local memorabilia and artwork.  I will close off this posting with one more picture of the Monument Rocks.

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