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Cockle shell

The lower portion of the Ouachita valley was once part of a pre-historic sea, that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to well above the Arkansas-Louisiana line. Evidence of this sea has been well documented by geologists and paleantologists, who have discovered rare fossil finds in certain areas along the OUACHITA River. The first man to discover and document fossil proof of this pre-historic sea was Judge Henry Bry. Judge Bry was an amateur geologist-paleontologist from Northeast Louisiana, who explored many areas along the OUACHITA River. His greatest find was made in 1829, when he found the fossil remains of a large pre-historic sea mammal. The remains of this gigantic sea creature were embedded in the sides of a steep hill running along a creek, that emptied into the OUACHITA River several miles below Columbia, Louisiana. The bones were found along a curved line that stretched about four hundred feet in length with bones missing at intervals along the path of discovery. The fossilized remains were exposed in the side of the hill after a hard rain, and appeared to have been buried approximately forty feet below the earth's surface. Judge Bry recorded, that a local farmer living near this site, previously, unearthed from this same find, large fossilized rib bones, which he took and used as aindirons for his fireplace. Others, living in the same area, had found huge, fossilized backbones, ( some weighing 40 pounds ), which they used, as doorstops and flower pot stands. Perplexed by the way the farmers treated these extremely rare finds, Judge Bry, later wrote: "You can't expect a scientific memoir from folk, who has lived their entire lives in the most remote forest of Louisiana; nor, expect them to know, anything, about keeping pace with the progress of science". Judge Bry sent samples of these fossil finds to numerous paleontologists, as far away as London, England; seeking to identify them. After years of study these learned paleontologists, came to the opinion, that the animal Bry discovered was a whale-like mammal. A size and type, that had never been found before. This mammal was listed in a special catagory, named, "Zeuglodon cetoides".

Two Pinna shells ( pin shells ) in a bed of small seashells

Since Bry's discoveries, various types of fossil remains have been found along the OUACHITA, including seashells, sharks teeth (measuring up to 2" in length), whale vertebrae, fish vertebra, and sea-oyster shells. In certain areas along the OUACHITA, thousands of shells ranging in sizes from 1/8 ", to as large as 5" or 6", can be found embedded in large sections of fossilized sea beds. Most shell and fossil locations, today, however, are under water due to construction of dams, which raised the water level above the fossil beds.

Pre-historic oyster shell

A bed of pre-historic sea-oyster shells, numbering nearly 200, was found on the banks of the OUACHITA in the mid 1990s. This find was made just below Monroe, Louisiana, and consisted of unusual primitive shaped shells as large as 5" in diameter. This find was said to be unique, in that, pre-historic sea-oyster shell beds have never been discovered north of Columbia, Louisiana.

Shark tooth

2007 - Ouachita River Foundation