Hundreds of fossil samples discovered in Mokelumne River

Local News

VALLEY SPRINGS, Calif. (KTXL) – A collection of fossils 5 to 10 million years old has been discovered in the Mokelumne River.

According to officials, the discovery was made in July 2020 by East Bay Municipal Utility District ranger naturalist Greg Francek, who identified petrified trees while on patrol in the foothills.

With help in part from scientists at California State University, Chico, scientists have recovered hundreds of samples from approximately 12 species, including a two-tusked mastodon, rhinoceros, camel, horse, bird, fish, tortoise, tapir and a gomphothere, which was an elephant-like creature with four tusks.

The discovery near Valley Springs provides a look into the ancient history of the area, which suggests it was once composed of a number of river channels with “an abundant and diverse grassland and forested ecosystem.”

“The diverse collection of fossil flora and fauna reveals so much about the dynamic natural history of the land we work with every day. This discovery and the resulting scientific study add to the understanding of North American biotic evolution and climate change that has occurred over millions of years,” Francek said.

Some fossils are currently on display at CSU Chico’s Gateway Museum.

For more information, visit Chico State Today, or click here for a virtual tour of the fossil discovery.

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