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middle cambrian fauna of the Wheeler Amphitheater



The Wheeler Amphitheater at Antelope Springs Utah, is the Middle Cambrian counterpart to the Burgess Shale of Canada, in which soft bodied orgasms, such as Naraoia, Wiwaxia and Hallucigenia swam with the trilobite Elathria Kingii (shown below) and agnostid trilobites.†† Like the Burgess Shale, this formation is over 500 million years old.Itís the best exposure of Middle Cambrian rocks in North America.†† Located in the House Range, in Millard County, western Utah, the Wheeler Shale consists of highly calcareous shale, shaley limestone, mudstone, and thin, flaggy limestone, extending into the Drum Mountains, northwest of the House Range where similar Burgess-like fossils and preservation are found.

††††††††† There are different ways to find fossils in the Wheeler Amphitheatre.This site is world famous and swarms of fossil-hunters often converge on it during good weather.Unlike Sylvania Ohioís free fossil-hunting site, the U-Dig Quarry, which greets collectors after the thirty-one mile drive on Death Canyon Road from Delta, Utah.Yes, Iím not kidding; the road through Wheeler Amphitheater is called Death Canyon Road.Most collectors will pay to hunt fossils at the commercial quarry waiting after such a long, dusty ride.For the more adventurous, however, who want to strike out on their own, there are countless out-of-the way locales.Trilobites and, if youíre extremely fortunate, one of the rare Burgess-like fossils, can be found after some effort, without having to pay or compete with other fossil hounds.With this said, there are two techniques to find trilobites.The easiest is to pay for it at the U-Dig Quarry booth.For folks who have no geo pick or other necessary equipment, the attendants has tools required for a dig.For those striking out on their own, always proceed with an associate.Like many fossil outcrops, this remote part of Utah is desolate, and if youíre off the beaten path, it can prove to be hazardous for overzealous prospectors.This second method of searching for fossils for the seasoned collector, who recognizes fossiliferous shale and proceeds cautiously, can begin where other trailblazers have foraged.Someone may have been splitting shale to search for hidden trilobites.At the bottom of fossil beds, lying loosely, will be an occasional fossil, but many areas, including the U-Dig Fossil zone, of Wheeler Amphitheater have been played out.Perhaps, the most difficult technique of hunting for fossils is to wander along the dry washes until you find an outcrop of rock.When you find such an outcrop, begin your dig, splitting shale into layers, looking on both sides for molds and imprints.As in many fossil sites throughout the United States, there is a variety of hardness for Wheeler Amphitheater fossils, ranging from brittles cardboard-like shale to hard limestone.The rule, of course, is the harder the rock, the more durable and pristine is the fossil.As my photo indicates below, I use a quarter to give the viewer a perspective on the specimensí size.The trilobites range in size from ľ inch to 2 inches long.Though I mentioned only two, there are several different species of trilobites in the Wheeler Shale Formation.The specimens below are exclusively Elathria Kingii.For an in depth discussion of Wheeler Amphitheater trilobites, press this link.

Note: To zoom in and out, click on the photo below:††††††††††††††††††††††††††