Fossil hunt set at Union Chapel mine near Sumiton
by Ron Harris
Oct 10, 2013 | 2710 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Interested in digging for fossils? You can do just that Saturday at one of the most important fossil sites in the world.

And it’s right here in Walker County.

On Saturday, Fresh Air Family has scheduled a fossil hunt at the Union Chapel coal mine near Sumiton. The hike will be led by Carl Sloan of the Birmingham Paleontological Society, which has been credited with many of the discoveries at the site.

Sessions will be held at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. The cost is $15 for non-members, $10 for members. Membership is $35 per family or $25 for individuals. You can register to participate at Events@FreshAirFamily.org or by calling (205) 540-6642.

For more information, go to www.FreshAirFamily.org/calendarandevents.html.

Those participating will meet at the Sumiton Walmart and caravan to the site, which is a secured site that you have to have permission to enter. The site is not open to the public.

Anyone participating can keep any fossils found, unless they are museum-quality pieces, organizers of the event said.

At one recent fossil hunt, a Jasper woman found seven human-hand-sized prints left there more than 300 million years ago by a sailback reptile, a Dimetrodon, which roamed a Coal Age Forest that covered Alabama. The six-foot-long amphibian resembled a giant salamander with a fin on its back, in an age predating dinosaurs.

This fossil site has been rated as the most important Coal Age footprint in the world by international experts, according to Congressional findings that resulted in saving the mine from being destroyed by the Mining Reclamation Act.

Only three other places in the world are known to have these types of fossils: Scotland, Nova Scotia and the Czech Republic. The site was found in 1999 by a high school science teacher who took the suggestion of one of his students for a field trip.

Fresh Air Family Inc. is a provider of outdoor education programs, offering more than 400 activities a year, eight day camps for children and youth and activity programing for Scale Back Alabama. Founded in 2006, the organization is a grassroots, kid-driven organization dedicated to environmental scientific education, youth leadership, outdoor exploration, healthful lifestyles and families, and an appreciation of the beautiful and biologically diverse state of Alabama.