At last I made it over to the fossil beds on the Kentucky side of the park. As previously mentioned, this hasn’t been an easy year to forecast storms or the amount of water to be found locally at any given time. We have experienced the extremes. For now, I can get off the Indiana bank and explore a very special landscape. This side of the park is so interesting that it’s difficult to pack it into one post. I’m going to attempt it in three. I did make several Styrofoam sculptures and a few sand drawings. I took about eight hours to walk the park from east to west and back to the lot again. If you like to hike vicariously you may enjoy this trip over the fossil beds. The rocks date to 375 million years ago and the fossils preserved here help form a picture of life as it existed during the Devonian Age.
I began my trip in the cool morning. I rolled my pants legs up just below the knee and walked into the flowing water. The wet rocks are as slippery as ice and it’s tricky to keep my balance. The worn out sneakers I’m wearing are fine for walking in mud, but the lack of any tread turns this phase of the walk into a skating event. The dry rocks pose obstacles as well. The fossil beds are an undulating surface of river worn rock and it’s easy to twist an ankle or knee here. You need to find or bring a good walking stick for additional stability. I’m carrying my collecting bag and my camera and going to see what there is to see today.
The first feature I walk towards is this stranded tree that has become a bird magnet. Black vultures are using it as a roost and ducks and herons circulate around this new hub. The Black vultures are having a good year and seem to be increasing in numbers. Last week I counted a flock of sixty birds flying along the dam’s wall. The vultures have been dining on dead fish either caught by fisherman or marooned in small ever-drying pools. There are fish bones, scales, and skeletons all over the fossil beds. I did witness something I hadn’t seen before. Off in the distance I could see the vultures pursuing something alive! I did capture this one image of vultures chasing an opossum. You can’t play possum with vultures! There were a few birds that managed to get a few pecks in, but the possum never stopped running and was able to get off the wall into some cover. It’s a regular Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom moment at the Falls of the Ohio.
Here’s a view of the Fixed Wier Dam with the vultures flying along. This wall was built in the 1920’s to create a stable pool of water for Ohio River commerce and to generate electricity at the Lower Tainter Gates. I’m guessing that it’s about fifteen feet to the top of the dam. When you are walking on the fossil beds below it’s an odd feeling knowing that the surface of the river is way over your head. Slots formed on the top of the dam create pathways that feed water to the Little Slough and Whiskey Chute channels. A small marsh near Goose Island receives this water too.
Our stopping point in today’s post is just up ahead. A small amphitheater of terraced limestone provides a glimpse of the cascades that originally flowed here. It’s also a good place to sit and relax or watch birds.
I made a figure from found materials and photographed it at this location. From here the scene shifts towards the western limits of the park. Some of the best views of the city’s skyline are also up ahead. Until then, here is another water feature to enjoy!