Ione Valley, Nevada
They say there could be living fossils swimming even still in the vast oceans. Unless you go there and hunt around and see it for yourself, you’d never know. And so sits this lonely 1935 Oldsmobile L35 4 door touring sedan like the last ichthyosaur clinging to life. The markings left show its story for those who know how to read them. Historians and paleontologists.
Here’s one now studying the intricate workings of this archaic creature. Turns out this thing still works. Complex mechanical structures exposed to the grinding elements. Still smooth enough to yield to a child’s hand.
The miles this thing must have traveled. Rough roads and hard times. Just to be left here. Still partially functional. Still whole, more or less, here at the bottom of what was once many eons, epochs, and ages ago just the bottom of a vast ocean.
Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park
The main feature of the Ichthyosaur half of Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park is the Fossil Shelter high on the hill overlooking the park. You’ll get the full story when you go there, but the basic gist is that miners had been finding strange rock discs for years in the area. Some time later paleontologists figured out that they were fossil vertebra from something. A little digging proved that they were in fact a variety of marine vertebrate called the Ichthyosaur. The rock in which the fossils are found was formed when all of nevada was the bottom of an ancient sea 300 million years ago. The site of the digging is now the fossil shelter and during the tour you are guided through the many nearly complete skeletons of ichthyosaurs that were uncovered by scientists.
The largest ichthyosaur fossil in the world was found here and its representation is molded into the concrete retaining wall along the parking lot. The ichthyosaur is also the official fossil of the state of Nevada.
The other half of the park is named for Berlin, the mining town that sits below the campground and fossil shelter.
For a couple bucks you can take a tour of the Diana Mine which is the only mine in Berlin that’s still accessible. You take a helmet and flashlight and check yourself into the mine by moving a numbered medallion from OUT to IN.
The guide takes you back into the mine which is straight with one bend that leaves you in utter darkness.
There are several stops to learn about mining and see some old equipment and tools. Then the end of the line becomes the front of the line and you head back out. Have your little guys stay in the back going in. Then when it’s time to head out, you can tell them that they are the guide and have to lead the group out of the mine. They’ll love it.
The artifacts and structures at Berlin are spectacular. And you’re free to explore and wander the buildings full of splinters and rodent droppings, metal snags and protruding nail heads.
Machinery that was once state-of-the art that is now just too massive to throw away. I love trying to figure out what all this stuff once was for, and how it worked. You can hike around the mill and see how the ore was carted over from the mine.
Eventually the rain sent us back to shelter, and then back to camp. Where, it actually got nice for a while.