Bollinger County Museum of Natural History

Gravel Bar Discoveries

by Guy Darrough

One of my favorite pass times is walking gravel bars, it's like beach combing and you never know what you're going to find. Over the years I have found many rare and unusual objects that I have added to my collection.

When a river winds along the landscape, it cuts through rock formations releasing fossils and various geologic materials into the river. The river also picks up Native American artifacts as numerous tribes lived along these large rivers and their tributaries. And as soon as Europeans found these rivers they began exploring and trading, also leaving traces.

Objects with weight will usually collect on the inside of river bends and on the sand and gravel bars. Heavy items like bone or rock will actually move downriver thousands of miles from their place of origin. A good example are the beautiful, naturally polished agates and petrified wood that can be found along the Missouri River. These originated from North Dakota and moved downriver at an exceedingly slow rate over a very long time as the high polish indicates.

Visually scanning a gravel bar is like looking into the past, discovering stories going back hundreds and even millions of years. I say "scanning" because you have to train your eyes to pick out certain shapes, colors or textures from the endless tons of gravel. It's not uncommon though to find Native American artifacts, fossils, agates, petrified wood and Civil War relics all on the same gravel bar.

Here are some items that I have found on gravel bars along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers in Missouri.

mazon fossil
mazon fossil

gravel bar
gravel bar

gravel bar
gravel bar

gravel bar
gravel bar

gravel bar
gravel bar

gravel bar
gravel bar

gravel bar
gravel bar

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