We have scoped out day trips in Louisville and Southern Indiana that are fun for all ages. There is an ancient sea floor that sits on the banks of the Ohio River in Clarksville, Indiana and just waits for people to come visit it. At some 390 million-years-old, the fossil beds at The Falls of the Ohio State Park “are the largest exposed Devonian fossil bed in the western hemisphere,” according to assistant property manager Dale Brown. It is one of the natural jewels of the region that deserves a visit.
Originally the beds were located 20 degrees south of the equator in a shallow ocean, but Dale says continental drift moved the limestone deposits some 4,000 miles north from its original latitude. There is evidence of all kinds of sea creatures that once called this ocean home at The Falls of the Ohio, including brachiopods, clams, crinoids, and trilobites. “At least 600 species of fossils have been documented at the Falls and its surroundings,” Dale says.
The Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center, through the support of The Falls of the Ohio Foundation, was able renovate its classroom space with upgraded technology to allow individuals with limited mobility to “see” the falls even if they can’t navigate the paved disability ramp that leads to the fossil beds.
Even if you aren’t interested in searching the rocks for fossils, the Falls offers opportunities to see birds and beautiful scenic views of the river. Visiting the area can feel meditative in part because you’re surrounded by so much geologic time. “Anyone in the geological sciences knows humans on earth is a phase. It’s just how long is that time [going to be,]” says Dale. In the same way that standing near the ocean or a mountain can provide a sense of awe and inspiration, so can The Falls of the Ohio.
By Carrie Vittitoe | Photo by Melissa Donald