This weekend we took at trip to the nearby Devonian Fossil Gorge, a channel of bedrock deposits exposed by floods during the summer of 1993. It's a place where visitors are allowed to tramp right across Devonian-age sea floors, and get an up-close look at Iowa's geological past.
The riverbed was dry and sunny - perfect for fossil hunting. We parked the car right next to the "gorge" and set out across the flat limestone bedrock. Bending over, one could see swarms of fossil brachiopods and crinoids, along with corals and other ancient sea creatures.
It occurred to me that the site could have easily been man-made. I imagined a bunch of guys thinking it would be funny to mix up a batch of cement and seashells, and pour it along this ravine:
"Hey man, has anyone seen my keys?"
Of course, this would only make sense if the state of Iowa actually charged some sort of admission. Parking was free, and even the visitor's center with it's fossil display was devoid of any ticketing booth or donation suggestion. A small rack of t-shirts for sale was well hidden behind a large educational display board, so one could easily leave the park without even spending a dime.
Being from the land of expensive parking garages, cheesy historic scams, and over-priced tourist traps, this all seemed rather strange and foreign.
You may be wondering the same question I asked myself:
How (the %$) do they make any money?
Questions such as this are simply added to my growing list of unexplained Iowan phenomena, and are probably just a sign that I've spent too much time on the East Coast (says her overly-cynical self.)
Devonian Fossil Gorge
2850 Prairie Du Chien Rd NE
Iowa City, IA 52240-7820
Image lifted from scienceblogs.com and Boing Boing.