by Joan Smedinghoff
October 11, 2017
The photographer holds a fossilized scallop shell from the genus Chesapecten, pulled from the sandy shoreline of Calvert Cliffs State Park in Calvert County, Md., on May 7, 2017. The species commonly found at Calvert Cliffs, known as Chesapecten nefrens, lived roughly 12 to 15 million years ago during the Miocene Epoch.
Calvert Cliffs State Park is home to the cliffs of the same name which are famous for their abundance of fossils. During the Miocene, roughly 20 to 10 million years ago, much of the East Coast was underwater. Shells and bones from the prehistoric sharks, whales, seabirds and invertebrates were buried in the sand and mud. Millions of years later, the ocean retreated, revealing the cliffs that hold those remains.
Over 600 species of fossils from the Miocene have been found at Calvert Cliffs, and the beach is still open to fossil-hunters of all ages. The 1.8-mile red trail leads from the park’s parking lot to the beach which visitors comb for shark teeth, ancient oysters and extinct scallops. After finding fossilized treasures, visitors can enjoy the park’s 13 miles of foot trails, hunting and fishing opportunities, picnic areas and playground.
Learn more about the geology of the Chesapeake Bay.