It was too beautiful a day, to be stuck in the house. I asked my grandson, Joey, what kind of fossil he wanted to hunt. “SHARK TEETH!”, he exclaimed. So off we went in search of ancient shark remains of Texas.
By the time we arrived in Sherman, Joey was hungry. So we went in search of pancakes. The waiter, noticing my accent didn’t quite jive with the area, asked where I was from and what brought me to Sherman. I told him shark teeth, to which he immediately replied, “You know this is Texas, right?” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
During the Cretaceous Period, much of the central United States was submerged under a warm, shallow sea, Texas included.
Our world looked quite different back then; there were only two continents.
It was much warmer and more humid. Dinosaurs roamed the earth and flowering plants flourished. Sea levels were much higher, inundating the continents, creating shallow epicontinental seas. This was the source of the bounty we seek.
FYI - The Cretaceous Period signaled the end of the Mesozoic Era about 145.5 million years ago. It lasted about 79 million years and ended 65.5 million years ago with one of the greatest mass extinction events in earth's history. Cretaceous is derived from the Latin word for chalk, creta. A thick chalk bed was laid down along the North American Gulf Coast. Most of the earth's chalks were deposited during the Cretaceous Period.
Our mission, to seek out the 145 million year old shark teeth deposited in the Post Oak Creek of Sherman, Texas. We headed to the southern edge of town, where S Travis St. crosses over the creek. It’s not marked. There is a short trail to the bluff above the creek where others have driven down. It was quite muddy the first time we went so we just pulled off to the side of the road. The walk is not that far. Few tools are needed so your burden should be light going in.
The descent from the bluff to the creek bed is quite steep and the brush can get high. Be careful, watch your footing, and be prepared to slip and slide. If it’s muddy, you’re going for a ride.
On our first visit, the water was considerably higher. I removed my boots and gave Joey a piggyback ride across the water to the gravel bar. I suggest footwear that you don’t mind getting wet or mucked up. Water shoes would be a good option. We went barefoot but watch out for broken glass. Sadly, it’s everywhere.
Antique glass is an occasional surprise. A fellow shark tooth hunter told us that back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s there was a dump just down aways to the west. As the bank wears away, it too is deposited into the creek.
My very first shark tooth. It took me less than ten minutes to find this beauty. After my find, it didn’t take Joey long to become disgruntled with his empty bucket.
It helps to be familiar with what you are looking for before you go. We discarded so much good stuff during our first few trips because we had no clue what it was. Since then I have surfed plenty web sites and picked up more than a few books about Texas fossils. On the North Texas Fossils website I found some nice pictures, Texas Cretaceous Sharks . They helped identify some of the strange things I tossed as shark centrums or vertebrae and the nubby things with lines on them as a different type of shark’s tooth. Oh well, live and learn. I will be more careful in the future.
Water levels appear to change drastically throughout the year, cutting more deeply into the walls. Banks we stood upon just the year before, are no longer there, instead there are fallen trees and exposed roots.
As the creek carves through the Upper Cretaceous strata, it is deposited in the creek bed. A large gravel bar has built up over the years around the footings of the bridge. Hard concretions like stands, remnants of an ancient oyster bed, protrude from the banks and pop up like islands in the creek.
Fossils are literally everywhere, right under your feet. You could gather quite a few just by picking a spot, sitting down, and scooping gravel into a sieve. This is great for little ones who may get easily discouraged or bored while searching by sight, as they blend into the gravel of the creek bed.
Good places to look for shark teeth are where the water is obstructed by rocks or tree roots and in eddies. The water has to flow around. Treasures may be too heavy or get caught up in debris and deposited.
All you really need is bags and/or buckets to collect your treasures, a paper towel or two to wrap those extra special finds, a trowel or a screwdriver. A sieve is always useful at this site as surface collecting is plentiful.
- bug spray
- rubber boots / water shoes ( we went barefoot )
- fresh drinking water
We approached from the south on U.S. Route 75 N. You can take either exit 56A or 56B (at the southern end of Sherman). Unless you are approaching from the north, through town, you have to do a U-turn or turn around somewhere to come back and park on the NW side of the road. Click on the satellite view to get a better idea of what conditions you will be parking in. I would not pull down the hill, though many do, it can get quite muddy. The walk is not that long. There is no need for heavy duty tools, so your burden should light going in.
A word of warning…Before you go, check the weather. The creek bed is deep, well below the road level, and access is steep. If rain is looming, beware. Post Oak Creek is a main drainage route for the area and can fill up quickly. Keep your group tight and stay close to an easy exit point. Although we have yet to encounter any that we have noticed, I have heard reports of snakes to be leery of. Pay attention; be aware of your surroundings, respect nature and her wildlife. You are a guest in their world.
The red marker is not actually the address shown, it is the place to pull off for Post Oak Creek access.
What started out as a spur of the moment hunt has since become one of our favorite spots to spend a warm, sunny Texas afternoon. We have been to this location several times and it never disappoints us. We find something new every time. The more research we do, the more we find is yet to be discovered. Now, they want to hunt Megalodon.
The quest never ends!
Live Science – Cretaceous Period: Animals, Plants & Extinction Event
Encyclopedia Britannica – Cretaceous Period
North Texas Fossils – Texas Cretaceous Sharks
The Fossil Forum – Post Oak Creek Texas Shark Tooth Hunt
Page Photo Credits Photos are courtesy of Living the Crystal Life Crew unless otherwise noted. Spearhead artifact By JarrodB via: The Fossil Forum