Falls of the Ohio State Park: The Epicenter of Geology Activities in 2019

The Falls of the Ohio State Park exists because of the 390 million-year-old fossil beds on the floor and banks of the Ohio River. They are one of the first-known fossil exposures, noted by the earliest explorers who navigated the Ohio River in canoes and flat boats. Native Peoples used the Falls extensively for hunting and fishing, as well as selectively collecting fossils, too.

In 2016, the park’s Interpretive Center underwent a six-million-dollar renovation. Geology exhibits include a video wall showing a living Devonian sea, interactive components and new fossils on display. The origin of the Ohio River is revealed through a series of short video clips. Our six-foot mammoth tusk has a new case. September 2018 marked the opening of a new half-million dollar ultra high definition orientation movie. In 2019, the park celebrates the museum’s silver anniversary through a special program January 26 & 27 and monthly programs the rest of the year focusing on new knowledge since 1994.


We are offering more geology programs to visitors, such as the “Marine Life of Today and Yesterday” series, with programs by marine biologist Dr. Dominique Hansen on the links of today’s global climate change to issues like mass extinction, ocean geology, and coral reef significance. The series includes the on-going “Meet the Paleontologist” covering fossils in different geological periods, geological time, how fossils form, etc.


In an effort to revamp a local geology club, a series of six programs will be offered throughout 2019. Scheduled programs include Pennsylvanian plants, calcite, fluorite, dinosaur discoveries, the Cambrian explosion, and the early Dutch-American collector, Gerard Troost.


August 24 will be our 24th year of celebrating geology and archaeology with “Digging the Past.” This event, sponsored by IMI, features hands-on activities in geology and archaeology, collecting piles, fossil bed hikes, food, and presentations on how to become an archaeologist and paleontologist.


For geology clubs with a group reservation, we will offer a special behind the scenes tour and fossil lab at no extra cost. The Falls of the Ohio State Park is one of the few Indiana state parks with a collections store room. If scheduled when the staff is available, a group may tour the space and get a sneak peek at our fossils and other collections. Any group scheduled between November 15 and April 30 may participate in a hands-on “Devonian ecosystems” fossil lab in the classroom. Between May 1 and November 14, groups have the option of an indoor lab or a guided tour of the fossil beds. The expansive fossil beds are best seen from August – November, while the upper fossil beds are exposed most of the year, except when the Ohio River is higher than normal.


Clubs may dig in the collecting piles – and while collecting tools aren’t permitted anywhere else in the park, they are allowed in the collecting piles. We plan to dramatically increase the size of the collecting piles with additions of fossil-rich Silurian Waldron Shale and subsoil with Devonian fossils from local quarries.


To schedule club field trip or request more details, contact Alan Goldstein, Interpretive Naturalist / Park Paleontologist – agoldstein@dnr.in.gov. Program details are available through Falls of the Ohio Foundation website – www.fallsoftheohio.org, the park’s official Facebook page – www.facebook.com/fallsoftheohio, and the Indiana State Parks web page – https://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/2984.htm.


The Ohio Valley Fossil Trail, with more than a dozen museum and park partners in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio, is slated to begin with a collaborative website in early 2019. You can make it a multi-day trip and visit as many geo-sites as your schedule allows.