The state of Mississippi is known to have rich and diverse specimens of fossils and petrified wood dating back millions of years. Although, gemstones and minerals are not as readily found in Mississippi compared to many other states, there are a few of them such as agates and fulgurites that have been spotted at a few locations and are prized by collectors.
During the Late Devonian geological period, the northeastern region of Mississippi was submerged under sea and therefore some marine fossils such as crinoids, brachiopods and trilobites are found in the state. The geological period known as the Cretaceous left behind fossils of marine species such as mosasaurs, cephalopods and sharks. The trees from the coastal plains resulted in petrified wood. Thereafter, the Cenozoic period and the Eocene era lead to the fossilized remains of Basilosaurus, Zygorhiza Kochii as well as petrified wood that can still be found today.
The best place to search for agates in Mississippi is along the Mississippi River. The agate found here is in the form of rounded as well as flat pebbles with bands of various colours. Some of the colors that can be seen in the Mississippi agates are whites, pinks, reds, oranges, grays, creamy browns, black and sometimes greens. The agates found in Mississippi River are generally small pebbles, ranging as large as two to three inches long.
When lightning strikes the Earth and causes the sand at a confined area to melt, it forms a unique variety of quartz known as fulgurite. These are also known as petrified lightning. While the outer structure of fulgurites is porous and made up of jagged sand particles, the inner part has a very smooth structure.
Depending upon the kind of sand where lightning had struck, the various colors of the fulgurites are translucent white, tan, black and green.
Petrified Wood was declared as the official state mineral of Mississippi in 1976. Petrified wood found in Mississippi mostly belongs to the geological period known as Oligocene as old as 30 million years. During this period, the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico extended towards the north of the state and as a result the fossils of trees and plants are found in abundance in the northern region of Mississippi. However, petrified wood can also be found in the rest of the state along various creeks and streams.
The best specimens of petrified wood can be found in the Mississippi Forest Area which is located in the town of Flora that lies in Masidon County, Mississippi. Initially, petrified wood from the site was identified in 1960ís and later in the year 1966 the forest was designated as a National Natural Landmark.
The Mississippi Petrified Forest is open for all visitors with a certain amount of fee. Visitors can take a tour of the trail and visit the museum. However, collecting samples of the fossils is prohibited.
Basilosaurus and Zygorrhiza Fossils
These prehistoric whale fossils belonged to the Cenozoic and Eocene geological period as old as 50 million years. They were declared as the official state fossils in 1981. Out of the two, the Basilosaurus is more popular of the fossils due to its huge size. The Basilosaurus was around 50 to 80 feet in length with a small head and had a slender body. This made it appear as a sea serpent.
The Zygorrhiza, on the other hand was smaller in size and not more than 20 feet long (still pretty big!). They have been found near the town of Tinsley located in Yazoo County.
Some other fossils from the Cretaceous Period such as mosasaurs, cephalopods, oyster exogyra, some boney fishes and sharks can be found near the concretions of boulders that are spread around the Twenty Mile Creek located near Frankstown in Mississippi.
Shark teeth can also be found in The Tombigbee River Valley of Mississippi. Teeth can also be found along the beaches at the Gulf of Mexico.