Sideling Hill – A Cross Cut View of the Fossil Rich Shale in Maryland and Pennsylvania

Fossils are plentiful in the shale deposits all around the mid-Atlantic states. Without getting technical, shells of a variety of marine animals are found in the shale, readily accessible via road cuts and rock quarries around Western Maryland, central Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Sideling Hill is a wonderful example of the typical construct of the rolling hills of the area.

Sideling Hill Roadcut

The tight bands of rock layers, along with the HUGENESS of the roadcut are fascinating. The layers of the mountain are very interesting, consisting of alternating bands of shale and big bands of alluvial conglomerate. The top layer of shale is also coal rich, which is thickest on the north side of the road cut. You can see the dark layer towards the very top of the hill.

Sideling Hill Roadcut front view

The rest area used to host a Geological Center, a fun place to check out, a place to stop and view this geological wonder and find out a little more about the earth around us.

Sideling Hill Rest Area

The Geological Center is closed now, but the exhibits have been moved to Hancock Maryland.

Sideling Hill Geological Center

A short distance away in Pennsylvania, we found several shale deposits on the side of back country roads.

Typical Shale Road Cut in Pennsylvania

Any place you can find loose shale, if you flip over a few pieces, often, fossils will be found.

Shale Debris With Fossils

The shale from this area breaks up into small bits. That makes big matrix specimens very uncommon!

Rockhammer and Shale Chips

Brachiopod specimens are very common through out the area, along with tightly wound trilobite specimens.

Fossils shells found in shale deposit

Packing the specimens is a delicate job, so a roll of toilet paper for wrapping is always handy!

packing up fossils found in pennsylvania

Bi-valve fossils, Gastropods and many others, all found swimming around in the soup of the Devonian era!

fossil shell found in shale

At this road cut, randomly, a vug of quartz was found, breaking up into oddly shaped crystals.

quartz crystals found in shale deposit

So, do not be afraid to stop and check out any exposed shale in the mid-Atlantic states! Often times, simply flipping over some loose shale chunks will reveal a trilobite, a gastropod or a cluch of Brachiopods!

shale deposit with fossils

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Maryland’s Chromite Deposits – A Mineralogical Monopoly

The Serpentine Barrens of Central Maryland produced an interesting landscape for a 19th century business monopoly on chromite ore, being the sole resource for world looking for new metal alloys. In addition to the facinating story of this legacy of chromite ore, the mines also produced a line of fine minerals, brucite, antigorite in fine crystals and the gem variety of serpentine known as “wiliamsite”.

Today, much of the serpentine deposits in Maryland and Pennsylvania serve as a wildlife sanctuary. The serpentine rocks and their serpentine soils were not fit for cultivation, providing a natural host for sparse grasses, scrub brushy oaks and acid loving pine trees. In addition, rare wildflowers are found only in these uncommon serpentine soils. Because these areas were never fit for cultivating, only nice flat farm land has been turned into housing developments, leaving these woodlands free from destruction. At one point in time, these areas of scrub oaks and rocky soil would have looked barren in comparison to the rich tree heavy forests surrounding that land. Now, in contrast to the houses and civilization popping up in every direction, the serpentine barrens are a rich forest

You can read this full article on this PDF, just click on the page below. This is an excerpt from the book reprint of Quarterly Magazine, which contains all sixteen issues of the magazine. You can buy the book on and it has dozens upon dozens of articles like this, written by a variety of world traveling mineral collectors. We highly suggest this book, it is a STEAL at $34.95

line pit chromite article free pdf link

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