Fish Fry layer

Adam Stubblefield samples the Fish Fry Layer (2012)


EOU alumna Story Miller created an Excel spreadsheet of the fossils that have been found at the Always Welcome Inn before she graduated in the spring of 2007.  This catalog has been updated and is now available on-line!  Thanks, Story!

Click on the link below to see the on-line list of Always Welcome Inn fossils:  AWI Fossil List

May 27, 2014

Troy Tubbs and his students from Pine-Eagle returned to the Always Welcome Inn for the 7th year in a row and found a treasure trove of fossils, including a beautiful piece of turtle shell discovered by Abby Graven. Mark Ferns came along to help out.   The event was recorded by John S. Collins, the photographer for the Baker City Herald and featured on the front page of the May 28, 2014 issue of the Baker City Herald.


June 5, 2013

This was a good year collecting fossils at the Always Welcome Inn!  The Pine-Eagle students, led by Troy Tubbs, collected 25 charophytes, 55 sunfish bones, 43 salamander bones, and 12 eggshell fragments, and a small mammal incisor.  The find of the day was Laney Van Tassell’s carpometacarpus of a small bird the size of a small owl or hawk.

       The Pine-Eagle students sieve for fossils.  Note the storm in the background!
                                          Troy Tubbs helps his students look for fossils.
                               Rail (?) carpometacarpus found by Laney Van Tassell

The EOU Historical Geology students, taking advantage of a beautiful day, collected 50 sunfish bones, 42 salamander bones, 43 eggshell fragments, 23 charophytes, and 4 vole bones, including 2 incisors, an upper left second molar, and a lower left first molar.   And, they proved that the distribution of bones in the “Vole Layer” is uneven.

                             Manaokalani Victorino shows good form sieving fossils.
                                    Sweety Kalbesang having fun looking for fossils.
Left upper second vole (Ophiomys ringoldensis) molar found by Sweety Kalbesang.

 The final score:

155 bones for the Pine-Eagle group

162 bones for the EOU Historical Geology class!


June 6, 2012

The bank at the Always Welcome Inn collapsed last summer and a wet spring made it more difficult to find fossils.  An elementary school group from Echo found a few fossils and a group from Pine-Eagle High School tried again and found a few more.  It wasn’t until June when the outcrop dried out a bit that the EOU Historical Geology group managed to find some neat fossils.  Colby Forman found two neat bird bones and the lower right first molar of a vole, along with some eggshell that looks like it came from the same egg. EOU senior Adam Stubblefield completed a study of the “Fish Fry layer” and discovered that the number of fossils in the layer decreased toward the west.  This means that although some layers have a lot of fossils, you have to look in the right part of the layer to find them.  We’re looking forward to studying the lateral variations in other layers at the site.  We’re still trying to piece together the large bird bone that Troy Tubbs of Pine-Eagle High School found last year.  Our best guess is that it is an ulna of a large bird the size of a swan.

   Vole tooth (lower right first molar) and bird bones found by Colby Forman.

June 1, 2011

EOU and Pine-Eagle High School students joined forces to dig fossils at the Always Welcome Inn for the fifth year in a row.  Storms ringed the Baker Valley, but the weather cooperated and the finds were exciting!  Lynn Langrell of the Always Welcome Inn started us off right when she gave us the carpometacarpus (wrist bone in the wing of a bird) of a rail, probably a gallinule according to Greg McDonald of the National Park Service.  EOU’s Jennifer Stewart found a vertebra that came from a 6-year old trout (possibly the bull trout, Salvelinus confluentus) according to Jerry Smith, the fossil fish expert from the University of Michigan.  Ryan Rau and Robby McCutchen of Pine-Eagle found a lower right third premolar of a rabbit (Hypolagus) and some large pieces of turtle shell and Tristan Pierson and Aries Hood found a fibula of a small mammal. Leland Seggermab of Pine-Eagle found a section of the rib of a large antelope-sized mammal. This is the first large mammal fossil that we know for sure came from the Always Welcome Inn Pliocene sediments. What a great day!

 Carpometacarpus of a rail (gallinule) found by Lynn Langrell.

The vertebra of a trout found by Jennifer Stewart.

 The lower right premolar of the rabbit Hypolagus found by Ryan Rau and Robby McCutcheon (bottom).

    Turtle shell pieces found by Ryan Rau and Robby McCutcheon (top left); the fibula of a small mammal found by Tristan Pierson and Aries Hood (top right); and the rib of a large mammal found by Leland Seggermab.

October 11, 2010


It is exciting when your research leads to someone else coming to look at what you have found and then finds something new and exciting.  That’s what happened in September 2010 when Dr. Barbara Nash, Professor of Geology & Geophysics at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and a well-known expert on the supervolcanoes of the Snake River Plain, analyzed some ash samples that she had collected at the Always Welcome Inn in 2009.  Compositionally, the Always Welcome Inn ash is a dead ringer for the Kilgore ash, which was erupted from the Heise eruptive center in Idaho southwest of Yellowstone around 4.45 ± 0.05 million years ago.

Analyses of volcanic glass shards from the Always Welcome Inn by Barbara Nash, University of Utah, 10/11/2010, compared with analyses of the Kilgore Tuff: 4.45 ± 0.05 Ma (Bindeman et al., 2007, Geology)

The Kilgore tuff came from the Heise volcanic field just southwest of Yellowstone.

The Kilgore ash has a volume of approximately 1800 cu km, which places it in the supereruption category.  The Kilgore ash may be the largest “light” (low-δ18O) tuff in the world.  It is believed to have formed during  the final stages of volcanism in the Heise caldera complex as the shallow, hydrothermally altered carapace surrounding the magma body beneath the complex remelted.

This discovery falls right in the middle of the ~4.8 – 4.3 million year age for the Always Welcome Inn deposits estimated from the voles in the sequence, which are very similar to the ~4.3 million year old voles at White Bluffs in the Hanford area but also have characteristics similar to the ~4.8 million year old voles in Alturas, California.  Thanks to Barbara Nash’s work, the age of the Always Welcome Inn fossils is finally pinned down at 4.45 +/- 0.5 million years old.