Dan and Carole Nielson of Shady Cove are the Rogue Valley’s equivalent of Mr. and Mrs. Indiana Jones. This couple spends countless hours scouring the bottoms of rivers and cut banks alongside roads for fossils. Not only that, they have recorded what they have found in at least 16 volumes of locations. The Nielsons claim they “get bored easily” so they travel often to various locations where they can find more fossils of teeth and other skeletal remains of many different species.
Following their introduction to fossil hunting, many years ago, they have made more than a dozen trips to the Peace River in Florida, prime grounds for alligator, dolphin, shark, mastodon, camel teeth and stingray remains. While there, they use an implement known as a “Florida Snow Shovel,” a long handled screen-like affair used to separate sand and other debris from rocks and fossils. Their recent trip to Florida produced more than 100 fossilized shark’s teeth, horse teeth, camel teeth and mammoth teeth as well as Indian beads. The Nielsons say the normally cold-weather mammals were forced south ahead of an advancing ice sheet in an attempt to survive. Florida, they say, at the time was mostly under water and there was no place for the animals to travel further.
Dan was the first to catch the bug. He was introduced to the hobby many years ago, and could never shake loose of it. When they met, he introduced Carole to it and she too, got into the act. That was 26 years ago. Now, they are passing along the passion, introducing another generation to the hobby. Their grandchildren accompanied them on the last Florida trip and were successful in finding some gems. One of the rare finds was a sloth’s tooth; a very rare find.
If their hobby weren’t enough to keep them busy, they write extensively about both their trips and locations of fossil beds. A couple of finds right here in the Rogue Valley are in Jacksonville, in a cut bank along the highway and at the Siskiyou summit. Dan says that this country was once sea bottom, and as the earth shifted, the area of the Siskiyou rose from the sea bed to an elevation several thousand feet above sea level.
The search for fossils has taken them to many different lands; 27 countries and 49 of the 50 states. Carole has written 4 history books and more than 250 magazine articles. Periodicals include Oregon Coast magazine, Farm and Ranch magazine and selections in 15 other magazines. Their books have been self-published and are in the Jackson County Library system, if someone cares to check them out. Most are about locations for fossil finds, but there are those about pioneer family stories and about Native American sites in the United States.
They have an exhibit in the Crater Rock Museum in Central Point and they produce exhibits for some retirement homes in the area. They are happy to do programs for any number of institutions and are a wealth of information about where to “dig” for artifacts.
Before going to a far-off place, they do extensive research, make local contacts and search older volumes—which are often inaccurate due to changes in roads and other infrastructure.
If you have the time, this couple can captivate an audience for quite some time with interesting stories about the bones they find. By the way, did I mention they play guitar and sing to entertain audiences around the Rogue Valley?