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Two Million Years Of Florida History

Fort Drum is the home of the most fossil-rich site in North America –
so start digging!

Leigh Gledhill of Tampa and Jeff Brown of St. Petersburg examine one of their larger finds – shell specimens still in their matrix.

Leigh Gledhill of Tampa and Jeff Brown of St. Petersburg examine one of their larger finds – shell specimens still in their matrix.

The eye-level view of the Fort Drum Crystal Mine, 46 miles from Vero Beach in northeast Okeechobee County, is less than dazzling but location-appropriate: a vast expanse of land with mounds of manure scenting the air, a few dilapidated outbuildings, roosters cock-a-doodling at all hours, and a dog playing perilously close to a back-moving tractor. Visitors fortunately do not come here for the amenities or aromatherapy. They come with buckets, tools and a change of clothes to examine the dirt – by geologic happenstance, the most fossil-rich collection site in all of North America with more than 250 species represented, according to Eddie Rucks, the mine’s owner since 2002.

The Rucks family has occupied the property since 1959, says Eddie, a former wetlands mitigation specialist and dairy farmer who has been leading rock- and fossil-hunting expeditions for the past 30 years. From the 60 rocky acres that currently comprise the crystal mine – alternatively known as Ruck’s Pit – a determined digger can unearth more than two million years of Florida history.

Read the entire article in the April 2013 issue