Paleobotany & Stratigraphy of Lake Clarkia
Department of Geological Sciences
Presented with support of the Provost’s Office and University Honors Program
The first discovery of fossils in the Clarkia area was in 1972 during the construction of a snowmobile racetrack. The fossils, primarily plant remains, are preserved in the sediments of a Miocene lake bed. The lake was formed 15 million to 15½ million years ago by the damming of a drainage basin very similar to the present day St. Maries River basin. The ancient lake was relatively narrow and as deep as 100 to 150 meters. Because of cold, anoxic bottom water and a high rate of sedimentation, preservation of the local biota was excellent. During the last 15 million years, this area has remained tectonically stable, resulting in little post-depositional change of any biota remains trapped in the sediments. Leaves often show original fall colors (brown, red and yellow).
Bill Rember, affiliate professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Idaho, is director of UI’s Tertiary Research Center. He has been unearthing and studying the Clarkia fossil flora of northern Idaho for decades. Rember is an active member of the White Pine Chapter of the Idaho Native Plant Society. He promotes ongoing interest and scientific knowledge of the significant but undervalued Clarkia fossil beds.