Jalama Beach

Miocene - Monterey Shale

Jalama Beach is a county park, located west of Santa Barbara along the California coast.
The park is 15 miles south from Highway 1 in Lompoc, California. Admission is $10 per car load.
You can bring your dog for an extra $3.

Jalama Beach

The beach is a popular camping, surfing and fishing spot. It is also infamous for its windy conditions.
However, we experienced ideal weather.

Monterey Shale Exposure

The cliffs along the beach are composed of finely laminated shales of Miocene age.
The exposures begin a short walk from the parking areas and go on for miles in both directions.

Tar Seeps

The beach is littered with blobs of tar from natural seeps off shore. Be careful not to step in them.

Talus Slopes

The strata are tilted and folded. The layers are loose and form talus slopes in many areas.

Scree Piles

There is no need to dig into the cliffs as the talus is composed of rocks from all of the layers above.
More rock is falling all of the time so don't work too close to the cliff. There's plenty of loose rocks to work with.
The colors of the shale vary from a whiter color to a golden hue. It appears that all layers are fossiliferous.

Trace Fossils

We found evidence of fossils almost immediately just by inspecting the fallen rock fragments.
Some of them might be insects but I think most are just traces of plant matter.

Fish from the white layers

The methodology is to split the rock fragments along the laminations. Pick a spot and split, split and split some more.
We used a normal rock hammer and an assortment of chisels. Within a an hour we found several fish.

Fish from the darker layers

Complete fish are not common. Heads and tails are easy to find.

Jalama Store

One of the bonus features of this site is the facilities of the campground.
The store is famous for their burgers and offers a wide selection of beverages.
There are several restrooms throughout the campground, too!

Our Haul

In all, we spent about 5 hours cracking rocks. We brought home a bucket full of rock and a variety of fish specimens.


The quality of preservation is remarkable in some examples. One of these shows evidence of soft tissues.

Multiple Plates

We found several plates with multiple fish. More time might yield more complete examples.

Jalama Beach

Another great day of hunting.

E-Mail me: tngray@nautiloid.net

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