NewsHillsborough County

Actions

Ruskin's Camp Bayou sheds light on the areas historic past

Camp Bayou
Posted at 4:50 AM, May 21, 2021

RUSKIN, Fla. — Just on the banks of the Little Manatee River in Ruskin sits Camp Bayou.

A walk here will take you back in time.

"There are a couple of shell pits that they were dug as people were mining for Shell," says Commissioner Stacy White. "As you can see, in some of the photos behind me, they made some amazing paleontological discoveries."

Those discoveries were made at Cockroach Bay but here, at Camp Bayou, they're preserved and protected. The park is almost home to a non-profit who is dedicated to help our younger generations learn about the past.

"But most of what you see in here, though, is real fossils that were discovered as they were mining in these Leisey shell pits," explains Commissioner White.

In 1983, Frank Garcia and his friends started excavating those shell pits. Much of what you see at Camp Bayou and Paleo Preserve was found right there in Ruskin.

The big artifacts belong to the Florida Natural History Museum at the University of Florida.

"To let kids know that one and a half million years ago, elephants were walking around. They were actually relatives of elephants, the mastodons and mammoths. And to let them know, we never had any dinosaurs here. But we had some Megafauna that were incredibly cool," explains Volunteer Patty Moore.

Camp Bayou does field trips, tours and birthday parties for kids where they can take part in their very own fossil dig!

"But they have a real blast at it. So it's a lot of fun when we get groups in here. And that's one of the things that we need help is very few people know what's here. The schools are pinched with budgeting, you know, and that that hurts our attendance here as well," explains Volunteer Fred Hendershot.

They also could use more volunteers to help keep the place running.

To learn more about those opportunities, click here.

That's not all that's at Camp Bayou though. You can take your kayak out or go for a nice walk. You can read more about that by clicking here.