Prehistoric Tennessee

I know I talk a lot of bullshit on this page, but here’s something that is absolutely true: During the Paleozoic period, Tennessee was covered by a warm shallow sea.  The sea was home to my favorite pre-dinosaur – the trilobite, along with corals and more sea creatures that today is mind blowing to think about living in the Volunteer State.

You may have collected Indian Money as a kid (I still do). To me, they are even more special to find than a shark’s tooth while combing the mud or the sand because Indian money is actually a 245-750 million year old fossil of a crinoid.

indian money

Crinoids are echnoderms (think sea urchins, star fish, sea cucumbers, sand dollars, etc.). Also known as sea lilies, they look a bit more like plants than animals.  The Paleozoic crinoids that lived in Tennessee thrived in shallow waters and tide pools. Although you will not find crinoids living in the murky, warm waters of Old Hickory lake, they are not extinct. Crinoids of today live in deep sea but rarely wash ashore.

The next time you’re out by the Harpeth River dig your toes into the mud and see what comes up. You just might find a piece of history.


What do you think of when you hear the word, “foxfire?”  Some confuse it for the web browser Firefox, others of the book series on Appalachian traditions and life, and others just roll their eyes assuming it’s some sort of science fiction thing.  Yet, you will be hard pressed to find people, especially city people, who can tell you the answer to, “what is foxfire?”


Foxfire, also known as “fairy fire,” or “ghost light” is a biolumnescent fungus that exists in decaying wood, and is present in parts all over the world.  It often ‘activates’ when the wood has been stepped on or agitated, causing it to break open, but there have been accounts of people who have walked up on entire trees glowing, undisturbed.

If you are taking a walk through the woods at night, always TURN OFF YOUR FLASHLIGHT.  Breathe as your eyes adjust, and then make sure to look for the faint blue-green glow of foxfire as you step through brush and rotting trees.

I personally have never seen foxfire West of Alexandria, TN at the start of the Cumberland Plateau, but I would be willing to bet that you could find it at one of the Warner Parks if the light pollution is not too strong now.

Where have you spotted foxfire?