The lower portion of the Ouachita Valley was once part of a prehistoric sea, that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to well above the Arkansas-Louisiana line. Evidence of this sea has been well documented by geologists and paleontologists, who have discovered rare fossil finds in certain areas along the Ouachita River.
The first man to discover and document fossil proof of this prehistoric sea was Judge Henry Bry. Judge Bry was an amateur geologist-paleontologist from Northeast Louisiana, who explored many areas along the Ouachita River. His greatest find was made in 1829, when he found the fossil remains of a large prehistoric sea mammal.
The remains of this gigantic sea creature were embedded in the sides of a steep hill running along a creek that emptied into the Ouachita River several miles below Columbia, Louisiana. The bones were found along a curved line that stretched about four hundred feet in length with bones missing at intervals along the path of discovery. The fossilized remains were exposed in the side of the hill after a hard rain, and appeared to have been buried approximately forty feet below the earth's surface.
Judge Bry recorded that a local farmer living near this site, previously unearthed from this same find, large fossilized rib bones, which he took and used as andirons for his fireplace. Others living in the same area had found huge, fossilized backbones (some weighing 40 pounds) which they used as doorstops and flower pot stands. Perplexed by the way the farmers treated these extremely rare finds, Judge Bry later wrote: "You can't expect a scientific memoir from folk who has lived their entire lives in the most remote forest of Louisiana; nor, expect them to know anything about keeping pace with the progress of science".
Judge Bry sent samples of these fossil finds to numerous paleontologists, as far away as London, England; seeking to identify them. After years of study these learned paleontologists came to the opinion that the animal Bry discovered was a whale-like mammal A size and type that had never been found before. This mammal was listed in a special category named "Zeuglodon cetoides".Many years later, a group of people from Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe discovered a large backbone of a whale in part of the chalk hills located north of Enterprise in Catahoula Parish. This location would match the location description given in the article above (several miles below Columbia).
The following two Catahoula News-Booster photographs from their November 25, 1976 edition reference this discovery.
For another interesting read on Judge Henry Bry's discovery, check out Southern Memories, Unique Stories from the American South.