There are a number of dedicated fossil parks around the U.S., where you can observe, collect, and in most cases keep the fossils you find. Look below for more information on these parks. If you know of any we’ve missed, please contact Kassie Hendy, and we’ll add them to the list!
Fossils may also be observed in more than 245 National Park Service areas (see map). The Organic Act (1916) has directed parks to “conserve the scenery” and natural objects, including fossils, and the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act (2009) requires parks to manage and protect fossils for scientific and educational values. Therefore, if you find a fossil in a National Park Service area, leave the fossil where it is, take a photo, and share your discovery with a park ranger. Removing fossils from the sites where they were found is not only illegal, but will result in most of the interesting and valuable information about that fossil being lost forever. More information on National Park Service areas with fossils can be found here: http://nature.nps.gov/geology/nationalfossilday/fossil_parks.cfm.
Fossil & Prairie Park Preserve:
1227 215th St, Rockford, IA
The park is open year-round, sunrise to sunset, with free admission. You may find brachiopods, gastropods, corals, crinoids, bryozoans, and cephalopods from the Devonian-age Lime Creek Formation. What makes this site great for collecting is that the fossiliferous sediment here has weathered to the extent that often exquisitely-preserved fossils lay scattered on the ground surface. You may keep what you collect, but only for your personal collection. Selling your finds is prohibited. There is an accompanying visitor center that is open weekends in May, September & October from 1-4 p.m. and Memorial Day through Labor Day from 1-4 p.m. daily.
Fossil Hunting ID & Collecting Tips:
Official website: www.fossilcenter.com/Fossil.html
Poricy Brook Fossil Beds:
Middletown-Lincroft Rd & Crawford Rd., Middletown, NJ
Late Cretaceous shallow-marine fossils of the Navesink Formation, including shellfish and shark teeth, can be collected from the streambed of Poricy Brook from April to October. For a small fee the park will rent you the tools you’re permitted to use, or you can bring your own trowels & screens. Rock hammers, picks, and shovels are not allowed. You are asked to limit yourself to taking home five fossils per visit.
Official website: www.poricypark.org/fossilbedsfossilhunt.html
Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center:
4050 North Street
Blasdell, New York 14219
You may find brachiopods, trilobites, horn corals, crinoids, and gastropods. Spring Break – Apri l 12 – 19 , 2013, Monday – Saturday. 9 AM – 4 PM & Sunday, 11 AM – 4PM May–October: Saturdays 9 AM to 4 PM & Sundays, 11 AM to 4 PM June 14–September 2, 2014: Monday-Saturday, 9 AM to 4 PM, Sundays, 11 AM-4 PM. No pre-registration required for the above visiting hours. Penn Dixie Site will be open rain or shine. Dress for the weather. Visitors may keep all the fossils they find. Additional individual, family, group, scouts, day care centers, summer camps, birthday parties, amateur & professional geological groups, etc. may be scheduled by calling (716) 627-4560. Penn Dixie has over 4,100 feet of paved trails for wheel chairs, walkers, strollers and wagons to accommodate site accessibility for all. There are now 5 shelters available for use on the site. Schools, scouts, and groups may schedule a visit at other times by calling (716) 627-4560. School memberships are available. Non-member adults $7, children 12 and under $6,children 2 & under and Penn Dixie Members are free.
Official website: www.penndixie.org
Trammel Fossil Park:
12026 Tramway Park Drive., Sharonville, OH
Located in the Cincinnati area, in Sharonville, Ohio, this is a great place to go hunting for brachiopods, bryozoans, and other goodies from the Late Ordovician. The park is open to the public year-round, free admission, and you can keep all the fossils you find.
Information from the Dry Dredgers, who helped create and maintain Trammel Fossil Park: www.drydredgers.org/trammel_fossil_park.htm
See the official website for more information and directions: www.sharonville.org/188/Trammel-Fossil-Park
East Fork State Park:
3294 Elklick Rd, Bethel, OH 45106
You can find bryozoans, crinoids, brachiopods, and gastropods.
Website (look under section on Fossils to find more information on fossil collecting): www.lrl.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Recreation/Lakes/WilliamHHarshaLake/Wildlife.aspx
Olander Fossil Park:
5675 Centennial Road, Sylvania, OH
Hueston Woods State Park:
6301 Park Office Road, College Corner, Ohio
Wheeler High School Fossil Beds:
Wheeler High School, Fossil, OR
You can find fossil leaves and branches from the Oligocene, approximately 33 million years old. You will find similar fossils here as the ones in nearby John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, but you can collect them here. Guide to common fossils found at Wheeler: media.wix.com/ugd/25a2fb_367111be90cd0fa9c9ec7da9e3a0bbda.pdf
Admission fees: Individuals – $5, Family of four – $15, each additional child – $3, groups (school, college/university, scouts, church, etc.) of 20 or less – $25.
Ladonia Fossil Park:
Ladonia Fossil Park is a project of the City of Ladonia, Texas and is located two miles north of downtown Ladonia on Highway 34 north and west of the bridge spanning North Sulphur River. The park sits on the bank of the vast river channel and provides an entrance into canyon hunting grounds that have yielded a variety of fossils from the Cretaceous and Pleistocene Periods. The river banks and river bed provides fossil enthusiasts with surface area exceeding a thousand acres for hunting. The channelized riverbed, dry most of the time, stretches a distance of about ten miles to the west of and ten miles to the east of Ladonia Fossil Park and is open year round for fossil hunting. The canyon is approximately 300 feet wide and 80 feet deep. Cretaceous fossils including mosasaurs and plesiosaurs are found in the bed while Pleistocene fossils including mastodons and mammoths are found in the banks. Of particular interest to serious fossil hunters are red bed outcroppings.
The park is open 365 days a year but hunting is determined by whether water is in raging flow. Due to safety issues, hunting is allowed only when the river is not flowing. Admission is free. The fossils date back about 80 million years or more. With the exception of large museum-worthy finds and unusual and rare specimens, hunters may collect and take fossils out of the river. A fossil left in the riverbed or embankment will not be there after the next big rainfall due to extreme flow rate of the raging North Sulphur River.
Ladonia Fossil Park Rules: the city of Ladonia is not responsible for accidents or injuries occurring on this property. Use of this property is at your own risk. Fossil collecting is allowed only within the river beds and banks. Parking permitted in designated area only. Possession/discharge of firearms, hunting and archery are prohibited. Possession/consumption of alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs is prohibited. No pets allowed.
CAUTION ! Enter and exit collecting area at designated points only. Area has dangerous drop offs, steep slopes and loose soil. Encounters with dangerous insects/animals are possible.
Mineral Wells Fossil Park:
2375 Indian Creek Road, Mineral Wells, Texas. Google maps
The park is open Friday- Monday, 8 am to dusk. Admission is free.
Mineral Wells Fossil Park provides the fossil enthusiast, paleontologist and student an excellent opportunity to see and collect well preserved “Pennsylvanian Period” fossils with ease and abundance. These fossils have been dated to be just over 300 million years old. You may collect and take fossils out of the park – for personal use only.
The park as it exists today is a result of 20 years of erosion of the old City of Mineral Wells landfill’s borrow pit, which was closed in the early 1990s. The erosion of the borrow pit has revealed fossils documenting ancient sea species of crinoids (sea lilies), echinoids (urchins), brachiopods, pelecypods (clams and oysters), bryozoans, corals, trilobites (arthropods), plants and even primitive sharks. In recent years, the borrow pit has become a mecca for the avid fossil hunter, the amateur and professional paleontologist, and various fossil, paleontological, gem and mineral groups and societies in Texas and the surrounding states.
Equipment: Small zip bags or nail aprons are good for small finds and keeping things organized. Knee pads or patches are recommended for crawling around.
Planning Your Visit: The park has no shade, so during the hot summer months visiting in the early morning and in the evenings is recommended. Be sure to bring water to drink and snacks with you; none are available at the park. The park has primitive restrooms. There is no running water.
Precautions: Enter and exit collecting area at designated points only. Area has dangerous drop offs, steep slopes and loose soil. Encounters with dangerous insects/animals are possible.
Park Rules: The City of Mineral Wells is not responsible for accidents or injuries occurring on this property. Use of this property is at your own risk. Fossil collecting is allowed in designated areas only. Operation of motor vehicles/motorcycles/ATV’s/bicycles is prohibited. Parking permitted in designated area only. Dumping/open fires/smoking are prohibited. Possession/discharge of firearms, hunting and archery are prohibited. Possession/consumption of alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs is prohibited. No pets allowed. CAUTION: Enter and exit collecting area at designated points only. Area has dangerous drop offs, steep slopes and loose soil. Encounters with dangerous insects/animals are possible.
Fossil Collecting Rules: Fossil collecting is for personal use only – not for commercial sale. Surface collecting only is allowed. Small gardening tools are permitted. Shovels, hoes, picks etc., or motorized equipment are prohibited.