There are a number of places around the U.S. where you can observe, and in many cases keep the fossils you find! See the map below–these dedicated fossil parks and other collecting areas are indicated by the collecting icons.
Please note: you are responsible for confirming the collection policies of any place you visit prior to collecting fossils.
If you know of any we’ve missed, please contact Sadie Mills, and we’ll add them to the list!
Find Collecting Sites in Your State Below:
|New York||Ohio||Oregon||South Dakota||Texas|
Fossils may also be observed in more than 245 National Park Service areas. Visit our Museums, Parks, and Attractions page to learn more about these destinations. 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. To read up on the laws, regulations and policies governing fossil collection on public lands, click here.
Humboldt County, CA
About: “Humboldt County, California offers an impressive array of interesting geologic features exposed by the ocean and local rivers. These layers of deep time contain evidence of conditions on earth and the ancient creatures who lived here millions of years ago. Their fossil remains have been preserved and can be uncovered at several sites in the area. In this guide, you will find maps, directions and samples of the kind of specimens that can be discovered. All it takes is curiosity, a desire to learn more, and the proper tools.”
About: The Peace River contains fossils from both the Miocene/Early Pliocene and Pleistocene. You can find shark teeth, as well as vertebrate fossils like dugong ribs and mammoth teeth! Be sure to get your collecting permit and read up on safety practices before heading to the river.
About: Venice Beach is known as the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World.” Here you can find Miocene/Early Pliocene fossils along the beach, though it’s best to go searching at low tide!
Fossil & Prairie Park Preserve
About: 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.
Chesapeake Beach, MD
About: The fossil-bearing Calvert Cliffs of Maryland is part of a large collection of fossiliferous exposures, called the Chesapeake Group. The Chesapeake Group encompasses exposures around the Chesapeake Bay, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. These exposures were created by sediment accumulation in the Salisbury Embayment, an area encompassing the Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia coastal plains which are often covered by the ocean.
Poricy Brook Fossil Beds
About: 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.
Big Brook Fossil Area
Colts Neck, NJ
About: This fossil collecting location contains Cretaceous marine fauna, including fossil shark teeth, and the occasional Mosasaur. Fossils here come from formations that erode out of stream banks in central New Jersey. They are found by walking the streams.
Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center
About: 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 – 4 PM 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 wheelchairs, 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.
Paulding Fossil Park
About: Located near the LaFarge Quarry in Paulding, Ohio, the company has created a public fossil park due to the overwhelming number of requests and letters from Dry Dredgers and other amateur fossil club members. The park is located on the quarry property but far removed from the mining operations. It is a flat fenced area where LaFarge periodically dumps Silica Shale. It is open 7 days a week to collectors, who simply have to sign in and follow the rules.
Trammel Fossil Park
About: 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.
East Fork State Park
About: You can find bryozoans, crinoids, brachiopods, and gastropods. Collecting rules apply, request collecting permission at the Visitor Center.
Olander Fossil Park
About: “Experience the life of a fossil hunter at one of only two prime Devonian Era sites on the entire planet, at a park that is unlike any other. When your work is done, transport your treasures home where you can continue to learn, research and remember your adventure. Nearly 375 million years ago, northwest Ohio was a great sea teeming with life. Now, Fossil Park is rich in fossilized brachiopods, coral and more than 200 species of prehistoric life. You’re going to dig exploring for these buried treasures, and the best part is, you get to keep whatever you find! Fossil Park’s 5-acre, ADA accessible rock quarry allows you to search for world-renowned fossils in a safe, controlled environment. The fossils come from Hanson Aggregate Midwest’s large working quarries, located just a mile south of Fossil Park. The specimens are already in shale that is soft enough to break with your bare hands, making this an activity nearly anyone can enjoy.”
About: The Caesar Creek Spillway was created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to aid in flood control. When they blasted it out, they exposed layers upon layers of fossil-bearing Ordovician limestones and mudstones that stretch for football fields!
Oakes Quarry Park
About: The city of Fairborn, near Dayton, allows fossil collecting in this former limestone quarry; you’ll find brachiopods, crinoids and other Silurian marine fossils. The sitemap also points out glacial grooves and a (fossil) coral reef. Check for instructions when you arrive.
Wheeler High School Fossil Beds
About: 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.
PaleoAdventures – Dinosaur Dig Site Adventure
About: “Take your family on an adventure that they will never forget; a trip to the remote badlands of South Dakota in search of dinosaur bones. ALL TOOLS AND TRAINING ARE PROVIDED and yes, unlike many other trips you may keep some of the common fossils that you find. “Commercially significant” fossils like T. rex teeth, and more complete Triceratops and Edmontosaurus bones can also be purchased for an additional fee if you like. “Scientifically significant” pieces are reserved for museums only.”
Ladonia Fossil Park
About: 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. Cretaceous fossils including mosasaurs and plesiosaurs are found in the bed while Pleistocene fossils including mastodons and mammoths are found in the banks. The park is open 365 days a year but hunting is determined by whether water is in the 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 an unusual and rare specimen, 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 the 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.
Mineral Wells Fossil Park
Mineral Wells, TX
About: “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. 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. The 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.”