Fossil Collecting Outdoors

Fossil collecting

You don’t have to be a certified paleontologist to hunt for fossils!  Behind the Institute is  hilly terrain that is a good location for finding fossils.  Visit the Museum and for a fee of $4 per person, you get permission valid for one exciting day of fossil hunting!  The best part of it is that you get to keep all the fossils you find!  While hunting for fossils in the Riverbluff area around the Museum, the use of power tools of any kind is prohibited.  Alcohol consumption is also prohibited.  No Museum staff will accompany you when you hunt for fossils.  The fossil hunt is a self-guided tour only.  Please respect the environment and others who use it as well.

Fee: $4 per person

Guidelines for Fossil Hunting on the Museum's property

Dress for safety!  Wear appropriate clothing for the weather.  A good pair of boots or sturdy shoes will help keep your feet from getting tired or sprained.  Use a rock pick or geological hammer if you have one.  A rock pick is used to chip away material from around a fossil.  An ordinary hammer from your toolbox  is not designed for breaking rocks, and the hammer head may chip or shatter when you strike it against a rock.  Always wear safety goggles when using a rock pick or hammer!  You’ll need a  good canvas bag or knapsack to carry your fossil finds home with you. 

So how do you find a fossil?  Your best tools for locating fossils are your eyes and patience.  Fossils can be of many types: entire plants, leaves, bones, animal footprints, eggs, and shells of invertebrate animals.  When looking for fossils, look carefully at the surface of rocks:  do you see a part of the rock that does not look like the surrounding rock?  Is there a smoother or rounder part  in an otherwise flat surface?  Is there a strange protrusion from the rock’s surface?  Does the surface of this artifact look different than the surface of the rock itself?  If so, you may have found a fossil!  Chip carefully around the fossil to release it from the surrounding material (matrix).  Try and preserve as much of the matrix around the fossil as possible for delicate or fragile fossils such as a leaf.  Look for cracks in the rock; remember, striking a rock with a crack in it will crack the rock open along the seam, and if the crack runs through your fossil, you will have broken your fossil!  If you find an interesting fossil and need help with releasing it from the matrix or identifying it, bring it down to the Museum and we’ll help you!