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Where Fossils Rock!

There are a few special places on earth where conditions uniquely align to preserve fossils well enough to give us a window into the past and to help us understand what plants and animals were like long before humans existed.

Oh, and prepare for National Fossil Day, October 16, 2013, by enjoying this song and video written and performed by park ranger Jeff Wolin.

Here are a dozen locations where fossil deposits are recognized around the globe for their significance and value. Join us on the fossil trail and learn for yourself what life was like for prehistoric plants and critters.

Search by State: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming

Arizona

Petrified Forest National
Park (NPS)
Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park is a unique landscape most known for the petrified log fossils from the Late Triassic period. Fossils formed when sediment and volcanic ash buried downed trees accumulated in river channels. Quartz crystals formed in the logs as groundwater seeped in and dissolved the ash into silica, replacing wood cells with stone. Take a drive through the park, participate in a ranger-guided program, and stop at the Painted Desert Visitor Center to enjoy all the park offers.


Colorado

Dinosaur National
Monument (NPS)
Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument features about 1,500 bones of the Jurassic period including: Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodicus and Stegosaurus dinosaurs among many others. The newly refurbished Quarry Exhibit Hall provides the perfect environment to learn about, see and even touch 149 million-year-old dinosaur fossils.



Florissant Fossil Beds
National Monument (NPS)
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is where you can experience one of the richest and most diverse fossil deposits in the world— up to 1,700 species. Petrified sequoia tree fossils in the monument are some of the largest diameter petrified trees in the world and are massive among the insect and plant fossils here. A visit to Florissant Fossil Beds begins in the visitor center with an orientation film, Shadows of the Past followed by a hike on the Petrified Forest Walk.




Idaho

Hagerman Fossil Beds
National Monument (NPS)
Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument features the world’s richest known deposit of the Hagerman Horse, Equus simplicidens, thought to be the link between prehistoric and modern horses. Paleontologists consider Hagerman one of the most important sites in the world for the fossil history of horses. The monument also contains a portion of the Oregon National Historic Trail. A stop at the visitor center will help set you on a course of discovery in this southern Idaho gem.


Iowa

Devonian Fossil Gorge (NPS)
Devonian Fossil Gorge

Devonian Fossil Gorge provides an opportunity to discover fossils that are 200 million years older than dinosaurs. During the summers of 1993 and 2003 significant floods of Coralville Lake exposed the Devonian bedrock and the wide array of fossils embedded in the seafloor of what was once a tropical marine environment. With nearly two dozen specific locations to discover fossils and geologic features you’ll want to allow plenty of time. Camping opportunities are at the Dam Complex, the Sandy Beach Camp and Sugar Bottom.


Nebraska

Agate Fossil Beds
National Monument (NPS)
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is the site of some of the best preserved mammal bone fossils in the world. The mammal fossils found here are from the Miocene Epoch (19 – 21 million years ago) and are the remains of animals that replaced the dinosaurs. A slab of the bone bed, some 2-1/2 to four feet thick, is on display in the visitor center.






Oregon

John Day Fossil Beds
National Monument (NPS)
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument protects one of the longest and most continuous records of evolutionary change in North America. The monument is divided into three units dispersed throughout east-central Oregon and requires more than one day to explore. Camping is not available within the monument but you can download the monument’s Campgrounds Brochure to find camping nearby. Advance reservations are available for camping and cabins on the nearby Ochoco National Forest or Malheur National Forest for those who want to explore all that John Day has to offer.


South Dakota

Badlands National Park (NPS)
Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park contains deposits of one of the world’s richest fossil beds where ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse and saber-toothed cat once roamed. Land-based and marine fossils have been found and studied in the White River Badlands since 1846 and are included in museum collections throughout the world. A stop at the visitor center will provide a great place from which to launch your Badlands fossil discovery adventure.


Texas

Guadalupe Mountains
National Park
(Kerri Allen)
Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is one of the finest examples of an ancient, marine fossil reef on Earth. Imagine a vast tropical sea full of lime-secreting organisms that formed at this well-preserved reef as you look across what now is an arid landscape of jagged peaks, vast desert vistas and a diverse ecology supporting abundant wildlife. A stop at the visitor center will set a course for exploration along 80 miles of trails. Don’t forget to pick up a fossil guide to help identify prehistoric marine critters along the way.




Utah

Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur
Quarry (BLM)
The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry

The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry contains the densest concentration of Jurassic-aged dinosaur bones ever found. Scientists are still puzzled why more than 75 percent of the bones found in this area are from carnivores. See the bones and learn about the research being conducted at this site, and then offer your own hypothesis about the mystery that persists even today.



Wyoming

Fossil Butte National
Monument (NPS)
Fossil Butte National Monument

Fossil Butte National Monument is home to some of the most well-preserved fossils known. This sub-tropical landscape preserves fossils of fish, reptiles, birds, insects, plants and mammals in their entirety. The visitor center is open seven days a week year round (except for winter holidays) and fall and spring offer cooler temperatures to enjoy hiking, horseback riding, cycling, picnicking and more.


Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite (BLM)
Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite

Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite is the largest tracksite in Wyoming and one of the only a few worldwide from the middle Jurassic Period (160 million to 180 million years old). Until 1997 scientists believed that the entire Bighorn Basin was covered by an ancient ocean and only sea creatures existed in this area. Thousands of tracks in the area were clearly made at shoreline and were preserved as the mud hardened and sand filled in. Red Gulch provides a wonderful classroom for kids of all ages to learn about the dinosaurs that roamed this area during the middle Jurassic period.