Where to hunt for fossils?

New York State fossil sea scorpion fossil

The official New York State fossil: Eurypterus remipes (sea scorpion)

Terence asks via Twitter:

Any reader suggestions for a local destination to look for (not buy) fossils? My son is dying to find a fossil this weekend.

Old quarries, road cuts, and natural cliffs are often good places to find fossils (you'll need to get permission in some cases). [State Museum]

Got a suggestion for Terence and his son? Please share!

photo: H. Zell via Wikipedia (cc)


There are plenty to see at the Petrified Sea Gardens in Milton/Saratoga Springs (it's on the city line).

If you dont mind a drive there are some off route 5 in Holyoke http://www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/pioneer-valley/dinosaur-footprints.html

If you go to the petrified sea gardens, please for the love of god don't try to extract any fossils. this goes for any preserved/state/govt land. Look, but don't harm them. If you're looking for some to take home, definitely look at quarries or anywhere you see a large gathering of rocks, even some blown apart from the facing. Sides of the road work fine and usually you don't need official permission to do this.
Also, if you want to look at fossilization in the process, go to the running brook at SPAC. At some location, there is running water running over a ledge and onto a pathway that ultimately leads into the brook. On the side of this wall, there is a lot of calcification going on. Leaves and other small particles getting stuck (because it's slippery and sticky) and you can watch fossils being made, as in eons from now, these will be fossils much like we pick up today from the ground!

partridge run


Seriously, if you want to see fossils, and you are near Albany, the State Museum is fantastic. They have one of the best collections in the US.

If you are looking to find one yourself to take home. there are a few good local locations. The Indian Ladder Trail in Thatcher Park has access to some good ones. As you walk down through the News Scotland Limestones you will see large dark grey to black chert nodules, which are not fossils, but interesting as they formed the basis of many of the arrow heads made by local Native Americans. Look for the thin grey, black, or brown shale beds as you move downward. Often in the beds you will find small mollusks and snails. Usually just above those you will see brachiopods and Crinitoid stems in the limestones and, if you are very lucky a trilobite or two (In the limestones, they will usually be about the size of a dime to a quarter and black). In the Syracuse area, the limestones often give up Ammonites, up to a foot or more in diameter. And pretty much impossible to extract. :)

The road cuts west of Albany on Rts 20 and 5 are all good. West of Duanesburgh, look for a medium to dark brown shale. That is the Hamilton shale formation. Nearer to Hamilton proper, it is almost completely composed of fossils. Principally spiral wound snails, clams, and brachiopods.

North and East of Albany will be poor fossil hunting grounds. These rocks are primarily metamorphic or deep granitic igneous rock. Very pretty and a great place to hunt micas and garnets however. North of Albany, at Stark's Knob, is the only extrusive igneous rock in NYS, a small outcrop of dark black lava that you can see in an abandoned quarry on the west side of the road. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stark%27s_Knob

New York has an incredible variety of geology. A trip to the State Museum will turn up good books, great things to see, and some ideas for places to go. One of the original professors at RPI, James Hall, after whom Hall Hall is named, was the first NYS Geologist. His trip along the present day I90 documenting the geology was still studied when I was a college geology major in the late 70's and early 80's.

Good hunting!

Hi this is "Terence" of the original tweet (call me Terry, please!)

A sincere thanks to AOA and all those that took time to post a reply. My boy is definitely looking to get his hands dirty and find some rather than look at some, but we've been to the State Museum and seen the collections and they are fantastic. No fears that we would walk into someplace like the sea gardens and start hammering or digging away...road cuts, shale deposits, stream beds and the like are what we are after.

We will definitely check out your recommendations komradebob, and Partridge Run is a place I had not heard of, so that too will be on our visitation list.

Wait... people just TAKE fossils? That hadn't even occurred to me. I guess I assumed that fossils are something you either go look at, or find and report to authorities so they can put them in a museum or something. For that matter, if you go somewhere and find a fossil and take it, isn't that stealing from whoever owns the property (or from the public, from all of us, if it's publicly-owned land)?

So yeah, no, don't take the fossils from the Petrified Sea Gardens, absolutely not. They're not yours. (I'm a bit gobsmacked that someone would just take them from anywhere, for that matter, 'cause again, they're not yours.)

I'll second Bob's suggestion of Thacher Park - I never noticed fossils on the Indian Ladder Trail, but there are many in other places of Thacher Park. Check out the exposed rock in some of the picnic areas. I remember my family would visit Knowles Flats (picnic area in Thacher) every year when I was a kid and we'd always find fossils there.

There are lots of shell fossils (and an occasional leaf) along the Catskill Creek in Greene County.

I've heard you can get some nice trilobites way out in western NY, in Hamburg. The website is annoying due to multiple PDF files, but they have some neat stuff going on year round: http://www.penndixie.org/

We haven't been there yet, but I'm hoping to do so soon.

Post fossil hunt report: SUCCESS!

We ended up going to Thatcher Park, or more accurately, we went to the Emma Thatcher Treadwell Nature Center. At the nature center, they had a nice fossil exhibit right when you walk in, as well as a great geological display of the Helderberg Escarpment. A young gentleman approached us and when I asked him if he knew of any locations nearby where we could explore for loose fossils (that is, not a place where we could take a jackhammer to mother nature), he immediately directed us to his personal favorite location in the park fro fossil hunting: an old limestone quarry off Carrick Rd., about a 1/2 mile's drive from the nature center. The quarry is part of Thatcher Park. You literally park your car on top of the limestone.

Here is a link to the location on Google Maps (you can see the quarry clearly, as well as some cars parked there when the satellite image was taken):


When we drove over, we followed the red trail in a bit until we found a pile of loose limestone. Soon we were literally tripping over fossils. Seriously, 8 out of 10 limestone rocks on the ground had shell and other fauna fossils.

While we were there we had a nice picnic lunch on the northern end of Thompson's Lake (right behind the nature center). There were loose fossils lying around the lake's edge as well.

I used to live in the last house before you get into the park (south side). There's a small creek that separates the property from the park lands. If you look at the rocks along that creek, especially near the waterfalls, you will find fossils, many in good shape. Be careful because the terrain can be slippery. You may also find good, edible mushrooms back there. It's a beautiful and interesting area.

Thank you for that limestone quarry location! I have found some very nice specimens there. I look forward to going back. It was a very fossil rich spot.

Folks, I'm sorry to say, but if that quarry is on the park property I don't think it's legal to remove anything. NYSOPRHP Rules & Regs are pretty clear on this, Section 375.1(e): Injury to property. No person shall make an excavation on or injure, destroy, deface,
remove, fill in, tamper with or cut any real or personal property, tree or other plant life.

I'd suggest contacting the New York State Park Police at (518) 584-2004 to verify. There may be exceptions or a permit process to allow removal.

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