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Finding fossils throughout New York is not as challenging as one might believe it to be. Just outside of Buffalo, visitors will find that there's one prehistoric park, in particular, that is not only home to many fossilized artifacts - but is also home to fossil-hunting!

The Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve is a beautiful place to spend the day in Hamburg, and it's also a historic part of Western New York's landscape. Not only is it ranked as the number one fossil park in the U.S., but it's also been referred to as a 'global geological treasure.' For those ready to find those fossils in Upstate New York, Penn Dixie is the place to be - here's why.

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All About Penn Dixie Fossil Park, Home To New York's Prehistoric Collection

Located only about 15 minutes outside the city of Buffalo, visitors can find Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve. This incredible piece of prehistoric history covers a total area of 54 acres, inside what was once a former cement quarry. There, park guests have the chance to dig for their own fossils, which often include specimens such as:

  • Brachiopods
  • Trilobites
  • Crinoids

And even more can be found, depending on how thoroughly one searches their dig site. The park currently holds the Guinness World Record for the 'World's Largest Fossil Dig,' which was completed with the help of 995 participants. Those who visit will get to experience this for themselves, with a real piece of Devonian Period history to take home afterward!

Related: Messel Pit Fossils: The UNESCO Quarry & Window Into The Past

What To Know About Digging For Fossils At Penn Dixie

Fossil hunting is one of the most thrilling activities visitors can do at Penn Dixie, especially since guests can keep their findings! The fossils found at Penn Dixie were discovered when a layer of rock that was deposited during the Devonian Period was exposed during quarrying operations. The rock bed - and its fossils - are estimated to be 380 million years old. While the Penn Dixie Cement Corporation is no longer in operation, the acreage it once sat upon is where the Penn Dixie Fossil Park sits today.

  • Fun Fact: Penn Dixie sees about 15,000 visitors annually from all over the world.

Those who are eager to hunt for their own fossils at Penn Dixie will have plenty of help and guidance from the park's staff, who are well-versed in fossil-finding. While the most commonly found fossils belong to that of the trilobite species, any number of once-undersea creature fossils could potentially be discovered here. Visitors can use the Official Penn Dixie Field Guide to begin their search, along with tools, identification cards, and tips from Penn Dixie's staff.

While Penn Dixie does allow guests to keep the fossils they find, if it's something particularly unique, the park staff will ask to take a photo of it for their records!

Tips, Hours, & Rates For Fossil Hunting At Penn Dixie

Since Penn Dixie does cover such an expansive area, visitors are likely to have a decent space to themselves without the park ever feeling over-encumbered with people. While weekends are the busiest, there really is no 'bad' time to visit the park! Additionally, guests are free to spend as much time there from open to close as they'd like - some visitors even come back to the park multiple days in a row to devote several days to their fossil hunting.

According to Penn Dixie, guests are almost 100% guaranteed to find a fossil when they visit as long as they spend time searching for one. The park excavates a new layer of the old quarry every spring, therefore, something is always bound to be found by visitors each year.

What To Bring When Fossil Hunting

Although Penn Dixie does offer equipment rentals, it's suggested that guests bring with them some kind of bucket to carry their fossils in. Additionally, they recommend that guests bring these tools if they'd prefer to come with their own:

  • Rock hammer with a steel handle
  • Small sledgehammer
  • Chisel
  • Pry bars
  • Safety goggles
  • Newspaper or bubble wrap
  • A bag or bucket to keep wrapped fossils in

Visitors will have more luck finding fossils on the surface after heavy rain!

Rates For Fossil Hunting At Penn Dixie

The entrance fees at Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Reserve are as follows:

Adults Seniors (62+) Military Students Children (3-17) Members
$14 $13 $13 $13 $11 Free

For those who are renting equipment for a fossil dig, the prices are as follows:

  • Tool Set Rental: $5/day
  • Reusable Canvas Totes: $5.99/ea

A unique fossil hunting experience in Upstate New York awaits visitors at Penn Dixie Fossil Park. With new areas to explore each year and a nearly 100% chance of finding something incredible, it's no wonder that so many people visit from all over the world to find - and keep - their very first piece of a prehistoric landscape.