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What Are Fossils?
Where Are Fossils?
Where to Look for Fossils
How to Look for Fossils
Discover What You Have

Dinosaur Dig

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Where to Look for Fossils

Photo of sedimentary rocks with slanting strata
The slanting strata of these sedimentary rocks shows that these rocks have been uplifted.

Geologic forces of uplifting and erosion can reveal long-buried fossils. Major events of uplifting occur when two plates of land on the earth's surface crash into each other. One plate goes under; the other goes up. Many mountains are formed through uplifting. Erosion happens when water or wind wears away bits of rock. The Grand Canyon is a huge example of erosion. The Colorado River and dusty winds carved through the many layers of sedimentary rock, the different layers telling fossilized stories of life on Earth. The deepest layers tell the oldest stories, because they were deposited first.

photo of paleontologist working with grid
In the field: A paleontologist maps an excavation.

Clue #4: Look for areas where uplifting and erosion have exposed sedimentary rock. Explore mountains, bluffs, buttes, canyons, river banks, deserts, cliffs or eroded hillsides.

The Bureau of Land Management oversees public lands where access and fossil hunting is allowed. Or, try looking in your own backyard (with proper clearance from a responsible adult). Be aware not to trespass on private property, and don't disturb protected lands in State and National Parks.

The risks of fossil hunting: Scientists piece together the mystery of the past by studying fossils. Be aware of the value of fossils in our understanding of life on Earth. Taking fossils can potentially destroy the value of a site. Always be careful when digging! Cliffs can be very dangerous. No fossil is worth getting hurt over.


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