Park Fossils

Find Your Park illustration child cleaning a fossil, text "Dig into prehistory paleontology"

More than 280 National Park Service areas preserve fossils. However only 16 of those were established wholly or in part for their fossils!

Fossils in NPS areas could be found in

  • The rocks or sediments of a park

  • Museum collections

  • Cultural contexts (building stones, artifacts, historical legends or documents)

Viewing fossils from any of these settings at a national park offers an uncommon opportunity to experience the past. At a national park, you can stand in the exact spot where a fossil tree was rooted or where a fossil animal walked millions of years ago! Fossils from the parks are on exhibit in museums around the world and millions of people can experience them. But only visitors to the actual parks experience the tremendous sense of place and connection to where the fossils were originally found and are still being found.

Since 1916, The Organic Act has directed parks to "conserve the scenery" and natural objects, including fossils. In 2009, the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act was signed into law, requiring parks to manage and protect fossils for scientific and educational values. Learn more about
fossil policy and regulations in the National Park Service.

Park staff and paleontologists work together to maintain fossils for scientific study and public education. It is exciting to find a fossil, but important to protect it. If you find a fossil in a park, leave the fossil where it is, take a photo, and share your discovery with a park ranger. Removing fossils from the sites where they were found will result in most of the interesting and valuable information about that fossil being lost forever.

canyon viewpoint

Fossil Parks Master List

National Park System units with documented paleontological resources include sites where fossils occur in-place in the rock (in situ), in museum collections, and/or within a cultural context. Go to the Fossil Parks Master List.

caver in large passage

Fossils Through Geologic Time

The Geologic Time Scale is a way of organizing Earth's 4.5 billion-year history. The time scale is divided into four large periods of time—the Precambrian, Paleozoic Era, Mesozoic Era, and Cenozoic Era. National parks preserve fossils from each of these time blocks. Go to Fossils Through Geologic Time.

ranger talking to visitors

Fossil Park Highlights

Many National Park units have made information about their fossils and paleontology programs available on the Internet. Follow these links to learn more about educational programs and fossil resources in the National Parks. Go to Fossil Park Highlights.

National Fossil Day coin

National Fossil Day ™

National Fossil Day is a celebration organized by the National Park Service and the American Geosciences Institute to promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils, as well as to foster a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational values. Go to the National Fossil Day website

Last updated: March 1, 2023


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