One of my absolute favorite activities with my kids in every season, but especially the summer, is to go fossil hunting! If you were to ask my kids, I might be a tad bit more excited than they are about fossils, and they have just learned to go along with my enthusiasm. “That’s my mom. The fossil lady.”I moved to the Cincinnati area for the first time when I was 21, fresh out of college. I had heard about fossils, of course, but I had no idea that there were places in the world where you could literally just be walking along, look down, and FIND one! Right in Ohio, no less!
My Early Discovery of Local Fossils
As I began to have my own kids, we spent a lot of time hiking, exploring parks, trails, and creeks, because I wanted them to love the great outdoors. At some point, a friend of mine, whose husband grew up in the area and has fond memories of geology camp as a kid, introduced us to the local fossils.
I slowly became addicted. We have a creek near our town that runs through a park, and as I started to look I got better and better at spotting fossils. I quickly realized: they were everywhere. This whole time, under my feet.
At first, I would spot various fossil pieces all together in one large chunk of rock. Over time, I started to be able to spot the little individual fossils, too. One excellent resource I found was a PDF published by the Five Rivers Metro Park in Dayton, with a very simple description and sketch of each of the common fossil types in the region: horn coral, bryozoa, crinoid, cephalopod, gastropod, brachiopod and trilobite. I made it my mission to find every type, even the rare and elusive trilobite.
Just this fall, about six years into my obsession, I finally found a trilobite to complete my collection! By now, I have a reputation for being a big fossil-nerd among my friends. If I am down near a rocky creek bed, I won’t make eye contact with anyone for hours. My eyes are glued to the ground!Tips for Fossil Hunting with Kids
It doesn’t take much to start hunting and finding fossils! I am living proof of that. You might find these tips helpful to get started:
- Learn what the basic fossil types are! You can start with the PDF above, or you can head to one of the many museums or parks. Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati Nature Center, Fort Ancient, and Ceasar Creek Park are some good places to start. I have even started to teach my own little classes on fossil hunting in my town of Lebanon! If you know what the types look like, you will find that you can more easily spot them among the rocks.
- Check out the known fossil spots. Pretty much any creek, river, or lake and there are many in the area. Ceasar Creek Park, Kheener Park, and Trammel Park are some of the local favorites, but I can guarantee you can find some just about anywhere there is water. Just make sure that you know the rules about keeping fossils you find in public or private areas you visit.
- Fossil hunting can be very dirty, so be prepared. Fossil hunting in itself is not necessarily messy. However, if you have kids in tow, good luck keeping them out of the water, especially on a hot day! We always have a spare change of clothes in the car, special waterproof shoes for the creek, and a good sense of humor. My kids spend less time fossil hunting, and more time climbing trees and splashing in nature when we go hunting. I also keep plastic trash bags to put wet, muddy clothes and shoes in after.
- Bring along some containers to collect your finds. We like an old lemon or orange mesh bag for the ones that aren’t too small. The mesh lets excess water, dirt, or sand slip through. Bring along plastic baggies for smaller finds, and don’t forget a backpack to keep it all together.
- Go with someone who knows. Having a friend to help point out fossils will help you pick up quicker, and everything is more fun with friends, for kids and moms alike! Even if you don’t have a resident fossil friend like me around (my poor kids…), find another friend interested in learning more about fossils, and dive in together!
Do you love fossil hunting too? Drop a comment and let me know! We should be friends!