Skip to content
A beginners guide to finding dinosaur fossils

icon picker
Finding fossils

In case you've never hunted for dinosaur fossils, welcome! Here's a brief crash course.
Dinosaur fossil hunting is a cross between a few different activities that you've probably done:
Hiking: depending upon how much you enjoy walking (and how good your eye is), you can hike for miles without stopping to investigate a site.
Fishing: many (unlucky) people can spend hours (or sometimes days) looking for potential fossil sites without finding anything.
Crime-scene investigation: usually, a fossil is not obviously sticking out of the ground ready for you to just pick up. Fossil scraps (e.g. bone scraps) are what you get. When you find them, you have to reverse-engineer how they got there and track them back to the source.
Gardening: the bones you find are typically eroding out of the ground. So, actually getting at them is going to require some (delicate) excavation. No pickaxes or shovels here... think toothbrushes and paint brushes.
Jigsaw puzzles: sadly, most fossilized bone has been weathered and is quite brittle. So you'll need a keen eye to see how the pieces go back together, along with Paleobond (a type of krazy glue).

What to bring
Fortune favors the prepared! It's not wise to go alone... bring these items for a successful outing.
Hiking boots: The more comfortable the better (broken in, please!) And, waterproof, since you'll probably be going through muddy water or fording rivers.
Sunscreen / insect repellent: the field season for paleontology is during the summer, and out on the range it can get quite hot, muggy, and buggy.
Water: at least a gallon per person per day.
Food and snacks
Some flavor of GPS (either a dedicated device or your phone with onX Hunt installed): useful for finding your way back to the car and for marking interesting sites to come back to.
Toothbrushes, paint brushes: useful for lightly cleaning fossils while in matrix
Hunting knife: useful for digging in the dirt in a precise way
Aluminum foil: holds the bones together so you can get it to back to your worksite and clean it up.
Paleobond: a special kind of quick-drying superglue that you can use to get your bone back into shape.
[Walk around in washes]
[Keep your eyes down, look for unusual looking rocks, especially porous ones]
[Tapping your teeth]
So you've found bone scatter
[Iron citerite]
Prepping for extraction
[Iron citerite]

Want to print your doc?
This is not the way.
Try clicking the ⋯ next to your doc name or using a keyboard shortcut (
) instead.