It may sound quite nerdy, but one of my favorite pastimes as a child growing up in the western Pennsylvania and southeastern Ohio areas was to go rock hounding and fossil hunting with my friends. Something about the chance to discover something “new” (as in a newly discovered fossil) was always on my mind on those excursions, as well as the five cardinal rules of fossil rock collecting:
1. Never trespass
2. Only collect with permission
3. When in doubt, leave it there
4. Share your adventure
5. What you take in, take out.
It might come as a surprise that Ohio boasts some of the best places to collect fossils. From brachiopods to trilobites, there are literally hundreds of places that you and your family can go to get a glimpse of and collect treasures from the past. Just remember, you’re going to get dirty and have fun, so be prepared! Here are a few of my favorites.
Located in Sharonville, Ohio, this park is a fantastic place to find fossils that are Ordovician in age, or about 443 to 485 million years old. Just be sure to check in with the park management, and they’ll direct you to some prime collection areas.
Oakes Quarry Park
This park is located in Fairborn, Ohio, which is just outside of Dayton. It is approximately 190 acres in size, and they have been kind enough to designate some prime collection areas. It is also a former limestone quarry, and there are places where you can see evidence of the various glaciers that covered the area long ago. If you want to collect here, make sure you contact Fairborn Parks and Recreation at (937) 754-3090 to get permission.
Clinton County in southwest Ohio boasts one of the best places to find fossils at the edge of the Cincinnati Arch geological formation. If you’re looking for fossils from the Ordovician time (about 450 to 500 million years ago), you’ll have a lot of success here. Just make sure you get permission from the Ohio State Parks to collect.
If you’re looking for some awesome plant fossils, the banks of the middle fork of the Shade River rarely disappoint. Just make sure you keep your eyes open and make sure that you don’t trespass on any private property. My personal favorite place to look is along Fossil Run Road where it crosses the middle branch of Shade River.
What are some of your favorite places to go fossil hunting in Ohio?