Where to Find Fossils in California?

California is a great location for rockhounding especially if you’re looking for fossils.

There are many locations to explore such as river valleys, cliffs, hillsides, and artificial exposures like quarries and road cuttings, where rock layers of the ideal age are exposed.

You can visit several of the most notable fossil locations in Southern California and Northern to learn further about California fossilized and the rocks in which they are found. 

Where To Find Fossils In California?

The Kingston Range of a far northeast Mojave Desert has the earliest remains of species in Southern California. 

Trilobites, coral, plants and invertebrate life forms have been found in ocean-dwelling animals for 1.5 billion years.

 Ice Age fossils can be found all over Southern California, especially at Rancho La Brea’s “tar pits” and Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet.

Where to Find Fossils in California?

The San Bernardino Ranges were raised along the San Andreas Fault over the last 3 million years. 

These mountains formed a barrier that altered weather systems, resulting in the Mojave Desert as we know it today. 

Hadrosaurs (also known as “duck-billed” dinosaurs) are found along the California coast from San Francisco to San Diego.

Paleontologists discovered a series of fossils in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains foothills. 

The site, dated to a Miocene epoch, is regarded as one of California’s most important fossil discoveries. 

Even when on duty inside the Mokelumne River Watershed, park employee and naturalist Greg Francek came across a petrified forest.

According to Andrew Chamings of SFGate, the site originated in the Miocene epoch and is regarded as one of the most important fossils found in California history. According to the Chico State Today, a park ranger and biologist Greg Francek of the EBMUD or East Bay Municipal Utility District first discovered a fossilized forest while patrolling in the Mokelumne River Watershed in the Sierra Nevada.

There are still other fossil findings like these in Northern California. 

According to EBMUD, the last time mastodon fossils were discovered in California was during pipeline building in 1947. A horse, a tapir, an ancient 400-pound salmon, and a camel the size of a giraffe were among the discoveries.

You may like: Where to Find Fossils in Alabama?

Where To Find Shark Teeth In California?

Sharktooth Hill is a well-known fossil site in Bakersfield, California, within the Sierra Nevada foothills. 

Collectors can find fossils of various marine species here, from whales to birds, but the Carcharodon/Carcharocles megalodon is perhaps the most famous.

The Round Mountain Silt, a layer of non-cohesive sediments between 16 and 15 million years old, is underlain by Sharktooth Hill, located in the Langhian Age of the Miocene Epoch in the south of Round Mountain.

The rocks upon the portion of a Central Valley dip slightly to the west, exposing older (unit Tc) rocks on the east and newer (unit QPc) rocks on the west. On its journey out from the Sierra Nevada, the Kern River carves a canyon through all these soft rocks, whose granitic boulders are seen in pink.

Dinosaur Fossils Found In California

In California, only a few dinosaur bones have been discovered. Why? Because all of California was submerged by the water during the dinosaur era. Any deposits collected in the dry land areas had already eroded. 

So why do we locate dinosaur fossils in formerly marine areas?

They could have perished in a stream and been washed out to sea via current flow, as large creatures do occasionally now. We know the dinosaur bones were formed in the oceans because we detect marine animal shells upon those dinosaur bones and the sediments around them.

Here are some of the dinosaur that have been found:

Hadrosaurs (also known as duck-billed dinosaurs) were enormous herbivorous dinos that lived close to the end of the Cretaceous period, alongside Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus. The majority of dinosaur fossils discovered in California are solitary hadrosaur bones, distinguished by their characteristic pattern of knobs and attachment of muscle scars.

Armored Dinosaur, a portion of the bones of these species was discovered at a dig near Carlsbad in 1987. This dinosaur was the first of its kind to be found westward of the Rocky Mountains, and it gave crucial information concerning connections between the west coast and the country’s heartland.

Fossils Collection Laws In California?

The same laws for collecting fossils vary slightly amongst public areas, based on the department in charge of the land.

Vertebrate remains are restricted on all public grounds (federal, state, county, and municipal), and collecting them requires a permit.

On properties controlled by the Parks Service and the US Forest Service, fossil gathering is prohibited.

California state law also protects plant and animal fossils on national, local, and municipal property (e.g., municipal and surrounding counties beaches). 

However, you can get a permit from the department that governs the areas.

It’s like removing a body from a crime scene if you take a fossil. This is especially relevant because vertebrate fossils are more common than invertebrates and plant fossils.

If you find a fossil, it’s ideal to first take a photo instead of removing the specimen from its natural setting. Especially if you don’t have the necessary permits. 

Fossil Hunting Bay Area

There are several bay area localities in California where you might start looking for fossils, including a fantastic tiny fossil site for youngsters and beginners located southwest of Pleasanton, California. Clams, pectin, and gastropods are abundant. Carving out some great display pieces is possible.

From Pleasanton, take 680 West to the Sunol Road exit. Continue straight off the exit for 1.2 miles toward a parking space adjacent to a visible railroad cutout. The entire structure is made out of fossilized shells. It’s a cliff face, and there’s traffic on the RR tracks from time to time.

Another spot in Capitola. Capitola is a small town a few miles to the south of Santa Cruz that is easy to find. Free public parking is available and highly recommended. Gastropods, bivalves, beach dollars, whale waste, crabs, and scarce shark teeth have all been discovered.

For many years, the Bean Creek Sand Dollars Locality has brought smiles to children and adults alike. Sand Dollars is the flavor of choice in the Santa Margarita form. They’re effortless to get by, so it’s such a good area for newcomers.