Where to Find Fossils in Minnesota?

Minnesota is a great place for fossil hunting because it has a long and varied geological history.

The state has been covered by oceans, lakes, and glaciers, all of which have left behind fossils of the plants and animals that lived here in the past.

The oldest fossils in Minnesota are over 2 billion years old and were found in the Precambrian iron formations in northeastern Minnesota. 

These fossils are of primitive algae that lived in the shallow seas that covered much of the state at the time.

Fossils from the Paleozoic Era (542 to 252 million years ago) are also common in Minnesota. 

These fossils include trilobites, brachiopods, and crinoids, which were all marine creatures. 

During the Devonian Period (380 million years ago), southern Minnesota was once again covered by a sea, leaving fossils of fish and corals scattered throughout the area.

Fossils from the Mesozoic Era (252 to 66 million years ago) are less common in Minnesota, but they can still be found. 

Where to Find Fossils in Minnesota

These fossils include dinosaurs, crocodiles, and turtles. The most famous dinosaur fossils in Minnesota were found in the Cleveland Shale in southwestern Minnesota. 

These fossils include the duck-billed dinosaur Maiasaura and the armored dinosaur Ankylosaurus.

Fossils from the Cenozoic Era (66 million years ago to the present) are also found in Minnesota. These fossils include mammals, birds, and reptiles. The most common Cenozoic fossils in Minnesota are of Pleistocene mammals, such as mammoths, mastodons, and giant ground sloths.

As you can see there is a lot of history that you can explore in this state. So let’s get you started. 

Where to Find Fossils in Minnesota

Here are some places where you can find fossils in Minnesota:

Quarries: There are many abandoned quarries in Minnesota that are good places to find fossils. The most popular quarry for fossil hunting is Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester. This quarry is home to a variety of fossils, including trilobites, brachiopods, and crinoids.

Outcrops: Outcrops are places where the bedrock is exposed. These can be found along riverbanks, road cuts, and other areas where the ground has been disturbed. Some good places to look for fossils in outcrops include Glacial Lakes State Park in Becker and Blue Mounds State Park in Luverne.

Gravel pits: Gravel pits are another good place to find fossils. The gravel that is dug up from these pits often contains fossils that have been washed out of the bedrock. Some good places to look for fossils in gravel pits include Lilydale Regional Park in Minneapolis and Pipestone National Monument in Pipestone.

Streams and rivers: The rocks that line streams and rivers can also be a good source of fossils. Some good places to look for fossils in streams and rivers include the Minnesota River and the Mississippi River.

It is important to note that not all places where fossils can be found are open to the public. Some quarries and gravel pits are privately owned, and others are protected by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

It is always best to check with the property owner or the DNR before you go fossil hunting.

Can You Find Dinosaur Fossils in Minnesota?

Yes, you can find dinosaur fossils in Minnesota, but they are very rare. The most famous dinosaur fossils in Minnesota were found in the Cleveland Shale in southwestern Minnesota. 

These fossils include the duck-billed dinosaur Maiasaura and the armored dinosaur Ankylosaurus.

However, most of the dinosaur fossils found in Minnesota are the bones and teeth left behind by bloated dinosaur carcasses drifting out into the Western Interior Seaway. 

This seaway covered much of the Midwest during the Cretaceous period, and it is thought that many dinosaurs died and sank to the bottom of the sea. Their remains were then preserved in the sediment.

Other dinosaur fossils that have been found in Minnesota include a dromaeosaur claw and some hadrosaur bones. Dromaeosaurs were small, feathered dinosaurs that were closely related to the Velociraptor. 

Hadrosaurs were duck-billed dinosaurs that were common in North America during the Cretaceous period.

If you are interested in finding dinosaur fossils in Minnesota, you should contact the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 

They can provide you with information about the best places to look and the permits that you need to obtain.

You may like: Where to Find Fossils in Michigan?

Common Fossils in Minnesota

Here are some of the most common fossils found in Minnesota:

Trilobites: Trilobites, fascinating extinct marine arthropods, once thrived abundantly during the Paleozoic era. Sporting a resilient chitinous exoskeleton, they boasted a segmented body adorned with jointed limbs. These enigmatic creatures often left behind their fossilized traces, most commonly within the layers of limestone and shale rocks.

Brachiopods: Brachiopods, distant relatives of clams, belong to the realm of marine invertebrates. Their distinct feature is a two-part shell firmly anchored to the seafloor. The remnants of brachiopod life are frequently unearthed within the recesses of limestone and shale rock formations.

Crinoids: Crinoids, sometimes whimsically referred to as sea lilies, inhabit the world of marine invertebrates. These peculiar beings extend themselves skyward with long stems that tether them to the seafloor, crowned by a flower-like structure. The memory of crinoids is often preserved in the sedimentary layers of limestone and shale rocks.

Corals: Corals, builders of vibrant underwater colonies, boast a sturdy calcium carbonate skeleton. The legacy of coral life is etched into the annals of time within the intricate patterns of limestone formations.

Shark Teeth: Shark teeth, frequently discovered in the terrain of Minnesota, emerge from gravel pits and grace riverbanks. Each tooth serves as a unique clue, offering insights into the shark species from which it originated.

Clams: Clams, among the diverse marine invertebrates, showcase their presence through the union of hinged twin shells. The remnants of clam life are typically enshrined within the enduring embrace of limestone and shale rock.

Gastropods: Gastropods, both aquatic and terrestrial, bear the signature of a single, spiral shell. These enduring fossils often resurface within the layers of limestone and shale rocks, marking their ancient existence.

These are just a few of the many fossils that can be found in Minnesota. If you are interested in fossil hunting, there are many places where you can go. 

Be sure to check with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources before you go fossil hunting, as some places require a permit.

Minnesota Fossils Laws

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regulates the collection of fossils in Minnesota. 

The following are the basic laws and regulations governing fossil collecting in Minnesota:

  • It is illegal to collect fossils on state land without a permit.
  • A permit is required to collect fossils on private land, unless the landowner has given permission.
  • The type of permit required depends on the type of fossil and the location where it is being collected.
  • There are size and quantity limits on the number of fossils that can be collected.
  • Fossils must be collected in a way that minimizes damage to the site.
  • Fossils must be properly labeled and kept in a safe place.
  • Fossils cannot be sold or traded without a permit.

The DNR has a website with more information about fossil collecting laws and regulations in Minnesota. You can also contact the DNR for more information.

Here are some extra guidelines to enhance your fossil collecting experience in Minnesota:

1.Show respect for the environment by leaving the site undisturbed, just as you encountered it.

2.When on public land, ensure you have the necessary permit before collecting any fossils.

3.Prior to fossil hunting on private property, seek permission from the landowner as a courtesy.

4.Be conscious of any size and quantity restrictions when gathering fossils.

5.Employ collection techniques that minimize disruption to the site’s integrity.

6.To preserve the historical context, diligently label and securely store your fossils.

7.Remember that selling or trading fossils necessitates a proper permit.