Mississippi is not the first state that comes to mind when you think of rockhounding or fossil hunting. However, the state has a surprising variety of rocks and fossils to offer, thanks to its unique geological history.
Mississippi is located in the Gulf Coastal Plain, which is a region that was once covered by a shallow sea.
This sea teemed with life, and when it dried up, its sediments were deposited on the land. These sediments eventually formed the rocks and fossils that we see today.
Some of the most common rocks found in Mississippi include petrified wood, agates, jasper, and fossils of sharks, dinosaurs, and other creatures.
The best places to find these rocks and fossils are in the gravels and sands of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, as well as in the bluffs and riverbanks.
In addition to its abundance of rocks and fossils, Mississippi also has a number of state parks and other public lands that offer opportunities for rockhounding and fossil hunting
Where to Find Fossils in Mississippi?
Here are some places where you can find fossils in Mississippi:
WM Browning Fossil Park in Tishomingo County is a great place to find fossils of marine animals, such as sharks, fish, and clams.
Homochitto National Forest in southwestern Mississippi is home to a variety of fossils, including dinosaur bones, petrified wood, and shark teeth.
Tishomingo State Park in Tishomingo County is another good place to find fossils of marine animals.
Natchez Trace State Park in several counties along the Natchez Trace Parkway is a popular spot for finding fossils of sharks, fish, and turtles.
Cedar Bluff Clay in Leake County is known for its fossils of marine invertebrates, such as clams, snails, and corals.
Vinton Bluff Clay in Clay County is another good place to find fossils of marine invertebrates.
Cynthia Hinds in Adams County is a private property that is open to fossil hunters by appointment. It is known for its fossils of marine animals, including sharks, fish, and turtles.
It is important to note that not all of these places are open to the public for fossil hunting. Please check with the property owner or manager before you go.
You can also find fossils in the gravels and sands of the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
However, it is important to be aware of the laws and regulations governing fossil collecting in Mississippi. You should also take care not to damage the environment when you are collecting.
Are There Dinosaur Fossils in Mississippi?
Yes, there are dinosaur fossils in Mississippi. However, they are not as common as fossils of other animals, such as sharks and fish.
The dinosaurs that lived in Mississippi during the Cretaceous period were all herbivores, and they included duck-billed dinosaurs, tyrannosaurs, the armored nodosaurus, ornithomimosaurs (or ostrich-mimic dinosaurs), and dromaeosaurus (the “raptors”).
The most notable dinosaur fossil found in Mississippi was a 67-million-year-old horned dinosaur tooth that was discovered in New Albany in 2016. This is only one of three of those style fossils ever discovered in the Eastern U.S.
Other dinosaur fossils that have been found in Mississippi include a few bone fragments and some footprints. However, these fossils are not as well-preserved as the tooth, and it is difficult to identify the specific dinosaurs that they belonged to.
The reason why there are not as many dinosaur fossils in Mississippi as in other states is because Mississippi was mostly underwater during the Cretaceous period.
The dinosaurs that lived in Mississippi would have been washed away by the sea, or their fossils would have been buried under layers of sediment.
Despite the challenges, paleontologists are still working to learn more about the dinosaurs that lived in Mississippi. They are hopeful that future discoveries will help us to better understand this fascinating period of time.
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Where to Find Shark Teeth in Mississippi?
W.M. Browning Fossil Park, Tishomingo County: A treasure trove for shark teeth enthusiasts, W.M. Browning Fossil Park resides on the grounds of an ancient seabed. Shark teeth can often be unearthed in the gravel and sand along the park’s streambeds.
Homochitto National Forest, Southwestern Mississippi: Nestled within the Homochitto National Forest are a myriad of fossils waiting to be uncovered. This vast forest harbors not only shark teeth but also dinosaur bones and petrified wood, making it a fascinating location for fossil hunters.
Natchez Trace State Park, Along Natchez Trace Parkway: Spanning several counties along the picturesque Natchez Trace Parkway, Natchez Trace State Park boasts a rich fossil heritage. The park’s trails wind through the remnants of an ancient riverbed, with shark teeth often found nestled in the gravel and sand.
Cedar Bluff Clay, Leake County: While renowned for its marine invertebrate fossils like clams, snails, and corals, Cedar Bluff Clay also holds the occasional treasure of shark teeth concealed within its clay deposits.
Vinton Bluff Clay, Clay County: Another promising locale for marine invertebrate fossils, Vinton Bluff Clay, too, hides shark teeth within its clay formations, awaiting the discerning eye of a fossil enthusiast.
Embark on your shark tooth quest at these remarkable Mississippi locations and uncover the secrets of ancient marine life.
Mississippi Fossil Laws
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is responsible for regulating the collection of fossils in the state. The following are the basic rules and regulations governing fossil collecting in Mississippi:
- You must have a permit from the MDEQ to collect fossils on public land.
- You must get permission from the landowner to collect fossils on private land.
- You are only allowed to collect fossils that are visible at the surface of the ground.
- You are not allowed to use heavy equipment to collect fossils.
- You are not allowed to damage the environment when you are collecting fossils.
The MDEQ also has a list of protected fossils that are not allowed to be collected without a special permit. These fossils include:
- Dinosaur bones
- Marine reptiles
- Invertebrates that are more than 100 million years old
- Petrified wood that is more than 200 million years old
If you are caught collecting fossils in violation of these laws, you could be fined up to $1,000 and/or imprisoned for up to one year.
For more information on the laws and regulations governing fossil collecting in Mississippi, please visit the MDEQ website.
Here are some extra guidelines to enhance your fossil collecting experience in Mississippi:
1.Fossil Identification: It’s crucial to identify the fossils you discover. Mississippi harbors a diverse range of fossils, so knowing what you’re uncovering adds depth to your exploration.
2.Preservation Matters: Treat fossils with care to prevent any harm. Fossils are invaluable pieces of our natural history, and safeguarding them ensures their existence for future generations to appreciate.
3.Share Your Discoveries: Don’t keep your findings to yourself. If you stumble upon a particularly intriguing fossil, consider sharing it with the scientific community. This collaborative effort contributes to our understanding of Earth’s rich history of life.