Where to Find Fossils in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire, often celebrated for its stunning landscapes, picturesque mountains, and charming small towns, is also a hidden gem for fossil enthusiasts and rockhounds. 

While it may not be as famous as some other fossil-rich states, such as Montana or Wyoming, the Granite State has its own unique charm when it comes to fossil hunting. 

Its diverse geological history, from ancient seabeds to prehistoric forests, has left behind a wealth of fossil treasures waiting to be discovered. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into where to find fossils in New Hampshire, the types of fossils you can unearth, and the rules and regulations governing fossil collection in the state.

Where to Find Fossils in New Hampshire

Where to Find Fossils in New Hampshire?

Lake Winnipesaukee, one of New Hampshire’s most iconic lakes, is a great place to start your fossil hunting adventure. The lake’s shores, especially in areas like Alton Bay and Wolfeboro, are known for yielding a variety of fossilized shells and marine organisms. These fossils date back to the time when this region was covered by an ancient ocean. You can often find brachiopods, gastropods, and trilobites along the lake’s rocky beaches.

Ruggles Mine: Located in Grafton, Ruggles Mine is a historic copper and mica mine that has also provided fossil hunters with intriguing specimens. Visitors can explore the mine’s tunnels and surrounding areas to find fossils of ancient sea creatures like ammonites, crinoids, and corals. It’s important to note that Ruggles Mine is a privately owned property, and access may be limited, so be sure to check the latest visitor information before planning your trip.

Mount Washington: The White Mountains, including the famous Mount Washington, offer opportunities for finding ancient plant fossils. Hike the trails and explore the exposed rocks to discover imprints of ferns, leaves, and other plant life that thrived millions of years ago. The rugged terrain can make collecting a bit challenging, but the reward of uncovering these ancient botanical fossils is well worth it.

Conway Formation: Fossils from the Conway Formation, dating back to the Early Cambrian period, can be found in several locations in New Hampshire. This formation is famous for its trilobite fossils, which were among the earliest complex organisms on Earth. Some accessible sites include the vicinity of the town of Conway and the Kancamagus Highway.

Nashua Formation: Near the city of Nashua, you can explore the Nashua Formation for fossilized marine life from the Late Ordovician period. Look for brachiopods, crinoids, and bryozoans in the rocks along rivers and streams in the region.

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What Kind of Fossils Can I Find in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire offers a diverse range of fossils due to its complex geological history. Fossils found in the state can be categorized into several groups:

Marine Fossils:

The majority of fossils in New Hampshire are marine in origin, reflecting the ancient seas that once covered the region. These include brachiopods, gastropods, trilobites, ammonites, crinoids, and corals. These fossils provide a glimpse into the diverse marine life that inhabited the area millions of years ago.

Plant Fossils:

Fossilized plant remains, such as ferns and leaves, can be found in the White Mountains and other rocky outcrops. These fossils offer insights into the ancient flora of New Hampshire.

Dinosaur Fossils:

While New Hampshire is not known for dinosaur fossils, there have been occasional discoveries of dinosaur footprints in the state. These footprints, dating back to the Mesozoic Era, can be found in specific locations, though they are relatively rare.

Are There Any Dinosaur Fossils in New Hampshire?

While New Hampshire is not a hotbed for dinosaur fossils like some other states, there have been some exciting discoveries of dinosaur footprints. 

These footprints, known as trace fossils, offer valuable insights into the prehistoric creatures that once roamed the region.

One notable site for dinosaur footprints is Dinosaur Footprints Reservation in Holyoke, Massachusetts, which is relatively close to the New Hampshire border. While not located within the state itself, it’s a worthwhile destination for dinosaur enthusiasts in the region.

Do I Need a Permit to Collect Fossils in New Hampshire?

Collecting fossils in New Hampshire generally does not require a specific permit for personal use or hobbyist purposes. However, it is essential to follow certain guidelines and rules to ensure responsible and ethical fossil collecting. Keep the following points in mind:

Private Property: Always obtain permission if you plan to collect fossils on private property. Respect landowners’ rights and follow any specific rules they may have.

State Parks and Protected Areas: If you intend to collect fossils in state parks or protected areas, check with the relevant authorities for any specific regulations. Some locations may have restrictions on fossil collection to protect natural resources.

Leave No Trace: Practice responsible fossil hunting by leaving the environment as you found it. Avoid damaging rocks, habitats, or ecosystems during your search.

Safety: Ensure your safety while collecting fossils, especially in rocky or remote areas. Inform someone of your whereabouts and carry necessary equipment, such as safety gear and tools.

Educational or Scientific Purposes: If you plan to collect fossils for educational or scientific purposes, it’s advisable to contact local museums, universities, or geological organizations for guidance and potential collaboration.

Please note that regulations and guidelines may change over time, so it’s essential to check with local authorities or geological organizations for the most up-to-date information before you start collecting fossils.

How Do I Prepare Fossils I Find in New Hampshire?

Preparing fossils found in New Hampshire or any other location requires patience, precision, and the right tools. Here are the basic steps to prepare fossils:

Cleaning: Remove dirt, debris, and excess rock from the fossil using brushes, picks, and dental tools. Be gentle to avoid damaging the fossil.

Consolidation: Some fossils may be fragile or fragmented. Stabilize them using consolidants like acetone or cyanoacrylate glue.

Extraction: For fossils embedded in rock, carefully remove the surrounding rock using chisels, hammers, or air scribes. Work slowly and delicately to avoid damaging the fossil.

Preservation: To prevent deterioration, consider applying a consolidant or preservative to the fossil’s surface. This helps protect it from exposure to air and moisture.

Repair: If the fossil is broken, you can use adhesives specially designed for fossils to repair and reconstruct it. Ensure proper alignment and support during the repair process.

Display: Once prepared, you can choose to display your fossils in a collection or share them with educational institutions or museums. Proper labeling and documentation are essential for scientific value.

It’s important to note that fossil preparation can be a delicate and time-consuming process. If you’re new to it, consider seeking guidance from experienced fossil preparators or joining a local fossil club or organization to learn the techniques and best practices.

Where Can I Learn More About Fossils in New Hampshire?

To deepen your knowledge of fossils in New Hampshire and connect with fellow fossil enthusiasts, consider the following resources:

Museums: Visit local museums, such as the Museum of New Hampshire History in Concord or the New Hampshire Museum of Natural History in Warner. These institutions often have fossil exhibits and educational programs.

Geological Organizations: Join geological clubs or organizations in New Hampshire, like the New Hampshire Geological Society. These groups often host events, lectures, and field trips related to fossils and geology.

Online Forums and Communities: Explore online forums, social media groups, and websites dedicated to fossil hunting and rockhounding. These platforms are excellent for sharing experiences, asking questions, and learning from experienced collectors.

Books and Publications: Invest in field guides and publications that focus on the geology and paleontology of New Hampshire. These resources can help you identify fossils and understand the state’s geological history.

Local Events and Workshops: Keep an eye out for local events, workshops, and fossil-related activities in your area. These can provide hands-on learning opportunities and a chance to meet fellow enthusiasts.


New Hampshire, with its rich geological history, offers a rewarding experience for fossil hunters and rockhounds alike. 

From marine fossils along the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee to plant fossils in the White Mountains, the state’s diverse landscapes hold fascinating treasures from the past. While fossil collection in New Hampshire generally does not require permits, it’s essential to follow ethical guidelines, respect private property rights, and prioritize safety during your fossil-hunting adventures. 

By doing so, you can contribute to our understanding of the region’s prehistoric past while enjoying the thrill of discovery.