Finding Fossils in Wyoming
If you are fossil crazy, or maybe like us you are heading toward Glacier National Park, the Kemmerer, Wyoming area is a great place to spend a day. I don’t want to give a false sense of Kemmerer, WY as a destinaton, this is the desert after all, but we had a great day in the area.
Staying in Kemmerer, Wyoming
Kemmerer, WY is home to the J.C. Penny historic district. You can visit the J.C. Penny homestead and the first few J.C. Penny stores. The Penny family actually lived above their first store, then as the store prospered they moved into the homestead. There is also a statue of Mr. Penny in the park. There isn’t a ton to see at this stop, but since you made it to Kemmerer might as well!
We stayed at the Best Western Plus in Kemmerer and it was perfectly fine. They had a nice pool that the kids enjoyed.
We picked up pizza from Scoungy Moose Pizza, located by the baseball fields and fairgrounds. It is literally in a house with overgrown vines, easy to miss if you are not looking for it. It’s a takeout-only place. The owner is a riot, so make sure to chat with him a bit. He knows the area well. A large pizza fed our family of five easily.
We took the pizza to Dimondville Town Park. This park is eclectic but hits all the right notes for a road-trip picnic spot. There are all sorts of crazy playground equipment that our kids loved playing on. There are plenty of picnic tables, trash cans, and a bathroom. Parking is ample and older kids will appreciate the horseshoe pits and basketball courts.
In the morning don’t forget to grab a cup of coffee at the Fossil Fuel Coffee Company, located “downtown.” This cute coffee company almost seems out of place in Kemmerer, but I’m hopeful it signals things to come. You can order ahead and pick it up.
There are two places where you can actively look for your own fossils in Kemmerer. They are both located down the same BLM dirt road. DO NOT FOLLOW GOOGLE MAPS. (We did and had to turn around when it wanted us to drive through a much too narrow tunnel and up a very steep dirt road.) Instead, head back toward Scroungy Moose Pizza and follow the signs to “Fossil Quarry”. Directions are also available on both companies’ web pages.
We visited Fossil Safari which allows you to pay by the hour. The other option is American Fossil Quarry, they have larger time packages. The other big difference is that Fossil Safari says if you find anything rare they are going to keep it, American Fossil Quarry lets you keep it. We knew that the kids only had an hour of “fossil digging” in them, so we went with the hourly option.
No matter who you pick you actually drive your vehicle into the open quarry. They provide all the tools necessary to break open the lawyers of limestone. If you want gloves though you need to bring your own. They had eye protection for us, which we very much needed. The other thing you need to pack is stuff to pack up the fossils you find. We brought along some newspaper and cereal boxes.
Then you just start cracking open these rocks to see what you could find. The five of us cracked rock for an hour (the little one was given a pile of old rock that he was allowed to just smash with a hammer) and we found more fish fossils than we knew what to do with. In the end, they will turn on the saw and show you how to cut your fossils so that they look professional. It was a great time.
Next head to Fossil Butte National Monument. Here you will see some of the best-preserved fossils found in this area of Wyoming. Several of the museum items are replicas, because the real pieces, found here were sent to museums like the Field Museum and the Smithsonian.
The Fossil Butte Jr. Ranger packet is one of the best we have seen. It really gets the kids to explore the museum. If you go on a weekday, there are rangers actively working to preserve and study fossils and a viewing window allows you to watch and ask questions.
You will also find two kid-friendly hiking trails and a picnic area. It was so hot and our kids had had enough, so we bypassed the hiking trails. We did use the picnic area though. It has a lovely little gazebo that provided much-needed shade and scenic views. One of the hiking trails leaves from the picnic area.
We fit this day of fossil fun into our Glacier National Park Road Trip. It would also work if you were driving to Yellowstone or into Idaho. You could also do this as a long weekend from the Denver metro area. Just call to verify that fossil quarries are open, as that was the highlight of this part of the trip.
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