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How, and where to find fossils

Updated on November 8, 2014

While looking for arrowheads, I found something much older.

I was just a teenager at the time. My friend John and I had spent the morning walking through a freshly tilled field looking for arrow heads, with little to show for our efforts. To escape the heat we had sauntered off into the shade of some nearby trees. We were just shooting the breeze when I noticed the black glassy tooth embedded in a large limestone boulder. "That looks like a shark's tooth," I exclaimed.

"it is," John replied. "Didn't you know the rock in these hills are loaded with fossilized shark teeth?"

For a moment I was silent, not wanting to divulge my ignorance on the topic. "No" I finally grumbled, and that was the beginning of my fossil hunting days. Over the years I collected many shark's teeth, along with other fossils as well, but somehow managed to lose them in time. Today I have a new collection, but some of these I have today were purchased. Of course I had rather find them myself, as the real treasure is the adventure of the find.


Fossil hunting can be a great adventure for the entire family

Fossil hunting can be a great way for the family to spend a weekend together, just make sure to do a little research about the laws that govern it in your particular state before you begin. Of course you will also want to find the best places to look for them as well. In Florida, Venice Beach is known for the shark's teeth found there, and most of the surf shops sell the tools needed to dig them up and sift them out of the sand. Peace River is another place that's popular in Florida. There you might find a megalodon tooth, woolly mamoth, or mastodon tooth. Most often the fossils that you will find are smaller prehistoric shark's teeth. There's a number of books on the subject as well. If you are considering fossil hunting as a hobby, then you may need a license. In Florida you do not need a license for shark's teeth, shell, or fossilized plants. On state owned land, if you want to collect vertebrae fossils, for instance a mastodon tooth, you will need a permit. The permit costs five dollars and can be purchased through the University of Florida. A link is provided below. Animal fossils fall under the field of paleontology. Human artifacts like arrow heads and other tools, along with ancient human remains fall under archaeology, or anthropology. The laws regulating each are quite different.

For fossil hunting this is a good link to check out,

http://www.dep.state.fl.us/geology/geologictopics/fossil.htm

To apply for a permit use this link, flmnh.ufl.edu/vertpaleo/vppermit.htm

If you are interested in archaeology, then check out the link below. The state of Florida requires a minimum of a graduate degree in the field of archaeology, or anthropology, and a year of hands on experience under the tutelage of a professional archaeologist.

www.flheritage.com/archaeology/education/faq.cfm

Archaeology permit requirements, www.flheritage.com/archaeology/education/permit.cfm

You may also want to look at some of the books available on fossils. You can find a number of good books on Amazon and EBay. Below I have included photos of some of my fossils. These were collected across the country, but the megalodon teeth came from Florida. Some of these fossils were purchased. Not only is collecting fossils fun, but they can make great display pieces.

At the bottom of this article I have included information on two places that offer lodging on the Peace River, which is known for its fossils.

Megalodon teeth with a quarter for reference

These megalodon shark teeth were found in Florida
These megalodon shark teeth were found in Florida

Fossil Hunting on the Peace River

The mastodon tooth and the woolly mammoth tooth pictured below in this article, were both found on the Peace River, as well as some of the megalodon teeth. In the Fall of 2013, we had heavy rain in Florida that caused the Peace River to flood. It took several months for the water to return to its normal height. When the river floods, it helps wash away fossils from the earth. So I'm sure that there are fossils still waiting to be found from last year's flood.

In the winter we have our driest months, and that's the best time to go looking for fossils on the Peace River. There's other reasons as well. In the cooler months the reptiles are less active. You may not see any snakes or alligators, but they do habituate this river. When the river is low as it is in the winter months, so not only is the water it is much easier to see an alligator than when the water is higher and sometimes murky. There's less algae in the water as well, so it is more clear. This does not mean that you shouldn't try to fossil hunt there in the summer, only that winter is usually the ideal time to fossil hunt there.

If you do plan to go fossil hunting, it doesn't matter whether you go to the beach, or a river, you will need a small shovel and a fossil sifter. The sifter can be purchased on-line at EBay. I will also have a how to hub in the near future showing how you can make your own sifter.

I do not know this seller, but he has a good EBay rating.

www.ebay.com/itm/SAND-AND-SHELL-FLOATING-SIEVE-SIFTER-8-MESH-14-X-20-X-3-MADE-IN-USA-/160667544536?pt=US_Hand_Tools&hash=item2568882bd8


Fossilized ferns and a fossilized leaf

A fossilized Priscacara

A woolly mammoth tooth. This tooth is almost twelve inches long and is missing the roots.

The woolly mammoth tooth alongside a mastadon tooth. Notice not only the difference in size, but the physical difference as well.

Both of these teeth were found in Florida i the Peace River
Both of these teeth were found in Florida i the Peace River

A rock slab with three nightia fish

Here we have a fossilized crab, sea urchin, brittle star, and a trilobyte

A diplomystus

A mioplosus

Places that specialize in fossil hunts

There's a number of places in Florida, and other parts of the country as well, that specialize in fossil hunting. There are two such places on the Peace River. You can click onto their links which I have provided below for more information about what they offer. The best time of the year for fossil hunting on the Peace River is in the winter months when the water level is low. In the Winter the river is usually around a foot deep on average. Please note that at the time this article was published, the campgrounds on the lower link allows ATVs on some trails. So it can be noisy. Call or go to their website for the specifics.

www.ttpeaceriver.com/cabins


www.bing.com/local?lid=YN197x4188006&id=YN197x4188006&q=Peace+River+Campground+Arcadia+FL&FORM=LARE


You will probably never see an alligator, but they are there.

It's rare that anyone gets attacked by an alligator, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be caustious. I  took this picture at Mayaca River, which is very close to Peace River.
It's rare that anyone gets attacked by an alligator, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be caustious. I took this picture at Mayaca River, which is very close to Peace River.

I have never seen any large alligators on Peace River, but I have seen small alligators like these, which means there are big ones around.

Collecting fossils as a hobby

Collecting fossils is a great hobby. There are so many different types of fossils to be found, with new discoveries still being made. For the amateur it's a great way to learn about the prehistoric animals that once roamed this planet, and there's no d├ęcor quite sophisticated as a nice fossil display. If you don't want to get your feet wet, or dirty, then there are many sites and stores that specialize in selling fossils. Many collectors have never stuck a shovel in dirt.

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    • Randall Guinn profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Guinn 

      4 years ago from Pinellas Park, Florida

      Hi Handymanbill, the fossilized ferns in slate rock in the second photo are from PA.

      Thanks for reading,

      Randall

    • handymanbill profile image

      Bill 

      4 years ago from western pennsylvania

      When I was 6 or 7 I used to have a place that had a lot of shale rock and if you broke it right you would finds ferns in them. My dad also had a really big arrowhead collection that he donated to the Pittsburgh Meseum. Interesting subject.

    • Randall Guinn profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Guinn 

      4 years ago from Pinellas Park, Florida

      Hi Jackie, if you are referring to the silver coins taken away from the treasure hunters and given to Spain, that was rotten. The divers should have been compensated, and at least given a share for finding it. If any country deserved any of it, it was the country that it was taken from.

      DREAM ON & Fiddleman thanks so much for reading. DREAM ON, I couldn't believe the things I used to find in the hills in Alabama. Who would think that you could find prehistoric shark's teeth in the hills so far inland. Back when I was a kid we didn't have video games, or even cable, so we actually lived life instead watching someone else pretend to on TV. Once my friend John found what he thought was a canon ball while scuba diving. He took it to a lady that ran a little pawn shop, because she dealt in relics. Well, she also dealt in rocks and gems, and it turned out to be a geode. The lady cut it in half for him, and he gave me one of the halves that I still have today. Later on he went to work for a company that cut tunnels through the hills for highways, and he found dozens of them during his work with that company. The last time that I saw him, about fifteen years ago, he gave a geode to me, and one to my son, that we both still have. I may add pictures of those to this hub, along with some of my arrow heads.

      Thanks again everyone for reading!

      Randall

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 

      4 years ago

      I use to love to collect rocks as a kid. I was happy to find odd shape ones with different colors. Never did I find anything close to what you have. I am amazed of what things you could find. My biggest find was coming across a 3 inch size piece of sea glass in Massachusetts. I think I would go digging every day. Thank you for sharing and exploring the world right under our feet.

    • profile image

      Fiddleman 

      4 years ago

      interesting hub.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Oh well I was just thinking of how they do divers. So bad.

    • profile image

      Randall Guinn 

      4 years ago

      One Florida judge once said that the federal government would rather see it covered up beneath roads or buildings than have it discovered by an amateur collector. It doesn't matter to them, that the majority of discoveries are made by amateurs.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      These are beautiful. My oldest brother, now passed away, use to collect arrowheads and he had the most beautiful collection that was supposed to go on display in the Smithsonian but something happened to it and I will never see it again. He gave me a couple of arrowheads and I have a rock that was used for skinning animals I think he said. Anyway it is such an eerie feeling to have my hand and thumb fit around that rock and go right in place that was uses so many years ago. I understand your love for the hunt. If I was on the beach I would probably look for pearls! haha

      Am surprised the government doesn't want half of it; lol.

    • Randall Guinn profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Guinn 

      4 years ago from Pinellas Park, Florida

      The mamoth tooth, and some mastodon's teeth came from the Peace River in Florida. What kind of fossils do you find in there in Canada?

    • Randall Guinn profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Guinn 

      4 years ago from Pinellas Park, Florida

      Hi, and thanks for reading. The fish fossils I purchased. They came mostly from Arizona. The last time I went fossil hunting on the peace River we found shark's teeth and a piece of a whale vertebrae.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      4 years ago from Canada

      That really would be so exciting a find. I have found a few fossils over the years but nothing at all like your finds.

    • Randall Guinn profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Guinn 

      4 years ago from Pinellas Park, Florida

      There's actually quite a few places in Florida to go, and there are a few fossil clubs as well where they meet at certain sites, like limestone mines etc. Sometimes you don't find anything, but it's good exercise.

    • Sara Smiling profile image

      Sara Smiling 

      4 years ago from Florida

      That is such an impressive collection. I think your article has sparked the adventurer in me :)

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