Last updated: October 15, 2020
Our nation’s rich geologic heritage spanning a few billion years is on display in national parks with fossils from every period of geologic time. Join paleontologists, educators, students, and many other partners sharing their excitement of fossils and highlighting their scientific and educational value, as well the importance of preserving fossils for future generations.
Check out 20 things to do and discover with these suggestions for learning about fossils and paleontology in national parks.
Permian Reef exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Credit: NPS Photo
The fossilized Permian reef now known as the Guadalupe Mountains
Credit: NPS / Vince Santucci
3. Trace a Discovery at White Sands National Park
Learn more about a remarkable discovery of the world’s longest fossilized human trackway giving a glimpse into life, and possibly parenting, more than 10,000 years ago. These ancient footprints show what researchers believe to be a female or a young male walking for almost a mile with a toddler's footprints periodically showing up alongside.
4. Dive into a Discovery at Mammoth Cave National Park
A team of paleontologists, cave specialists, and park rangers at Mammoth Cave National Park have discovered a trove of fossil treasures that has yielded one of the most diverse Mississippian shark faunas in North America. Learn about this astonishing discovery that includes at least 40 species of sharks, including six new species, and rare three-dimensional skeletal cartilage that survived the ages.
6. Become a Junior Paleontologist
Kids (and adults) of all ages can become an official Junior Paleontologist! Complete the Junior Paleontologist Activity Booklet to learn how you can “explore, learn, and protect” fossils in national parks.
7. Quiz Yourself (or Your Friends)
More than 275 national parks have fossils representing millions of years of past life. Test your knowledge of paleontology and prehistoric life with the First Great National Park Fossil Quiz for national parks.
8. Teach Paleontology
Learn about our nation's fossils at home or in the classroom with paleontology-themed activities developed by education specialists.
9. Enter the Art Contest and View the Gallery
Check out current and previous winners of the annual National Fossil Day Art Contest! Start planning ahead for your submission for next year’s contest, which is open to all ages and skill levels of artists who just love to learn about fossils.
10. Take a Geologic Walk Through Time
The National Park System contains a magnificent record of geologic time because rocks from each period of the geologic time scale are preserved in park landscapes. Take a virtual walk through geologic time.
11. Find Your National Fossil Day Logo
Did you know that National Fossil Day features a new logo each year to highlight different time periods and types of fossils? Find your favorite National Fossil Day logo from past and present. Tell your family and friends about it by sharing on social media using #NationalFossilDay.
12. Learn Your State Fossil
Fossils are found throughout the world and in every state across the country. Ever wonder what your state fossil is? Find out and learn who (or what) might have been walking through your neighborhood thousands or millions of years ago.
13. Follow Dinosaurs Across National Natural Landmarks
Trace dinosaurs over geologic time by watching the Telling the Dinosaur Story video series, which explores the fascinating time of dinosaurs as told through various National Natural Landmarks in and along the Rocky Mountain Front Range.
14. Explore the History of Paleontology in Parks
Step into the human history of fossils in national parks, which have always been places for significant scientific research and groundbreaking discoveries in paleontology. Follow the evolving preservation of fossils and field of paleontology from native peoples to present day.
15. View Fossils Virtually...in 3D!
Learn about photogrammetry and how it is used by geologists and paleontologists in national parks. View a collection of three-dimensional renderings of fossils found in national parks using this technology.
16. Glimpse at Chaco Culture National Historical Park's Collection
Explore the ever-changing coastline of the inland sea that once covered current-day New Mexico during the Late Cretaceous period 10–15 million years ago with a series of 3D models of fossils in the park’s collection.
17. Virtually Visit Fossils at Grand Canyon National Park
The fossils found within Grand Canyon span over a billion years of Earth’s history. Begin exploring prehistoric life by viewing 3D images of fossils in the park’s paleontology collection. As scientists continue exciting research, discover how fossil footprints recently forced paleontologists to rethink early inhabitants of ancient deserts.
18. Follow a Fossil Rescue at George Washington Birthplace National Monument
Follow the efforts of a multi-agency rapid response team of paleontologists who recently converged on George Washington Birthplace National Monument to save a fairly complete fossil of a dolphin that lived during the Miocene epoch (22 to 8 million years ago).
19. Read All About It in a Newsletter
Stay up to date with fossil news in the Park Paleontology newsletter, which shares stories about fossil interpretation, protection, resource management, new discoveries, and issues related to the world of paleontology and paleontological resources management.
20. Partner With Us
Join the growing team of partners that hosts National Fossil Day celebrations and activities and promotes awareness of fossil resources throughout the year. There are currently more than 385 partners and growing!