Fossils in Big Bend National Park

Fossil dinosaur bone
Fossilized dinosaur bone
 
Fossil timeline of NPS areas
Big Bend preserves fossils from a longer span of time than any other national park unit.

A Treasure Trove of Fossils

Abundant fossils in Big Bend, including some found nowhere else in the world, record the existence and demise of dinosaurs and the flourishing of mammals, enabling us to ponder evolution and our impermanence in the world. The park preserves a largely intact 130 million year slice of geologic time, including the dinosaur extinction event.

There isn't a single region on the planet that has an all-inclusive fossil history of life on Earth. This is why places like Big Bend National Park, with deposits that preserve a long time frame, can contribute so much to our knowledge base. Big Bend National Park’s geologic history is not only complex and diverse, but also contains an amazing fossil record, especially of the late Cretaceous and early Tertiary periods. In fact, Big Bend's fossil record is the longest and most diverse of any National Park unit!

Some of Big Bend's fossil finds include bones of a giant pterosaur, the largest known flying creature of all time with a 36-foot wingspan, as well as the massive skull of the triceratops-like Chasmosaurus, the largest known skull of any land animal. In addition to numerous dinosaurs, giant crocodiles, and other reptiles, the park has abundant fossilized wood, early mammals, and a wide variety of marine vertebrates and invertebrates.

 
Big Bend Dinosaurs

Big Bend Dinosaurs

Big Bend is one of the world's true jewels for paleontological research.

Visit the Fossil Discovery Exhibit to learn about Big Bend's fascinating fossil record.

Fascinating Fossil Discoveries

The best place to experience the amazing fossils of Big Bend is at the new Fossil Discovery Exhibit.

 
 

What are Fossils?

Fossils (Latin for "dug up") are the remains or traces of animals and plants that lived in a past geological time.

Skeletons, shells, and leaves can become buried and preserved to form fossils. Animal tracks and burrows are "trace" fossils that are useful in deciphering ancient animal behavior. Fossils are usually found in layers of sedimentary rock such as limestone, sandstone, and shale. You can view ancient seashells embedded in the limetestone along the Santa Elena Canyon nature trail.

Protect the Ancients

The ancient fossil stories of Big Bend's past are among the park's most priceless treasures. If you discover a fossil, enjoy the experience of seeing the remains of ancient life. Do not dig, disturb, or collect any fossils from Big Bend National Park; instead make careful notes of their location and report them to a park ranger or visitor center. Remember, federal law protects all resources in Big Bend National Park. It is illegal to collect fossils or rocks. Please take only pictures.

Last updated: April 27, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834-0129

Phone:

432-477-2251

Contact Us