Fossils in NPS areas could be found in
- The rocks or sediments of a park
- Museum collections
- Cultural contexts (building stones, artifacts, historical legends or documents)
Viewing fossils from any of these settings at a national park offers an uncommon opportunity to experience the past. At a national park, you can stand in the exact spot where a fossil tree was rooted or where a fossil animal walked millions of years ago! Fossils from the parks are on exhibit in museums around the world and millions of people can experience them. But only visitors to the actual parks experience the tremendous sense of place and connection to where the fossils were originally found and are still being found.
Since 1916, The Organic Act has directed parks to "conserve the scenery" and natural objects, including fossils. In 2009, the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act was signed into law, requiring parks to manage and protect fossils for scientific and educational values. Learn more about fossil policy and regulations in the National Park Service.
Park staff and paleontologists work together to maintain fossils for scientific study and public education. It is exciting to find a fossil, but important to protect it. If you find a fossil in a park, leave the fossil where it is, take a photo, and share your discovery with a park ranger. Removing fossils from the sites where they were found will result in most of the interesting and valuable information about that fossil being lost forever.