Where to Find and View North Texas Fossils

By Amy Martin

Excerpt from Ancient Ocean chapter of Wild Dallas-Fort Worth: Explore the Amazing Nature of North Texas (Timber Press winter 2023) 

“Explore a little. When you pick up your first fossil and start asking a few questions, you’ll be hooked,” says Mick Tune. Here’s where to go.

Find a Fossil

Ladonia Fossil Park

Located north of Greenville near the town of Ladonia, the park consists of a parking area and a path to the North Sulphur River, which takes a steep climb to access. Voluminous rains expose Late Cretaceous and Pleistocene fossils such as mosasaur vertebrae (which local ranchers call “dinosaur knuckles”), ammonites, bivalves, gastropods, nautilus, and shark teeth. The river’s western half will be inundated by 2025 for Lake Ralph Hall, significantly reducing fossil collecting opportunities. https://lakeralphhall.com/benefits/ladonia-fossil-park

 Mineral Wells Fossil Park

Excavation exposed a treasure trove of 300 mya Pennsylvanian era marine fossils, including crinoids, urchins, bivalves, corals, trilobites, and sharks. Dallas Paleontological Society lobbied for creation of a public fossil park. https://www.mineralwellsfossilpark.com/

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Once on the edge of the Western Interior Seaway, Cretaceous epoch sauropods left their elephant-like tracks and theropods imprinted their distinct three-toed tracks in what is now the Paluxy River. The hilly park with wading in the river is home to golden-cheeked warblers and black-capped vireos. https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/dinosaur-valley

View a Fossil

Heard Natural Science Museum

See a mosasaur found in Garland and the partial skeleton of Texas Nessie, a plesiosaur fossil discovered in 1991 in Collin County by Mike Donovan, showcased against a colorful mural of ancient sea life. At Grapevine Lake, nine-year-old Ty Leslie Goble noticed the fossil of ancient aquatic turtle, Trinitichelys maini, first discovered in Tarrant County by Dr. Derek Main and exclusive to the Woodbine formation. Now dubbed Ruby, it’s on display after being excavated by professionals and prepared by volunteers in the Heard Paleontology Lab. https://www.heardmuseum.org/

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

Paleontology hall showcases several impressive locally found fossils, including Ellie May, a Columbian mammoth discovered in an Ellis County gravel pit. Flexomornis howei—a pheasant-sized bird and the oldest known bird in North Ameriaca (about ninety-five mya)—was found by Kris Howe at Grapevine Lake. Plus a tylosaurus skeleton from the shores of Lake Ray Hubbard, and Dallasaurus turneri found in West Dallas. https://www.perotmuseum.org/

Waco Mammoth National Monument

Gain insight into the Ice Age with Pleistocene epoch fossils of Columbian mammoths that weighed 20,000 pounds and stood fourteen-feet tall. See a paleontological dig site preserved under a shelter and a museum with excavated fossils. https://www.nps.gov/waco/index.htm

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