Looking for unique things to do in Buffalo, New York? Go ahead and dig into Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Preserve!
Last month, I dug into some of Buffalo’s dirty side and loved every minute. This year, my interest in rock hounding and fossiling reignited. My college degree’s in earth science, or rocks and dirt I sometimes tell people. Along the way, I took a paleontology class or two while attending a SUNY school.
Recently, I’ve been looking for fossils in the Peace River in Arcadia, Fla. Although a Florida resident for more than two decades, I’m still learning the state’s geology and where to find fossils. Along the way as I learn, I’m having fun.
Dirty Things to do in Buffalo, New York: Digging for Fossils at Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Preserve
During my trip to Western New York last month, I spent a couple of hours looking for fossils at Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve in Hamburg, south of Buffalo. The layer of rock at Penn Dixie with the fossils is an undersea environment from the Devonian Period. This dates to about 380 million years ago.
I was on the hunt for trilobites, which are extinct arthropods, and although I didn’t find a big one, I found parts of them and and imprint. I also found brachiopods, horn corals, and pieces of crinoids.
While chiseling between the shale and limestone layers I found an odd nodule. It was bumpy, very hard and gray like the limestone. I chiseled it out and it’s heavy. I asked a naturalist and he said it was pyrite, aka fool’s gold. I’ll need to figure out how to clean it up.
Although you don’t need a hammer, mallet, and chisel (it’s a lot of fun hammering into the rock with the chisel) you can rent them, along with goggles, a bucket, and foam kneeling pad for $5. It was worth renting for the kneeling pad.
Tips for Visiting
My tips for visiting Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Preserve include:
- Bring water and snacks (and be sure to carry out what you carry in).
- Wear a hat, gloves, and sturdy shoes.
- Apply sunscreen.
- Carry a lot of patience. Hunting for fossils is a long-haul.
- Listen to the naturalists, they know where to find the fossils.
- Talk to other fossil hunters at the park and learn from them but don’t creep into their territory.
- Have fun!
Nuts & Bolts About Visiting Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Preserve
The 54-acre site was once the Penn-Dixie Cement Quarry and acquired by the Hamburg Natural History Society in 1995. This is probably why I never visited when I grew up in Buffalo nor visited during my college days, the park didn’t exit.
If you’re looking for bragging rights in your quest of things to do in Buffalo, this is it. On Aug. 25, 2018, Penn Dixie held the world’s largest fossil dig with 905 participants and was certified by Guinness World Records.
Penn Dixie Fossil Park
4050 North Street
Blasdell, NY 14219
Open daily 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. with final entry at 2:45 p.m. July 4 – Labor Day, then weekends until mid-October. Contact for private or scheduled entry.
Reservations recommended but not required.
Admission cost begins at $9 for children to $12 for adults. Discounts apply for seniors 62+, students and members of the military.
Entry for members is free. Annual individual membership is $40, dual membership (two adults) is $50 and family membership is $60 (two adults and up to four children under 18)