Just south of Buffalo, New York, is a park where people are encouraged to collect and keep fossils that are nearly 400 million years old.
The flat gray expanse is filled with treasures from an ancient ocean. In the early part of the Paleozoic era, much of what is now New York was covered in a shallow sea. The warm water was inhabited by a number of marine invertebrates and bony fish. At the former Penn Dixie Cement Corporation quarry, the rock was filled with a notably high concentration of trilobites, one of the earliest-known arthropods in the fossil record.
Mining at the quarry stopped in the 1960s. In the 70s, a rock collector named Dan Cooper helped generate scientific and public interest in the large number of trilobite fossils at Penn Dixie. In 1995, the Town of Hamburg purchased part of the former quarry and deeded the land to the Hamburg Natural History Society in an effort to clean up illegally dumped garbage and provide a place for science education.
It now operates as a fossil park in which visitors can dig their own fossils from a shallow ocean environment that existed 380 million years ago. This leads fossil hunters to finding the fossils of prehistoric aquatic creatures like trilobites, coral, fish, crustaceans, and more.
Know Before You Go
Check the park's website for ticket prices and hours of operation.