42 Proven Places To Find Fossils In Minnesota In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

| Updated

42 Proven Places To Find Fossils In Minnesota In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Updated

Minnesota’s landscape is a vibrant tapestry, each element weaving tales of the Earth’s past. Each footprint on this land could lead to an encounter with fossils like trilobites or brachiopods.

While these are more commonly found, there are also valuable rare Minnesota fossils waiting to be uncovered. Some terrains, especially limestone and shale areas, are more promising for fossil finds. But the thrill of discovery is everywhere!

So, with a bit of patience and a keen eye, anyone can uncover the fascinating history of Minnesota through its fossils.

The Fossils Of Minnesota You Can Find

The fossils of Minnesota tell exciting stories about creatures and plants from long ago. From trilobites to brachiopods, each fossil has its own unique story to tell.

Exploring Minnesota’s terrain offers exciting opportunities to uncover these hidden tales.

While on the hunt for fossils, there’s even more to see. For those interested in broadening their exploration, our guide to rockhounding in Minnesota is a perfect resource.

It introduces readers to amazing rocks, minerals, and gems scattered throughout the state.

How We Found The Best Places For Fossils in Minnesota
Our team is constantly on the lookout for new fossil sites and are very plugged into the fossil hunting community. There are new locations that are constantly being found and we love to help more hunters find success. Here are the main factors we used when determining the recommendations we set out :

  • The extensive local experience and understanding of our team
  • Input from multiple local fossil hunters and fossil groups
  • The accessibility of the various locations
  • Safety and potential hazards when collecting
  • Private and public locations
  • A desire to include locations for both experienced fossil lovers and those who are just starting out

Using these weights we think we’ve put together the best list out there for those who love finding great new fossils for our collections!

Common Minnesota Fossils

three brown trilobite fossils
Trilobite fossils provided by CrystalAgeCreative

Here’s a list of some common fossils found throughout the state:

  • Bivalves
  • Bryozoans
  • Stromatolites
  • Crinoids
  • Sponges
  • Gastropods
  • Conodonts
  • Trilobites
  • Corals
  • Ostracods
  • Brachiopods
  • Cephalopods
  • Plant fossils
  • Trace fossils

Minnesota State Fossil – Castoroides ohioensis (Giant Beaver)

black fossilized Castoroides ohioensis tooth
Castoroides ohioensis tooth provided by Fossilera

Castoroides ohioensis, commonly known as the Giant Beaver, is a prehistoric rodent that once roamed North America. It was much larger than the beavers we see today, with some adults measuring up to 8 feet long!

At this impressive size, giant beavers were almost as big as some modern-day bears.

Giant beavers lived during the Ice Age and are believed to have been herbivores, munching on plants. Unlike modern beavers, there’s no clear evidence that they built dams or lodges.

Over time, changing environments and other factors led to the Giant Beaver’s extinction.

Rare Minnesota Fossils

white rounded hadrosaur vertebrae
Hadrosaur vertebrae provided by Fossil Shack

These are the valuable rare Minnesota fossils that you can find in the state:

  • Dinosaur bones

The Best Places To Find Fossils In Minnesota

Every corner of the state offers potential for discoveries, from wooded areas to riverbeds. Let’s delve into some of the prime locations within Minnesota where these fossilized stories can be uncovered.

Always Confirm Access and Collection Rules!

Before heading out to any of the locations on our list you need to confirm access requirements and collection rules for both public and private locations.

These requirements are subject to change without notice and may differ from what we state below.

Always get updated information directly from the source ahead of time to ensure responsible rockhounding.

Quarry Hill Nature Center

lake and trees at the Quarry Hill Nature Center
Quarry Hill Nature Center by AB-PHOTOGRAPHY.US

Quarry Hill Nature Center is a gem tucked away, showcasing an amazing blend of natural beauty and geological wonders. The center spans over 300 acres of lush terrain, featuring woodlands, ponds, and even a man-made limestone quarry.

The terrain is diverse, with trails weaving through forests and around water features, making it a scenic destination for nature lovers.

One of the standout features is the rich geology the site presents. The limestone quarry holds secrets from the past, and with a keen eye, you can uncover the fossils of Minnesota, revealing stories of creatures that once thrived in this region.

Quarry Hill Nature Center is accessible by road and offers ample parking for visitors. Whether you’re there to learn about the earth’s history, take a leisurely walk, or just enjoy the beauty of nature, this place is a must-visit spot.

Where to find fossils in Quarry Hill Nature Center

The limestone quarry is a treasure trove for fossil enthusiasts. Within this quarry, visitors often stumble upon trilobites, brachiopods, and crinoids.

The best spots to discover these fossils are along the exposed rock faces and the loose rocks scattered around the quarry’s floor.

Rock pick being used

The tools every fossil hunter will need

When you're out looking for fossils having the right tools for the job is really going to make or break your success. You don't need a lot for most trips but there are a handful that are critical and will make your life a lot easier.

We get asked a lot about the equipment we use. Over the years we've found a handful of tools that we recommend to both new and experienced fossil hunters which we outline in great detail in our complete rockhounding tools and kit guide. These are quality options that also happen to be relatively inexpensive.

Below are the basic tools that make your life so much easier and save you a ton of time. Check out the full guide to see everything we recommend bringing. One quick note, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but we try very hard to only recommend gear we would use ourselves and often recommend brands you can't find on Amazon.

At a minimum you should have:

1 - Sturdy rock hammer: The Estwing Rock Pick is our standard

2 - Rugged chisels: Try Kendo' 3-piece Chisel Set

3 - Compact shovel: The Koleiya 28-inch shovel works well

4 - Rock screen pan: The Wazakura Soil Sieve Set fits the bill

5 - Eye protection: DeWalt Safety Glasses are cheap and comfortable

6 - Head protection: Malta's Safety Helmet has been our go-to

7 - Jewelers lens with at least 20x magnification: Jarlink's Jewelers Loop is perfect

The fossil-finding books that we use most

There are also a few books that have been extremely helpful in the search for gems. These books have great recommendations and tips:

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals: North America 

Northeast Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide 

Earth Treasures: The Northeastern Quadrant 

We provide links to find these tools on Amazon but some can also be found at your local hardware stores. For more recommendations check out the link to our full tool guide above.

Shadow Falls Park

waterfalls at the Shadow Falls Park
Shadow Falls Park by Mississippi Park Connection

Shadow Falls Park is a unique outdoor destination that brings together nature and geology in an exciting way. The park is home to an array of geographic features like cliffs, waterfalls, and wooded areas.

This creates a terrain that’s both visually appealing and geologically rich.

Make sure to keep an eye out for the park’s limestone cliffs. These limestone formations are perfect for fossil hunting, and it’s not uncommon to discover fossils. 

Those interested in expanding their fossil hunting in Minnesota would do well to consider this park. Along with fossils, the park offers an opportunity to observe different rock layers, giving visitors a hands-on lesson in geology.

Shadow Falls Park is easily accessible by road and offers parking for visitors, making it convenient for day trips or even just a quick excursion.

The paths are well-marked, and there’s a blend of easy and moderate trails, so visitors of all ages and experience levels can explore comfortably. 

Where to find fossils in Shadow Falls Park

The limestone cliffs are a primary spot for fossil enthusiasts. Within these cliffs, visitors can uncover fossils like brachiopods and trilobites.

To have the best chance of spotting these fossils, you should focus on the exposed rock faces and the areas around the base of the cliffs.

Lilydale Regional Park

river and trees along the banks at Lilydale Regional Park
Lilydale Regional Park by Amy Mino

Lilydale Regional Park is a vast area filled with a mix of lush woodlands, rolling hills, and unique geological formations. The park’s terrain is especially intriguing due to the presence of exposed sedimentary rock layers, which hold clues to the past.

Among these layers, enthusiasts often discover evidence of marine life that once thrived in the area, making it a hotspot for those keen on uncovering fossils in Minnesota.

The park’s diverse geography offers a chance to explore both scenic beauty and geological wonders. You can find valleys, bluffs, and picturesque ponds while wandering its trails.

There are well-marked roads leading to Lilydale Regional Park and ample parking spaces for visitors.

Whether it’s a day of exploration, a desire to understand more about Earth’s history, or simply a walk through nature, this park offers an enriching experience for all who visit.

Where to find fossils in Lilydale Regional Park

Within the park’s exposed sedimentary rock layers, visitors often stumble upon fossils of marine creatures, such as brachiopods and crinoids. To maximize chances of discovery, focus on the park’s bluffs and valleys.

Mississippi River

bridge across the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is one of the longest rivers in the world, and its journey winds through a diverse range of landscapes. In one specific region, it meanders through lush woodlands, picturesque bluffs, and rolling valleys.

This segment of the river showcases unique geological features, with exposed rock layers on the riverbanks revealing the area’s rich geological history.

These rock formations offer enthusiasts a glimpse into the past, hinting at the various environmental changes the region has undergone.

The terrain surrounding the river is varied. Dense forests are punctuated by open areas and wetlands, providing habitats for a plethora of wildlife. For those keen on exploring the river’s geology, the bluffs and valleys present the best opportunities.

Numerous parks and recreational areas dot the Mississippi River’s banks, each equipped with parking and viewing areas. 

Where to find fossils in Mississippi River

The Mississippi River’s banks and surrounding areas in a certain region are home to sedimentary rock layers that hold fossilis.

Within these layers, enthusiasts can uncover fossils of marine creatures and plants that once thrived when the region was underwater.

Bluffs and valleys adjacent to the river, where erosion has exposed deeper layers, are prime spots for these discoveries. While exploring, it’s common to encounter fossils like brachiopods, gastropods, and trilobites.

Hill Annex Mine State Park

aerial view of the Hill Annex Mine State Park and river

Hill Annex Mine State Park captures the essence of both nature and industry. It once bustled as an active iron mine and now stands as a testament to the area’s rich mining history.

The park showcases a varied terrain with open pit mines, forested areas, and remnants of mining operations.

Geologically, the area offers insights into the rich iron deposits that played a significant role in industry for decades. These iron formations paint a picture of the region’s past geological conditions and processes.

Visitors have the opportunity to explore this unique blend of natural beauty and historical significance through guided tours. These tours dive deep into the mining history, the geology of the region, and even offer opportunities to hunt for fossils.

Hill Annex Mine State Park is well-connected by main roads and offers ample parking spaces for visitors.

Where to find fossils in Hill Annex Mine State Park

Among the layers of rock in the park, you can discover fossils of plants and animals that once thrived in the area. The open pit mines and exposed rock faces are prime spots for these discoveries.

It’s common to find fossils like shark teeth and different plant impressions, offering a glimpse into the region’s ecological past.

Other Top Places To Find Minnesota Fossils By Region

stromatolite fossil slab
Stromatolite provided by FossilCavern

Exploring certain areas in the state can lead to exciting discoveries. Here areas in Minnesota where you can start your fossil-hunting adventure:

Location Fossils
Brown County clay pits Shark teeth, plant fossils, cephalopods, gastropods, pelecypods
Franconia, Chisago County Dicellomus
Taylor’s Falls, Chisago County Trilobites, brachiopods
Burnsville, Dakota County Crinoids, brachiopods
South St Paul, Dakota County Ctenodonta, Cyrtodonta, Modiolopsis, Holopea, Ophileta, Platyceras, Pleurotomaria, Orthoceras
Chatfield, Fillmore County Crepipora, Lingula, trilobites
Forestville, Fillmore County Receptaculites, Strophomena, Graptolites, Orthis, Orthonota
Fountain, Fillmore County Cryptozoon, corals, bryozoa, mollusks, cephalopods, crinoid fragments
Granger, Fillmore County Bryozoa, brachiopods, trilobites, cephalopods
Lime City, Fillmore County Murchisonia, Maclurea, Strophomena, Endoceras, corals
Mantorville, Fillmore County Schizotreta
Spring Valley, Fillmore County Lingula, Orthis, Lynx, Strophomena, Leptaena, Chaetetes, crinoid fragments, Homotrypella
Wykoff, Fillmore County Ambonychia, trilobites, Orthoceras
Cannon Falls, Goodhue County Sponges, corals, brachiopods, trilobites, bryozoa, mollusks, cephalopods, Belemnocystids
Hader, Goodhue County Diplotrypa, Plectambonites, Pleurocystites, Fusispira, Lingula, trilobites, brachiopods
Oxford Mills, Goodhue County Phylloporina, Lingula, brachiopods, trilobites, cephalopods
Minneapolis, Hennepin County Arthroclema, Lingula, Raufella, Vinella, Stromatopora, Lichenaria
St Anthony Falls, Hennepin County Gastropod Trochonema, bryozoa, brachiopods, cephalopods, trilobites, Strophomena, Orthis, Murchisonia, Leperditia, Cypricardites, Bucania
Reno, Houston County Brachiopods, Dikelocephalus, Prosaukia, Conaspis, Ptychaspis
Spring Grove, Houston County Brachiopods, cephalopods
Calumet, Itasca County Mollusks, arthropods, shark teeth, Icthyosaurus, Plesiosaurus, conifer needles, wood, Teredolites
Grand Rapids, Itasca County Abundant Exogyra preserved as limonite casts
Itasca, Itasca County Exogyra, Anchura, corals, seeds, leaf impressions
Kasota, Le Sueur County Ophileta, Dirhachopea, Pelagiella, pelecypods, Ctenodontidae
Chatfield, Olmsted County Brachiopods, gastropods, Chaetetes, trilobites, crinoids
Rochester, Olmsted County Strophomena
Stewartville, Olmsted County Hormotoma, Maclurina, Westonoceras
Pipestone National Monument, Pipestone County Lingula, Paradoxides
St Paul, Ramsey County Rhynchotrema, Rhinidictya, Raufella, Lichenaria, Vinella, Stromatopora, Receptaculites, Streptelasma, Aulopora, Tetradium, Batostoma, Homotrypa, Prasopora, Stictoporella, Dalmanella, Rafinesquina, Lingula, Pionodema, Ctenodonta, Raufella, Stictoporella, Edrioasteroids Foerstediscus
Hawk Creek Township, Renville County Sphaerium, Valvata, Amnicola, Gyraulus, Goniobasis
Biwabwik, St Louis County Stromatolites
Stillwater, Washington County Dikelocephalus
Dresbach, Winona County Trilobites Acheilus, Crepicephalus, Obolus, Lingulepsis, Lingula, cephalopods
Fremont, Winona County Brachiopods, trilobites
Minnesota City, Winona County Mastodon
St Charles, Winona County Bryozoa, brachiopods, cephalopods, trilobites
Winona, Winona County Linguella, Acheilus

Common Questions About Fossil Hunting In Minnesota

shell fossil fragment showing the ridges of the shell
Shell fossil fragment provided by DeliasGardens

From understanding the types of fossils present to knowing where to find them, the enthusiasm around this subject is clear. Dive into some of the most common questions that people ask about fossils.

Can you find megalodon teeth or shark teeth in Minnesota?

Finding megalodon teeth in Minnesota is unlikely. The megalodon, a massive prehistoric shark, lived in oceans that didn’t cover this region.

However, Minnesota was once submerged under a shallow sea during different periods in its history. Because of this, you can find fossils of marine creatures, but they’re mainly from species that lived in those specific seas.

Shark teeth, particularly from smaller species, have been found among common Minnesota fossils, but they are not as widespread or as large as megalodon teeth.

Is it illegal to collect fossils in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, collecting fossils on private property is allowed with the permission of the landowner.

However, it’s essential to remember that collecting fossils on state-owned lands, including state parks, scientific and natural areas, and wildlife management areas, is prohibited without a permit.

If you want to search for fossils in public lands, make sure to consult the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources beforehand.

These rules are in place to protect and preserve the state’s rich geological history and ensure that everyone can enjoy and learn from these natural wonders.

If you are passionate about fossil hunting, it’s crucial to research the area you plan to visit and ensure that you have the necessary permissions.

Can you find dinosaur bones in Minnesota?

The chances of finding dinosaur bones in Minnesota are slim, though some have been found before. The rocks in Minnesota from the time of the dinosaurs, which is the Mesozoic Era, are buried deep beneath the surface and are not exposed.

Most fossils found in the state are from much older or much more recent time periods.

How do you identify the fossils that you find?

Identifying fossils can be an exciting part of the discovery process. When you come across fossils in Minnesota or anywhere else, start by observing the shape, size, and texture of the specimen.

Often, these physical characteristics can offer clues about what the fossil might be. Using a field guide specific to the region’s fossils can be a handy tool.

These guides provide images and descriptions that can help match the fossil in hand with known specimens.

Taking clear photos and comparing them to pictures in books or trusted online resources is another method.

If uncertain, sharing the find with a local geology or paleontology group can also be beneficial, as members can often provide insights based on their experiences.

Lastly, visiting museums or educational centers with fossil displays can give hands-on opportunities to learn and make comparisons. With time and practice, identifying different fossils becomes a more familiar and rewarding process.

Our Favorite Places To Buy Fossils In Minnesota

entrance and lawn of the rock shop Those Blasted Things, with a buffalo statue out front
Those Blasted Things

There are numerous spots where enthusiasts can purchase fossils of various kinds. Here’s a list of top places in the state to buy your very own fossil.

About Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Keith Jackson is an avid rockhound who is constantly exploring new sites to expand his collection. He has worked as a professional Geologist for over 20 years and holds a PhD in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Masters Degree in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Bachelors Degree in Geology from the University of Connecticut.

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