56 Legit Places To Find Fossils In Missouri In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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56 Legit Places To Find Fossils In Missouri In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


Missouri is an exciting place for anyone with a passion for geology and ancient history. The state boasts a rich geological history that’s just waiting to be uncovered but knowing where and how to find Missouri fossils isn’t always easy in such a big state.

We’re going to show you some of the best places to find some incredible fossils around the state and how to be more successful with your hunt. From the Mississippi River along the eastern side to the shared borders with Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska to the west there is a lot of ground to cover.

Missouri fossils offer a glimpse into the world that once was and it’s always more fun when you actually find what you’re looking for!

Whether you’re a seasoned fossil hunter or just getting started, there are many spots across the state where you can try your hand at finding these natural wonders.

Each location provides its own unique set of challenges and rewards. With the right tools, patience, and a keen eye, you could uncover remnants from a bygone era.

The Fossils Of Missouri You Can Find

From trilobites that once roamed the ocean floors to giant mastodon bones, Missouri has a rich history captured in stone.

If you’re interested in more than just fossils, our guide to rockhounding in Missouri can help you out. It’ll point you to spots where you can find special rocks, minerals, and gems across the state.

How We Found The Best Places For Fossils in Missouri
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 Missouri Fossils

Archmides screw fossil embedded in a rock

Here is a list of common fossils you might come across in the Show-Me State!

  • Archimedes
  • Brachiopods
  • Cephalopods
  • Conodonts
  • Corals
  • Crinoids
  • Armored fish
  • Trilobites
  • Pelecypods
  • Bryozoa
  • Gastropods

Missouri State Fossil – Crinoids

dark-colored crinoid head and stem fossil on a brown rock
Crinoid fossil provided by Mizafoss

Crinoids are fascinating marine animals that look a bit like underwater flowers. They have a long stem that anchors them to the ocean floor and feathery arms that they use to catch tiny bits of food from the water.

Even though they seem like plants, they’re actually related to starfish and sea urchins. Some crinoids have been around for millions of years, leaving behind fossils for us to discover and study today!

Rare Missouri Fossils

woolly mammoth molar showing clear ridges on the top
Woolly mammoth molar provided by Fossilera

For those with a keen eye and a sense of adventure, there’s a chance to stumble upon valuable rare Missouri fossils. Let’s explore some of these uncommon finds you might encounter in the Show-Me State!

  • Dinosaur bones
  • Mammoth bones
  • Other reptile and mammal bones

The Best Places To Find Fossils In Missouri

As you explore different areas of the state, you’ll find spots that are especially known for their fossils. These locations offer a window into the fascinating past, revealing stories of creatures from long ago. Take a look at our top five picks.

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.

Finger Lakes State Park

yellow canoe on the shore of a lake, under the leaves of a tree
Finger Lakes State Park by Harold Burgeson, Jr

Finger Lakes State Park is a unique spot that offers a mix of fun activities and amazing geology. The park was once a coal mining area, and the remains of this history have now filled with water to create a series of beautiful lakes.

These lakes, with their sparkling blue waters, are the heart of the park and are perfect for water activities. The terrain around them is varied, with wooded areas, hills, and open spaces.

The geology of the area tells a captivating story, especially for fossil hunters. Among the rocks and sediment, you might find fossils in Missouri that give hints about the creatures that lived here long ago.

Additionally, the park’s trails are great for both beginners and experienced hikers, offering various viewpoints of the lakes and the land’s geological features.

The Finger Lakes State Park is easily accessible by main roads. Once you arrive, there’s plenty of parking and facilities to make your visit comfortable and enjoyable.

Whether you’re into boating, hiking, or just exploring, this park has something special to offer.

Where to find fossils in Finger Lakes State Park

Among the sediment and rock, one can find plant fossils, especially fern impressions that give us clues about the vegetation from long ago. These fossils are often found on the sides of the trails or near the water’s edge.

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 

Northwest Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide 

Earth Treasures: The Northwestern 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.

Capen Park

view of a creek and trees from a rocky cliff
Capen Park by Stephanie Teng

Capen Park is a captivating spot nestled among lush greenery and striking rock formations. It’s predominantly known for its unique bluffs made of limestone, which tower over the area and attract rock climbers of various skill levels.

These bluffs not only provide a playground for adventure-seekers but also tell a geological story of the land from many years ago.

As you explore, you might spot different layers in the rock, showing evidence of the various environmental changes the area has undergone.

The terrain of the park is a blend of these rocky cliffs, wooded trails, and serene spots perfect for picnics or relaxation.

Hiking enthusiasts will love the trails that weave through the park, offering beautiful views of the surroundings and the occasional glimpse of local wildlife.

Major roads lead to the park’s entrance, and clear signage ensures that even first-time visitors can locate it with ease.

Once there, parking and facilities are available. It’s thus convenient for families, solo travelers, or groups to spend the day exploring and enjoying the beauty of nature.

Where to find fossils in Capen Park

Within these rock layers, enthusiasts can discover plant fossils and occasionally marine fossils, indicating a time when waters covered the land.

Fossil hunting in Missouri, especially in areas like Capen Park, often leads explorers to the base of cliffs and creek beds.

Riverbluff Cave

interior of a cave with stalactites and stalagmites
Riverbluff Cave by David L. Harrison

Riverbluff Cave is an underground wonder that captivates both seasoned explorers and curious visitors.

This vast cave system showcases spectacular rock formations like stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstones that have been shaped over countless years by dripping water.

Each formation inside the cave tells a tale of the minerals present and the passage of time.

The terrain inside Riverbluff Cave is a blend of smooth pathways, uneven ground, and narrow passages. Visitors need to be cautious and wear suitable footwear to navigate safely.

Clear road signs point the way to Riverbluff Cave, ensuring that even newcomers find their path effortlessly. Once there, a spacious parking area welcomes visitors, and the entrance to the cave is clearly marked.

Where to find fossils in Riverbluff Cave

Inside Riverbluff Cave, one can find evidence of creatures that once lived in the area. Among the common Missouri fossils, explorers have spotted bear and other mammal bones embedded in the cave’s walls and floors.

These fossils are typically found in the deeper and less trafficked sections of the cave, preserved for countless years.

Missouri River

Missouri River with trees lining its banks

The Missouri River is one of North America’s longest rivers, winding its way through vast landscapes.

Geographically, it cuts through diverse regions, ranging from rolling hills to wide-open plains, and serves as a vital water source for many communities and ecosystems along its banks.

Geologically speaking, the river’s path reveals layers of sedimentary rock and various deposits that narrate the land’s history over millions of years.

The terrain around the river varies, with some areas featuring tall bluffs overlooking the water, while other stretches are lined with lush forests and green spaces.

The Missouri River is easy to get to. Major roads and highways often run parallel to or cross the river, making it easily accessible for those wishing to fish, boat, or simply enjoy the scenic beauty.

The river’s banks and parks offer numerous spots for families and individuals to relax, take in the view, or engage in fun outdoor activities.

Where to find fossils in the Missouri River

In various spots along the river, particularly near eroded riverbanks or exposed sediment layers, enthusiasts can uncover fossils of fish and small aquatic creatures.

Additionally, the areas where tributaries join the main river often reveal sediment deposits rich with plant fossils.

St. Louis County

Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis County boasts a rich tapestry of landscapes, from urban sprawls to serene natural settings. Geographically, the county is characterized by a mix of flat plains and gentle hills, offering diverse scenery for locals and visitors alike.

Its geology is captivating, with sedimentary rock layers revealing stories of the past, including the fascinating fossils of Missouri. 

The terrain features lush forests in some areas, intermixed with bustling neighborhoods and commercial zones. Streams and rivers meander through the county, providing a scenic backdrop for various outdoor activities.

You can reach St. Louis County via a network of roads and highways. Both public transportation options and well-maintained roadways ensure that reaching any part of the county is a hassle-free experience for travelers

Where to find fossils in St Louis County

Many of the county’s parks and natural areas have sedimentary rock outcroppings where enthusiasts might discover traces of plants and small aquatic creatures.

Creek beds and riverbanks, where erosion exposes older layers, are particularly good spots to look in.

Other Top Places To Find Missouri Fossils By Region

yellowish brown trilobite fossil with visible ridges
Trilobite fossil provided by EarthsAncientArt

Here are more areas where you can look for fossils across the state.

Location Fossils
Cassville, Barry County Bryozoa, brachiopods, pelecypods, gastropods, corals
Flat Creek, Barry County Corals, blastoids, crinoids, echinoids, bryozoa, brachiopods, pelecypods, gastropods, trilobites, fish, conodonts
Washburn, Barry County Corals, blastoids, brachiopods, pelecypods, gastropods, trilobites
Crooked Creek Township, Bollinger County Ray teeth, turtle bones
Columbia, Boone County Brachiopods, corals, sponges
Easley, Boone County Spirifer, Chonetes, Productus, crinoids, brachiopods, bryozoa, crinoids, pelecypods, worms, corals, gastropods, cephalopods, blastoids, trilobites, fish, conodonts, ostracods, sponges
Buchanan County regional exposures Brachiopods, pelecypods, gastropods
St Joseph, Buchanan County Brachiopods
Booneville, Callaway County Lepidodendron, Sigillaria, rare crinoid crowns
Cow Creek, Callaway County Brachiopods, bryozoa, pelecypods, corals, crinoids
Williamsburg, Callaway County Brachiopods, corals, crinoid fragments, pelecypods, gastropods, Ptyctodus
Trail of Tears State Park, Cape Girardeau County Trilobites, cephalopods
Harrisonville, Cass County Pelecypods
Pleasant Hill, Cass County Brachiopods Orbiculoidea
Kansas City, Clay County Crinoids
Clinton County, Clinton County Phillipsia
Jefferson City, Cole County Brachiopods, corals, trilobites
Clifton City, Cooper County Crinoids, brachiopods, cephalopods, fish bones and teeth, corals, pelecypods, trilobites, worms
Ash Grove, Greene County Spirifer, Chonetes, Productus, crinoids, brachiopods
King Butte, Greene County Brachiopods, Pelecypods, gastropod molds, cephalopods, trilobites
Springfield, Greene County Corals, bryozoa, bear, turtles, pigs, snakes, diverse fauna
Bethany, Harrison County Fasciculiconcha
Lucas, Henry County Edestid shark teeth
Montrose, Henry County Crossopterygian fish scales Rhizodopsis
Hamburg, Jefferson County Sponges, corals, graptolites, cystoids, crinoids, bryozoa, brachiopods, pelecypods, cephalopods, trilobites
Plattin Creek, Jefferson County Silicified plants, graptolites, sponges, corals, crinoids, annelids, bryozoa, brachiopods, pelecypods, gastropods, cephalopods, trilobites, crustacea, ostracods, conodonts
Sulphur Springs, Jefferson County Ptyctodus teeth, brachiopods
Knobnoster, Johnson County Brachiopods
Moscow Mills, Lincoln County Crinoids Pustula, Rhipidomella, brachiopods, bryozoa, blastoids
Fredricktown, Madison County Diverse trilobites
St Francois Mountains, Madison County Trilobites, brachiopods, mollusks, corals, crinoids, gastropods
Tipton, Moniteau County Blastoids, echinoids, corals, gastropods, worm tubes
Montgomery City, Montgomery County Rhipidomella, Cyrtina, Syringothyris, pelecypods, trilobites, Paryphorhynchus
Udall, Ozark County Sponges, trilobites, cephalopods
Lithium, Perry County Chester fauna, pelecypods, gastropods
Mystery Cave, Perry County Elephant bone
Sedalia, Pettis County Coral Chaetetes, Spirifer, Chonetes, Productus, crinoids, brachiopods
Rolla, Phelps County Mollusks Straparolus, trilobites
Clarksville, Pike County Large brachiopod beds
Large brachiopod beds Corals, crinoids, brachiopods, pelecypods, gastropods, cephalopods, trilobites
Weston, Platte County Brachiopods Beecheria
Rensselaer, Ralls County Crinoids, bryozoa
Saverton, Ralls County Sponges, corals, annelids, blastoids, crinoids, fish
Eminence, Shannon County Mollusks, trilobites, Taeniospira, Plethopeltis, trilobites, gastropods
Grassy Creek, Shannon County Ophileta, Ozarkina, Cameroceras, Clarkoceras, Euomphalopsis, Chepultapecia
Clarksville, St. Charles County Trilobites
Bonneterre, St. Francois County Trilobites, Coosia, Crepicephalus
Flat River, St. Francois County Brachiopods Eoorthis
Establishment Creek, St. Genevieve County Spirifer, Chonetes, Productus, crinoids, brachiopods
Little Saline Creek, St. Genevieve County Sponges, corals, cystoids, blastoids, crinoids, bryozoa, brachiopods, pelecypods, gastropods, trilobites
White Sound, St. Genevieve County Bryozoa, brachiopods, pelecypods, gastropods

Common Questions About Fossil Hunting In Missouri

beige coral fossil showing the texture of the coral
Coral fossil provided by DeliasGardens

From understanding what fossils are to knowing where they can be found, there’s a lot to learn. Dive in to find answers to the most common questions about Missouri’s fossil treasures!

Can you find megalodon teeth or shark teeth in Missouri?

Finding megalodon teeth in Missouri is unlikely. The megalodon was a giant shark that lived millions of years ago, and its range was mostly in the oceanic areas where it had ample food.

Because of this, the chances of stumbling upon a megalodon tooth in Missouri are slim. You’ll have more luck in coastal areas.

On the other hand, smaller shark teeth from other species are definitely present in Missouri’s sedimentary rocks, especially in areas that were once underwater.

Missouri was once covered by vast seas, making it a place where you can find fossilized remains of marine life.

When you’re looking for shark teeth, it’s a good idea to focus on stream beds, river banks, and areas with exposed rocks. These teeth are often small, so you’ll need to have a keen eye.

Is it illegal to collect fossils in Missouri?

In Missouri, the rules for collecting fossils vary based on the land’s ownership. Fossil hunting in Missouri on public lands, like state parks, can be restricted.

It’s essential to always check with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources before removing any fossils. On private property, you can collect fossils with the landowner’s permission.

Always make sure to get this permission in writing to avoid any misunderstandings.

If you’re passionate about collecting, joining a local rock and fossil club can offer guidance, and members often share spots where collecting is permitted.

Respect the land, its history, and its rules, and you’ll have a rewarding experience while ensuring these treasures remain for others to enjoy in the future.

Can you find dinosaur bones in Missouri?

Most of the rocks in Missouri are older than the time of dinosaurs. So, finding dinosaur bones in Missouri can be a bit tricky. While complete dinosaur skeletons are rare, there have been a few isolated finds.

Most discoveries in the state are from the latter part of the Paleozoic Era, which predates the time of the dinosaurs. Instead, the fossils commonly found here are of marine animals, plants, and other pre-dinosaur creatures.

For those eager to see dino bones, local museums might be the best bet as they showcase specimens from other regions.

How do you identify the fossils that you find?

Identifying fossils can be a fun and exciting challenge! The first step is to observe the shape, size, and texture. Some fossils might look like shells, while others resemble plant leaves or bones.

Using a magnifying glass can also give you a closer look at small details.

When you think about the fossils of Missouri, for example, you’ll often find traces of marine animals due to the state’s geologic history. You can expect fossils here to look like shells, corals, snails, and the like.

A good field guide or fossil book is a handy tool to have. These guides have pictures and descriptions that can help match your find with known fossils. 

Joining a local rock and fossil club can be super helpful. Experienced members can offer guidance and share their knowledge. Plus, it’s always more fun to learn with others!

Whatever you find, documenting the location and taking notes will help in future identifications.

Our Favorite Places To Buy Fossils In Missouri

interior of a store with shelves and displays for rocks, minerals, and gems on sale
Peggy’s Rock Shop

If you’re looking to buy a few incredible fossils, there are several top-notch spots across the state. You’re sure to find the perfect fossil to add to your collection in the local shops below.

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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