In Oregon, fossils are like gold and jewels hidden like a treasure chest. The land in Oregon has ancient fossils that can be found in everything from tiny plants and sea creatures to giant mammals that look like they belong in a fairy book.
These aren’t only fascinating because they’re ancient, but these fossils are also important because they tell us about life on Earth before people came along.
Because every fossil has a story to tell, like a time machine, they show us how the Earth has changed. They help scientists figure out big puzzles, like how species change over time or go extinct.
It’s pretty cool that Oregon was once home to things we can only dream and think of. No matter what we find, connecting with the past naturally is the most important thing.
The Fossils Of Oregon You Can Find
Many different kinds of fossils can be found in Oregon. It’s a dream for fossil hunters because the scenery is so different, and the geological history is so fascinating.
Learn more about the cool rocks and minerals you can find in the state by reading our guide to rockhounding in Oregon.
Common Oregon Fossils
A lot of different kinds of fossils can be found in Oregon. These rocks can be found all over the state:
- Ice Age Megafauna
- Mammal fossils
- Marine fossils
- Plant fossils
- Trace fossils
Oregon State Fossil – Metasequoia
“Dawn redwoods,” or Metasequoia, are very old trees that have been found in skeletons all over the world. These artifacts, mostly leaves and pine cones, from Oregon, show a lush, warmer time in the past.
These rare fossils were found in the John Day Fossil Beds and represent strong life because modern metasequoias, thought to be dead, lived in China.
This connects Oregon’s past ecology to its present biodiversity. Their finding shows how Earth’s biotic history has been changing over time.
Rare State Fossils
Some of Oregon’s strangest and most expensive fossils can be found here. When you wander, you should look for these things:
- Ancient horses
- Giant ground sloth
- Prehistoric whales
- Saber-toothed salmon
The Best Places To Find Fossils In Oregon
We will talk about the great places in Oregon to find fossils. While we’ll only go into great detail about our picks, fossils can also be found in many other places.
Black Butte is a beautiful geological feature that rises over 3,000 feet above the valley floor near Sisters. It’s known for its noticeable, symmetrical shape and lush surroundings.
Geologically, this volcano is still fairly young. It is thought to be about 1.4 million years old, and its last eruption happened more than 10,000 years ago.
The butte is mostly made up of basalt, a common volcanic rock. It’s covered in thick forests and other plants that do well in volcanic soil.
Central Oregon, especially the area around Black Butte, is a great place to find fossils because of its active volcanic past.
Volcanic activity in the past helped keep a rich mosaic of fossils alive. Layers of ash helped make a detailed and chronological record of life.
Where and what to find fossils at the Black Butte
These records go back millions of years and tell us a lot about how plants and animals in North America have changed over time.
Nearby places have fossils of ancient animals and plants, such as early horses, camels, and saber-toothed cats.
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:
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.
Hunter’s Cove is beautiful on Oregon’s rugged southern coast, close to Port Orford. It has dramatic sea cliffs, rocky shorelines, and various natural forms.
While the area is known for its natural beauty and large number of sea animals, it’s also a window into a more distant time because of its geological makeup, which makes it a special place for fossil hunters.
The coastline is part of the more significant geological setting called the Western Cascades. The rocks here were formed mainly by volcanoes erupting and sediment building up over time.
The rough geological past, with times of volcanoes erupting and tectonic plates subducting, has left behind a complex layering of sedimentary rocks slowly exposed by the Pacific Ocean’s constant activity.
Where and what to find fossils at Hunters Cove
Hunter’s Cove is a great place to look for fossils because these sediment layers are constantly being exposed by natural weathering.
Within these layers, you can often find the fossilized remains of mollusks, crustaceans, and other sea creatures that lived millions of years ago, giving you an intriguing look into life back then.
From the Coast Range mountains to the Pacific Ocean at Nehalem Bay, the Nehalem River flows through some of the most beautiful scenery in northwest Oregon. It’s a natural haven that runs for about 120 miles.
This river is famous for its beautiful scenery, fun activities, and long past. It also has some special things to offer paleontology fans.
The Nehalem River area comprises sedimentary rocks, mainly sandstone, and siltstone, deposited over millions of years.
These rock layers in the lower parts of the river are part of the Astoria Formation, known for marine sedimentary deposits from the Miocene period.
Where and what to find fossils at Nehalem River
When fossil hunters look in the areas along riverbanks, streams, and coastal cliffs of the Nehalem River, they can find a wide range of marine fossils, such as the shells of extinct mollusks, clams, and snails, as well as possibly the bones of whales or sharks that lived a long time ago.
These fossils give us an interesting look into when this part of Oregon was underwater.
One of the most famous sights in Oregon’s John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is Sheep Rock. It’s not only beautiful to look at, but it also leads to other amazing prehistoric sites.
This beautiful rock formation, with its layers of green, red, and beige colors, stands tall over the John Day River Valley and protects the monument’s rich paleontological past.
The fossil beds that are still in good shape around Sheep Rock are important because they are part of the bigger Blue Basin area. These fossil beds are amazing because they show a wide range of plant and animal life that lived millions of years ago.
Sheep Rock and the area around it are a paleontologist’s dream because of the unique mix of volcanic activity and sedimentary processes that happened here millions of years ago.
Because of this, rock formations have carefully kept a chronological story of how life and development happened.
Where and what to find fossils at Sheep Rock
The fossils here show that this area of Oregon was very green and full of life in the prehistoric past. They show horses that were only a few feet tall and animals that lived before rhinoceroses and saber-toothed cats.
People really love this place because it has such beautifully detailed plant fossils that tell us a lot about how ecosystems worked and how the climate changed in the past.
Along the border between Oregon and Idaho, the Snake River carved out the dramatic and winding Snake River Canyon. It has a stark beauty, rich history, and natural wonders.
Over millions of years, the land around this huge canyon has been shaped by the tall cliffs, plateaus, and strong river that runs through it.
Adventurers and nature fans love the area, but it’s also an essential place for people interested in the past.
Because the Snake River has cut deeper into the earth, it has revealed older rock layers, which makes the canyon a great place to find fossils.
The uncovered parts show pieces from various geological times, turning the area into a multi-layered record of the past.
Where and what to find fossils at Snake River Canyon
The Snake River Canyon comprises different types of sedimentary rocks, volcanic ash deposits, and layers formed by rivers and lakes in the past. The area is great for finding fossils because of these different rock types.
Fossils of plants and animals that lived along the river in the Pleistocene, like mammoths, huge ground sloths, and early forms of bison, are some of the most interesting things found.
Other Top Places To Find Oregon Fossils By Region
After discussing the best places to find fossils in Oregon, we’ll talk about some other great places. These places were picked out to help you.
|Crow Creek Valley, Baker County
|Hunsaker Creek, Baker County
|Brachiopods, crinoids, bryozoa, bivalves
|Molalla River, Clackamas County
|Elk Creek, Clatsop County
|Rocky Point Quary, Columbia County
|Pelecypods, Shark teeth
|High Cliff, Columbia County
|Well-preserved Crinoids and other fossils.
|Keasey Formation, Columbia County
|Coos Bay, Coos County
|Bivalves, gastropods, echinoids and Decapods in concretions.
|Steel Creek , Coos County
|Nemocardium, Glycymeris, Gari, Anomia, Solena, Pelecyora, Nucularia, Turritella, Ectinochilus, Dentalium, crabs in concretions
|Camas Creek, Coos County
|John Day River, Crook County
|Cottonwood Creek Valley, Crook County
|Crooked River, Crook County
|Beaver Creek Valley, Crook County
|Coffee Creek Valley, Crook County
|Rogue River, Curry County
|Boulder Creek, Curry County
|Little River, Douglas County
|Abundant, diverse mollusks
|Buck Peak, Douglas County
|Umpqua River, Douglas County
|Corral Butte, Harney County
|Stinkingwater Mountain, Harney County
|Bartlett Mountain, Harney County
|Lost River, Klamath County
|Fresh water fish
|Klamath Falls, Klamath County
|Goose Lake Valley, Lake County
|Leaves, vertebrate bones and teeth – rhinoceros – Diceratherium
|Button Springs, Lake County
|Snyder Creek Valley, Lake County
|Drew Reservoir, Lake County
|Spencer River, Lake County
|Venericardia. Glycymeris, Turritella, Tellina
|Boiler Bay, Lincoln County
|Calapooya River, Linn County
|Carey Agate Beds, Linn County
|Skull Springs, Malheur County
|Wild Horse Canyon, Malheur County
|Fresh water invertebrates
|Little Valley, Malheur County
|Lewis and Clark State Park, Multnomah County
|Luckiamute River, Polk County
|Abundant shark teeth
|Helmick Hill, Polk County
|SSpisula, Tellina, Volsella, gastropods – Ampullina. Acrilla, Shark Teeth
|Oswald State Park, Tillamook County
|Short Sands Beach, Tillamook County
|Chenoweth Creek Valley, Wasco County
|Mutton Mountains, Wasco County
Common Questions About Fossil Hunting In Oregon
Many people who go to Oregon to look for fossils ask these things. You need to know what to say.
Can you find megalodon teeth or shark teeth in Oregon?
Megalodon teeth are not likely to be found in Oregon because the rocks there are not quite the right age or geological condition to match the time when megalodons lived in the seas.
However, you can sometimes find shark teeth in Oregon, even though they are uncommon. The most likely places to find these fossils are along the state’s coast, especially where there are cliffs and rock formations with layers of sediment from past seas.
Is it illegal to collect fossils in Oregon?
On public lands, you can usually get common remains of insects and plants for your use, but there may be some places where this isn’t allowed.
Vertebrate fossils, on the other hand, like dinosaur bones or fossils of mammals, are protected by state and federal rules because they are more valuable to science. Most of the time, you need a scientific permit to gather these.
Always know the rules for the place you want to visit. If you’re unsure what to do, ask the local Bureau of Land Management office, the U.S. Forest Service, or Oregon’s geological survey or natural resources department.
Can you find dinosaur bones in Oregon?
It’s very unlikely that you will find dinosaur bones in Oregon. There are several natural reasons for this.
Most dinosaur fossils are found in sedimentary rocks from the Late Triassic period to the end of the Cretaceous period, about 230 million to 65 million years ago. However, Oregon does not have a lot of these types of rocks.
Our Favorite Places To Buy Fossils In Oregon
Several shops in Oregon sell fossils and other minerals. If you want to start collecting or add to what you already have, there are good places to look.
- 5 Elements Gem & Mineral – 2100 W Broadway, Eugene, OR 97402, United States
- Crystal Cove Rock Shop – 97900 Shopping Center Ave # 1, Brookings, OR 97415, United States
- Dragon Crystals – 107 W 1st St, Phoenix, OR 97535, United States
- Ed’s House of Gems – 7712 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland, OR 97213, United States
- Mystery Gallery – 13750 SE McLoughlin Blvd, Oak Grove, OR 97222, United States
- Portland Rocks – 6658 SE Milwaukie Ave, Portland, OR 97202, United States
- Shoamous’es Rocks – 9 N Holladay Dr, Seaside, OR 97138, United States
- Visions Rock Shop – 6334 US-101 # 4, Lincoln City, OR 97367, United States