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Camping in Mountains

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Paleontology in Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park is deservedly known as one of the best records of Late Triassic paleontology and geology in the world. New plant and animal fossil discoveries, including Pseudosuchian and Ornithodiran archosaurs, dating back over 200 million years are found with impressive regularity. These finds are rewriting the Triassic fossil record and are continuing to expand our knowledge of this seminal time in the history of life on our planet. And you can be a part of it all!

 

Citizen science fossil digs are instrumental in assisting park paleontologists with the crucial work of excavation. There are two different dig experiences available to join. The One-day Fossil Dig Discovery and Excavation and a six-day overnight camping excavation and fossil survey called Paleontology in the Land of Color- A Fossil Survey of Petrified Forest National Park

How you will make an impact

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Fossils Found: 
Revueltosaurus, Aetosaurs, Shuvosaurids, Poposaurids and Rauisuchids, Crocodylomorphs, Pterosaurs, Silesaurids, Coelophysis, Chindesaurus and petrified wood
PeriodTriassic
Formation: Chinle

Christa Sadler
Geologist, Educator, Writer and Naturalist

Six Day Paleontology Dig in the Land of Color

Join Petrified Forest National Forest paleontologist Christa Sadler for an exploration of the paleontology and archeology of some of the newly acquired park lands. This is a car camping expedition in a remote area of the park where you will prospect and look for new fossil sites and excavate fossils at known localities. You will have a chance to learn prep work in the paleontological lab and have time to explore the region for petroglyphs, incredible scenery and whatever else we discover.

During the course of our six days, you will also learn about:

  • Regional geology and Mesozoic stratigraphy and relations to other Late Triassic formations worldwide

  • An overview of the Permian-Triassic extinction and Mesozoic paleontology

  • Timeline of prehistory at Petrified Forest NP

 

What to Expect

This is an overnight tent camping expedition, during which you will be an active participant in paleontological prospecting, excavation, and fossil preparation techniques. These are full of hiking, working and surveying. The temperatures during the day will be in the mid-90s and at night in the high 50s.

  • Day 1: Meet at the Rainbow Forest Museum for an introduction to the geology and paleontology of the region and the park. After lunch, we will take a short hike to some of the popular areas of the park. Later in the afternoon we will move to our base camp.

  • Day 2: This morning we’ll work in the paleontological lab and collections and take another hike in the afternoon

  • Days 3-4: Excavations and prospecting all day!

  • Day 5: A day of excavating paleontology and prospecting for archaeology!

  • Day 6: We’ll move to the paleontology lab, where we will have a chance to learn fossil preparation techniques and finish up around lunchtime.

What to Bring

All training and tools including hammers and chisels, pickaxes, sledgehammers, trowels, brushes and awls will be provided. Feel free to bring your own whisk broom, dustpan, rock hammer and small paint brushes. There will be a full kitchen, with stove and water, coolers to keep your food cold, rain tarp, as well as a toilet set up.

  • Dinner is the ONLY meal provided. Bring your own breakfast and lunch for 6 days

  • Sleeping bag, pad, ground cloth, pillow, blanket

  • Tent

  • Camp chair

  • Hiking boots

  • Camp shoes

  • Lightweight pants

  • Pair of warm pants or sweatpants

  • Knee pads or pad to sit on while excavating

  • Three liters of water capacity

  • Daypack

  • A roll of toilet paper

  • Sun hat

  • Warm jacket and a lightweight fleece or sweatshirt

  • Long sleeved sun shirt

  • T-shirts

  • Rain gear

  • Warm hat and gloves

  • Atlas or nitrile work gloves or lightweight cotton garden gloves.

  • Mess kit, mug, and eating utensils

2023 Dates

August 1-6

8am-4pm

Group Size

8 people

Adults or minors 15+ w/ permission

$650/pp

One Day Fossil Dig Discovery and Excavation

Prepare to get dirty digging in the Triassic Chinle Formation for fossil bones of giant amphibians, reptiles, and even early dinosaurs. Join Adam Marsh, lead paleontologist at the park for this one-day introduction to paleontology field work.

You’ll start the day with a behind the scenes tour of the park fossil collections and then be driven ‘off the beaten’ path to work for about five hours at the research quarry and dig site. While there, participants will work closely with park paleontology crew to learn to identify fossils from rock and carefully excavate specimens.

This is a real-life adventure where participants participate in a real paleontological dig. That means you’ll be working on your hands and knees in the dirt using light hand tools and brushes, but there is no heavy digging or lifting. Depending on what the day turns up, you could be casting fossils to carry out using plaster and burlap.

 

Any and all collected specimens become part of the park’s museum collection!

What To Expect

  • Transportation to and from the dig site from the visitor center

  • All training and tools including hammers and chisels, pickaxes, sledgehammers, trowels, brushes and awls.

  • Lunch of a cold sandwich and water to refill bottles

 

No accommodations are provided in the cost.

 

What To Bring

  • Protective clothing including long sleeves and long pants

  • Sturdy shoes

  • Hat

  • Refillable water bottles

  • Sun-protection

  • Snacks

  • Light daypack

2023 Dates

June 10 & August 12

Group Size

10 people

14+ (minors must be accompanied

$165/pp