We'll dig so you don't have to!
Sixty-five million years ago, as Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops roamed the land, much of what is now the coasts and central plains of North America were covered by shallow seas that teemed with marine life - often in conditions that lent themselves to the formation of marine fossils that have survived continental upheavals to be found all over the country today.
Fossil hunting enthusiasts in and around Delaware have an excellent source of easy-to-find treasures, courtesy of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal! The canal, begun in the early 1800s, is today a 14 mile long, 450 foot wide, 35 foot deep waterway that connects the two bays that its name is derived from. It still undergoes regular dredging to keep it passable for the big freighters that come through on a regular basis.
What does this have to do with fossil hunting?
Well, all that sand and silt - and the cretaceous glories buried there - have to go somewhere! The state dumps some of the spoils at the Fort Dupont State Park near the Reedy Point bridge and allows access to the public, including the right to take home small amounts of items for personal collections.
Fort Dupont State Park, 45 Clinton St, Delaware City, DE 19706, USA
When my family visits here we usually bring a children's beach bucket or two to hold our finds, and a couple of small trowels - though we hardly use the latter, because often our best finds come simply from looking at the ground ahead of us as we walk.
(Important note: this park does allow deer hunting on its grounds for a few months of the year in late fall and winter, so when planning a trip here it's a good idea to consult the state hunting and trapping guidelines to minimize the chances of sharing the space with rifle-toting hunters! I've been there a few times during hunting season and only once seen hunters there, wrapped in their required-by-law easy-to-spot bright orange.)
What to Look For
Belemnites - The Official State Fossil
I have two favorite items from the canal spoils. I don't know what the first one is, and the image shown doesn't do it justice. The whole object has a deep prismatic metal sheen, and the leafy tendrils around its edges certainly have an organic look to them. Could this be the fossilized form of some early relative of the sea anemone?
Fossil Hunting is Fun and Educational
Bring the kids along - they'll have so much fun digging in the giant piles of dirt, they'll hardly notice they're learning something at the same time!