kimberlight

Fossil Hunting In Wisconsin

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My son (12) and I are going back to my home state of Wisconsin for a trip this week. Can anyone point us to a few spots that do not need permission to collect, or provide the names/numbers/places of the good places? We will be in the Madison area for several days, and then north to near Phillips (side trips okay). Nik wants to be a paleotologist and the fossils here in California are few and far between relative to WI. Your help would be greatly appreciated. I want to continue his interest in fossils, but it is hard to peak their interest if you can't find anything!

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Definitely check the quarries up near Phillips and Park Falls. I'm from WI and heard Green Lake County is abundant in fossils in the sandy areas in and around Ripon and Berlin. Also, the shores of Lake Michigan near Sheboygan County.

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you're more likely to find Lake Superior agates and lumps of granite in any of the quarries around Phillips and Park Falls. That area of Wisconsin was heavily glaciated, and for the most part what you'll find is glacial material on top of basalt bedrock. If you're super lucky, once in a great while you'l find a coral or two or a BIF (Banded Iron Formation Stramatolite) mixed in that was transported from somewhere further north.

Stick to the driftless lower-1/3rd of the state for fossils

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http://wisconsingeologicalsurvey.org/pdfs/pgszpdf/bedrock_geology.pdf

A link for you. :)

Shows you the geology of WI and the second page goes into the geologic history. You want the light blue areas of the Prairie Du Chein formation.

At 12 I would suggest that he create a plan on where to hunt. Have him use this map and then road maps, break it down to a county you will be in or close to. Then have him "fly-in" on Google Earth and check out the roads for road cuts.

You should be able to find county geologic maps just like we have in Minnesota (check my website for how I found those). If he can figure out how to overlay a roadmap, that would be great. And then Google Earth allows you to drive right down that road and search for the road cuts.

You will find many of the same fossils that we find here in Minnesota. The fossils didn't mind going over state lines. :-D

This will also work for California!

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If you scroll down under forums you will find "Fossile Sites" I believe it is called and a list of countries and then the U.S.A., go to Wisconsin. All kinds of useful information there including this link to a pdf of common fossils in Wi.

http://wisconsingeologicalsurvey.org/pdfs/espdf/es45.pdf

I don't know why this link won't take you to that specific pdf, so go to WI and check out Common Paleozoic Fossils of WI and clink on his link and you will go directly there. This one takes me to a more complex PDF, also interesting but not what your son needs.

Happy hunting!

Bev :)

Edited by Bev

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Most roadcuts west of Madison up and down the state likely contain some sort of fossil remains. I know plenty of roadcuts in that area but haven't the time recently to explore them.

Mineral specimens can be had in the baraboo region and also to the north although outcrops are buried under glacial sediments

Cambrian of Wisconsin- Contains fossil remains as imprints in sandstone like disarticulated trilobites, inarticulate brachiopods, and hyoliths. In some beds they can be extremely common with a high diversity of trilobite material. Ex. the Franconia Formation. has at least 10 genera of trilobites represented. Alot of roadcuts are mentioned in Twenhofel, Raasch and Thwaites 1935, although many are now overgrown a few sites remain. If anyone out that way is interested in stopping and scouting a few roadcuts in that area please send me a PM and I will forward you 10 or so roadcuts I have been meaning to visit.

Ordovician- I am not all that familiar with other Ordovician deposits near the Madison Area as I've only collected in the Platteville Formation, which is known for its high quality fossils. Exposures of the Platteville are best found in the Driftless Area near Fennimore. I know of a productive roadcut near Fennimore if anyone is interested in traveling to it. Articulated trilobites are found there along with a plethora of invertebrates. The Maquoketa Group and the Sinnipee Group are your best bet for Ordovician fossils although I cannot comment on the Prairie du Chien group. The Maquoketa is fossiliferous in Green Bay area and rock from Milwaukee quarries of Maquoketa contains a diverse trilobite assemblage.

Silurian - This is a frustrating unit in Wisconsin because many many many outcrops exist from near the Illinois boarder up to Door county. Most outcrops i've located have been poorly fossiliferous at best. Door County has some large coral heads in certain areas and abundant pentamerids are located in the Eden quarry. A lot of exposures of the Silurian units are contained in parks and private land so accessing them can be challenging. The Silurian series is starts with the lowest unit that sits unconformably on top of the Maquoketa shale and is called the Brandon Bridge. It is sparsely fossiliferous at best. On top of it is the Waukesha Dolomite, which I cannot comment on. The Racine Formation is the reef beds of the Silurian and contain a diverse assemblage of Trilobites, brachiopods and cephalopods. Most productive exposures were in quarries see Miklulic 1979.

Devonian - 3 exposures of Devonian rock have been located by me in South Eastern Wisconsin. One is in Milwaukee and is part of a county park so collecting is no go. This location does have many fossils. The other two locations, one being near Thiensville and the other in Harrington Beach State park. Fossils are rare in these sites. Devonian fossils can be found on almost every beach in South Eastern Wisconsin.

This winter I will be prepping and calling quarries and landowners to locate more productive outcrops for people in Wisconsin to enjoy.

Hope this clears up some information about Wisconsin collecting. Times are tough with all the glacial material, I find myself looking at every dumped rock and gravel pile in this state.

Feel free to pm me if you want any help locating more sites.

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Hi there - was wondering if you had an updated list? We are in Door County for spring break and itching to hunt despite the snow on the ground. Thanks!

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You are from San Fran. You are literally surrounded by fossils!!! Just walk the shoreline of Capitola, or take the stairs that the surfers use to get down to the beach at the end of 41st Av. Try almost any beach along the coase just south of san Fran. go across the golden gate and find a road to the beach and start hunting the cliffs. Fossils everywhere where you live.

RB

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Hi there - was wondering if you had an updated list? We are in Door County for spring break and itching to hunt despite the snow on the ground. Thanks!

Any of the beaches have large Silurian corals weathering along the shoreline. Not much for trilobites up that way. You would have to head closer to Green Bay to locate some possible trilobites.

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Walmart parking lot in Sturgeon bay has layers of favosites

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you're more likely to find Lake Superior agates and lumps of granite in any of the quarries around Phillips and Park Falls. That area of Wisconsin was heavily glaciated, and for the most part what you'll find is glacial material on top of basalt bedrock. If you're super lucky, once in a great while you'l find a coral or two or a BIF (Banded Iron Formation Stramatolite) mixed in that was transported from somewhere further north.

Stick to the driftless lower-1/3rd of the state for fossils

John - I live in Mequon, WI (north suburb of Milwaukee) and have a small patch of woods in my back yard (50 x 100) which has been loaded with finds - I found 2 rather large piece of needle ore hematite last fall that I may be donating to UW-Geology museum. After the snow melted I went back out and found several pieces of fossilized coral and limestone with lots of crinoid fossils - You mention being lucky to find but not sure if that is location specific - here are a couple pictures

One coral is the size of football. Can't find a way to post pictures here - just URL links

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John - I live in Mequon, WI (north suburb of Milwaukee) and have a small patch of woods in my back yard (50 x 100) which has been loaded with finds - I found 2 rather large piece of needle ore hematite last fall that I may be donating to UW-Geology museum. After the snow melted I went back out and found several pieces of fossilized coral and limestone with lots of crinoid fossils - You mention being lucky to find but not sure if that is location specific - here are a couple pictures

One coral is the size of football. Can't find a way to post pictures here - just URL links

yes, Mequon would be included in the lower 1/3rd of the state

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So finding coral is common in lower 1/3?

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Yes fossil coral is very common in the glaciated Wisconsin and also in Door County.

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Here are a few of the ones in my back yard.....1st close up is of a pocket on large fossil on left of main view (I think is a crinoid). The second is close up of a limestone piece - This was all in a small 60ft x 180ft wooded area I found after cleaning out buckthorn last fall. Place appears to be loaded with sponge or coral fossils and limestone fossils - Also found several museum quality needle ore hematite which I posted on other discussion (Show Off Your Awesome Metal Ores)

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Edited by metwerks

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I am in Pewaukee and would love to dig around your yard with my boys... We are planning a lake front trip to try to find a trilobite but need to know some good places to look.

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I sanded it down.....appear to be just a porous mineral. Anyone know what it is?

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I am new to this site and live near appleton wisconsin. I am looking for places to go fossil/mineral hunting. If anyone knows of anywhere in my area or any good spots in the state that I can go to without permits/permission. If anyone wants someone to join them let me know and I would love to go hunting with others! I have a little experience but would love to do more fossil/mineral hunting!!!

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does anyone know if i could find anything behind the Bruce Mound just outside of Hatfield Wi.

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If you're referring to the winter sports park then no. There might be cambrian sandstone, but it's void of fossils.

Best regards,

Paul

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I'm talking about the backside of the skii hills, but thanks for the info.

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I also wanted to know were you could find any type of shark teeth in Wisconsin.

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My kids (5 and 7) recently started getting excited about finding fossils. We live in La Crosse, WI and I'd like to find a place to take them around SE Minnesota or SW Wisconsin to hunt for them. Any recommendations? The links by Bev are not working.

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I also wanted to know were you could find any type of shark teeth in Wisconsin.

You might find some fish bits along Lake Michigan in the silurian bedrock, but Wisconsin does not have any shark teeth to my knowledge. Wisconsin is covered with tertiary material from glacier activity. There are parts of Wisconsin with exposed ordovician dolostone, Cambrian sandstone(northern Wisconsin/fragmented areas around Madison), silurian(east coast lake Michigan)Most of the silurian exposures have been quarried, build over and have been long lost. However, there are outcrops by the lake coast(very few on public land).

Best regards,

Paul

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My kids (5 and 7) recently started getting excited about finding fossils. We live in La Crosse, WI and I'd like to find a place to take them around SE Minnesota or SW Wisconsin to hunt for them. Any recommendations? The links by Bev are not working.

La Cross is surrounded by ordovician bedrock. I would take a drive on country roads and look for road cuts. To be perfectly honest, you should be tripping over the vast amount of material there. Farmers in your area typically quarry their own rock from bedrock on the property. I'd suggest going to Google Earth and search for farms that have exposed rock pits, these are not hard to see. Some may let you look around as long as you agree not to sue them if you have an accident. Fossil hunting in Wisconsin can be frustrating and take some time and research. With a little hard work you should find a few places you can start with. Another tip is check out the creeks and streams that feed into the Mississippi river. Many times the water erodes past bedrock creating faces a long the waterway.

Good luck in your hunt! If you have any further questions do not hesitate to post them here.

Best regards,

Paul

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