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Fossil Hunting around Bismarck ND


Thecosmilia Trichitoma

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Thecosmilia Trichitoma

I have some relatives in Bismarck, North Dakota, and would like to know about fossil hunting opportunities in the surrounding area (preferably in a one hour radius of the city.) I already know about the Geological Survey digs, but would prefer hunting where you can keep what you find (or even just the common stuff.) Are there any pay to dig/ public access sites near Bismarck?

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Thomas.Dodson

The short answer is there's not really anything like what you're looking for near Bismarck.

 

The longer answer is there are fossils but almost everything is going to fall on private property. The only public access sites you'd find are in roadcuts and productive roadcuts are hard to come by. If you try roadcuts, ditch the Hell Creek Formation. In the hour radius of Bismarck the exposures of the Hell Creek are generally barren sediments.

 

There aren't many Pierre Shale outcrops in the general area. You can move west or east to find them. I can think of only one "near" Bismarck and only the very top of it is exposed, non-fossiliferous, and only when the river level is low.

 

You can find Ophiomorpha sp. and fragmentary Crassostrea subtrigonalis in roadcuts in the Fox Hills of the area easily but most everything rarer including the concretionary zones fall on private properties.

 

The exposures of the Cannonball Formation are occasionally productive. Again though, these mostly fall on private property.

 

You'd probably have the best luck with other Fort Union Group formations in the area, like the Bullion Creek Formation. I've collected decent plant fossils in roadcuts in Morton County before. I haven't scouted this area as intensely as others.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Thecosmilia Trichitoma
On 2/1/2021 at 6:15 PM, Thomas.Dodson said:

The short answer is there's not really anything like what you're looking for near Bismarck.

 

The longer answer is there are fossils but almost everything is going to fall on private property. The only public access sites you'd find are in roadcuts and productive roadcuts are hard to come by. If you try roadcuts, ditch the Hell Creek Formation. In the hour radius of Bismarck the exposures of the Hell Creek are generally barren sediments.

 

There aren't many Pierre Shale outcrops in the general area. You can move west or east to find them. I can think of only one "near" Bismarck and only the very top of it is exposed, non-fossiliferous, and only when the river level is low.

 

You can find Ophiomorpha sp. and fragmentary Crassostrea subtrigonalis in roadcuts in the Fox Hills of the area easily but most everything rarer including the concretionary zones fall on private properties.

 

The exposures of the Cannonball Formation are occasionally productive. Again though, these mostly fall on private property.

 

You'd probably have the best luck with other Fort Union Group formations in the area, like the Bullion Creek Formation. I've collected decent plant fossils in roadcuts in Morton County before. I haven't scouted this area as intensely as others.

I just mentioned those formations in a tag because they were the main ones I knew about in the area. I am interested in anything, really. I would be very interested in plant sites. How do roadcut laws work in the area?

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Thomas.Dodson

Roadcuts within designated right-of-way are considered public land. This varies by road and I'm not looking up the specifics again but section line roads and some others are 33 feet from on both sides from the center of the road. It's generally obvious where the right-of-way ends because it's usually where the adjacent landowner fences/farms to.

 

In a nutshell, ND protects fossils on public land under the definition "paleontological resources" which applies to "significant" remains and does not include invertebrate, plant, or trace fossil material unless otherwise determined significant by the state geologist.

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