June 4, 2016 and September 4, 2017 – This trip was a very easy 2 hour drive from West Jordan, Utah to Kemmerer, Wyoming then a 30 minute drive on a relatively slow, but absolutely beautiful 5 mile long dirt road to Fossil Safari. The first time I took my minivan and the second trip was in our 29′ motorhome. Outside of how dusty every square inch of both vehicles got, it was a pretty easy drive and just like our other rock trips, I had quite a few questions and took quite a few pictures. Here are a few of them.
Pics from June 2016
Pics from September 2017
What is a fish fossil, how were they formed and what kind of fossils can I expect to find?
Just outside of the town of Kemmerer, Wyoming, in what is known as the Green River Formation, are several limestone quarries with 50 million year old fish, turtles, crocodiles, insects, mammals, birds and over 200 different kinds of leaves hidden within its layers. It’s hard to believe that 50 million years ago that entire area was a huge fresh water lake, but it was. I know what you’re thinking, don’t fish float when they die? Not in this lake. For 4,000 years the chemistry of the water made fish, animals, insects, birds and plant life sink to the bottom and become the fossils we find today. Click HERE to see some of the fossils that have been found in the Green River Formation.
Where is Fossil Safari? Where should we stay? Are there any good restaurants?
Fossil Safari is a 30 minute drive from Kemmerer, Wyoming, with 5 miles being on a slow going dirt road. In June we arrived the afternoon before heading out to the quarry and stayed at the Best Western Fossil Country Inn in Diamondville, Wyoming. We stayed in one of their suites for $119 including taxes and fees. This hotel is very clean, the people are friendly, the continental breakfast was great and the pool was a huge hit with the kids. There are lots of little hotels all over Kemmerer, but this one was by far the nicest and very close to a gas station with a Subway and a liquor store as well as a Pizza Hut.
For dinner we drove into downtown Kemmerer and ate at Bootleggers. Bootleggers is a steakhouse on the square across from the J.C. Penny Mother Store founded in 1902. It is a very casual restaurant with a great and very inexpensive children’s menu. For adults, there are many choices of chicken, sandwiches, salad bar and steaks for a fairly reasonable price. I had the most amazing cheesy cauliflower soup with my dinner. If they are serving that, I would highly recommend it!
For our second trip we decided to bring our motorhome and camp on the BLM land that surrounds the quarry. This is an excellent free option with fantastic views, but be prepared for your kids to get very, very, very dusty playing outside. Camping out there is incredibly peaceful with our closest neighbors being maybe 1/4 mile away. I’m honestly not sure which option I liked better, the hotel or camping, they were both pretty great.
Is there a good map? Yes!
**Please do not use Google or Apple maps to get out to the quarry. It tried to take us through a drainage tunnel that might have been big enough to squeeze a Ford Focus through and onto roads that looked like the last thing to travel on them was a covered wagon. The map above is great and although it may take an extra 5-10 minutes, it’s worth following.
How much does it cost to find Fish Fossils?
What is a good age to bring kids to Fossil Safari?
This trip would be great for most kids ages 7 and over. We brought an 11 year old and two 4.5 year old girls the first time. The 11 year old did great, but seemed to get a little frustrated when she wasn’t finding fossils as quickly and easily as we did with the trilobites. It is a decent amount of work to hit the chisel with a hammer and crack the stone open layer by layer, but just like the trilobite trip, it gets more an more and more addicting the longer you’re there. For the younger girls, they enjoyed just whacking rocks with their tiny hammers for about an hour, but after that they required iPads, snacks and someone to watch them so they didn’t kill themselves by climbing the rock walls. If you can’t watch your adventurous younger child 100% of the time, then I would recommend leaving them at home until they are little older for their own safety. This is an amazing thing to do with your children when they are old enough to learn about the great history of fish fossils and be able to swing a hammer without smashing their fingers. At our house there is a big age gap between children and we didn’t want our older child to miss out, so we chose to bring our 4.5 year the first time and both kids the second time which meant one of us was attending to them instead of cracking open layers of limestone pretty much all of the time. If you can help it, don’t bring young children with you, wait until they are at least 7, it will be way more fun for everyone.
Are there other places to find fish fossils in the area?
Yes. Click HERE to see a full list including prices and hours from the Fossil Basin Promotion Board. And while you’re in the area, make sure to check out Fossil Butte National Monument as well as the Fossil Country Frontier Museum in Kemmerer.
Please note that traveling in remote areas can be dangerous from weather to road conditions to car trouble and much, much more. The information listed above was current on June 4, 2016, but anytime after that you must proceed with caution and at your own risk.