Iowa Nature, Parks & Gardens June 29, 2021
by Cristy You’ll Love Digging For Fossils At The Unique Fossil and Prairie Park Preserve In Iowa
Have you ever visited the prairie preserve tucked away in Rockford, Iowa? If so, then you might already know what it holds – old ruins from its quarry days, beautiful hiking trails, and perhaps most uniquely of all, millions of ancient fossils, free for the taking!
You would have been swimming under the ocean if you were to visit the Fossil and Prairie Park Preserve in Rockford, Iowa long ago. Amazingly you might have seen some of the same underwater creatures that are visible today. Brachiopods, Gastropods, Horn Corals, Colony Corals, Crinioids, Bryzoans, and Cephalopods can all be found here frozen in time.
If those names sound like a foreign language to your ears, check out the photo of a few square inches of prairie park preserve surface soil below and see if you can spot at least three different fossil pieces. This is just a sampling of the types of things you can find at the Fossil and Prairie Park Preserve!
Having fun looking for fossils in the photo? Don't stop at that - go do it for real and bring your own bucket. At this park, it's finders keepers!
The fossils here are from the shallow sea environment and are of marine animals without backbones. Digging isn’t necessary as these fossils are laying on the surface of the approximately 20 acres of exposed soil found at the 400-acre park.
There are more than just fossils here, too. An educational center provides opportunities to learn and ask questions. The views are striking. There is an interesting history behind what shaped these almost desert-like hills.
The site is a former quarry for blue shale which was used to make agricultural drainage tile and building bricks. Two of the beehive kilns used in the manufacturing process remain onsite, as well as quarry ponds, and informational signs describe the activity here. Several walking paths grace the preserve property.
The Fossil and Prairie Center provides information on the geology, commercial history, and prairie aspects of this park and is open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. daily after May 29. Outdoor areas are open from sunrise to sunset. There is a lunch pavilion and waterless restrooms near the kiln site.
If you are looking for fossils, watch the weather. Going during or not long after a rain can be a muddy and slippery experience you may want to avoid.
To learn more about this fun spot and plan your own treasure hunt here, visit the Fossil and Prairie Park Preserve’s
website. You can also find them on Facebook. And these aren’t the only fossils in Iowa – the Hawkeye State is covered in them!
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Address: Fossil & Prairie Center, 1227 215th St, Rockford, IA 50468, USA