Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve is owned and operated by the Hamburg Natural History Society, Inc. The dig site is a hidden gem just 10 miles south of Buffalo.
Visitors can find and collect 380 million year-old animal and plant fossils that once flourished in an ancient tropical sea that covered WNY. In 2011, The Geological Society of America ranked Penn Dixie as the No. 1 fossil park in the country.
Keep the fossils you find
When we spent the day at Penn Dixie, we rented a bucket of tools ($5 for two hammers, a chisel and a pair of safety glasses) to share among the three of us. It would have been helpful to bring something to kneel on since the ground is where the action is. A sit-upon we used to make in Girl Scouts would have been perfect! Next time we’ll bring our own tools along since there is always a risk of them all being rented out. Bring a few containers for fossil-finds since you are able to keep everything you’d like. You’ve got to have a keen eye to find the fossils, many of which are smaller than pebbles. It was fun being an amateur paleontologist for a few hours!
Penn Dixie strives to be mobility- and family-friendly, offering five shelters, picnic tables, benches, portable toilets, and over 4,100 feet of paved trails for wheelchairs, walkers, strollers and wagons. You may not think when you first pull into the lot that you could spend a whole day there among the rocks, but when you are focused on just a small piece of land, searching for the tiniest of fossils, time slips away. It is a simple, engaging experience.
Penn Dixie’s October
Earth Science Day
Every October, Penn Dixie hosts Earth Science Day. From their website:
Learn about Western New York’s natural history, ecology, and resources through interactive exhibits and demonstrations in a family-friendly setting. Experience hands-on learning under the big tent from groups like The Buffalo Zoo, Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, Hamburg Library, Reinstein Woods, SUNY Buffalo Geology Department, Past & Present Rock Shop, and many more.There is no charge for admission. Thanks to a generous donation, the first 210 children to arrive will receive complimentary fossil collecting trowels. For those interested in learning more about natural resources, our friends at Earth Dimensions will demonstrate the operation of a drill rig during the event. Plus — stick around or return for a fall stargazing program.
More information about Penn Dixie
- Cost: There is an admission fee
- Located in Blasdell, roughly 80 minutes / 80 miles from Rochester (get directions)
- More information: penndixie.org/
You can learn even more about our fascinating geologic history at the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca.
Have you been to Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve?
Share with us in the comments! We’d love to hear about your visit and your insight is invaluable.