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Digging fossil fish at Fossil Safari in Wyoming

About The Fossil Lake Safari

The Fossil Lake Safari quarry is located about 30 minutes outside of Kemmerer, Wyoming.  Customers can pay by the day or hour for the unique experience of digging their own fossils from one of the premier fossil beds in the entire world.  Visitors can discover exquisitely detailed fossil fish in prolific numbers just by splitting the rocks at this quarry.  Best of all, our visitors get to keep the fossils that they find.

The rocks exposed in this quarry are part of the Fossil Butte Member of the Green River Formation. They were deposited at the bottom of Fossil Lake, a large subtropical lake that covered portions of what is now southwestern Wyoming 50 million years ago..  The unique conditions of this lake created an environment for the exceptional preservation of fossils.  Fish are the primary fossils to be found, but fossils of plants, insects, reptiles, birds and mammals are also occasionally unearthed at the quarry.

While the Green River Formation itself is almost 2,000 feet thick and extends over thousands of square miles, the good fossil bearing layers are only a few meters thick and exposed over a fairly small area.  At the Fossil Lake Safari quarry we have to remove between 20 and 40 feet of rock  with heavy machinery  to expose the best fossil bearing layers for customers.

Digging At The Quarry

We are open to the public 7 days a week from May 24th to September 30th.  No reservations are required for individuals or smaller groups to hunt fossils.  Larger groups of 15 or more should pre-book their trip so that we can assure that we have sufficient staff onsite.  We will provide tools to split rock and an orientation where our staff will show visitors how to find and identify fossils.  The fossils are found by splitting rocks using a hammer and chisel.  How many fossils you find is dependent on your effort, skill and luck but most customers that visit the quarry for a day will find dozens of fossil fish.

Customers get to keep all of the fossils that they find with the exception of extremely rare fossils valued over $100k, which our lease requires us to pay the landowner for.

Digging fossil fish at Fossil Safari in Wyoming

Individual Rates

Length Of StayAdults (Ages 17+)Kids (Ages 7 to 16)
Full Day$159$79
4 Hours$109$59
2 Hours$79$49
* See Policies Below
  • Pre-booking is suggested but not required for individuals and small groups
  • Children 6 and under are free with a paying adult.
  • This pricing is per individual. You will be digging alongside others in our quarry.

Directions

The Fossil Lake Safari dig is located approximately:

  • 30 minutes north-west of Kemmerer, Wyoming
  • 2 1/2 hours from Salt Lake City, Utah (Nearest Airport)
  • 3 hours from Jackson, Wyoming

Directions From Kemmerer, WY

  • Drive North through the town of Kemmerer until you will come to a Ridley’s grocery store on the North side of town
  • Just past this grocery store there will be a junction between Highway 189 and Highway 30. Turn onto Highway 189 heading north.
  • Drive 1.3 miles and take a left onto Highway 233 at the sign for Lake Viva Naughton.
  • Drive 3.9 miles and take a left onto Dempsey Road (dirt road). There will be a large ranch on your right at the turn off. If you cross a bridge you have gone too far.
  • Follow the the dirt road for about 8 miles. You will cross four cattle guards.
  • From the last cattle guard proceed three miles until you you will see a left turn at a diamond shaped rock marker. Take this left.
  • Drive another 2 miles and the road will fork. Take the right fork to go to the Fossil Lake Safari quarry.
Directions to Fossil Safari dig in Wyoming

WHat Should Visitors Know?

  • The quarry is located about a 30 minute drive from the nearest services, so come prepared with everything you need for the day.
  • The quarry is at high altitude (7,300 feet) and the weather can be a little unpredictable. It’s typically quite sunny during the summer, reaching 80-90 Fahrenheit/26-32 Celsius in July and August, but can be substantially cooler early in the day. Thunderstorms and brief rain showers are also quite common during the summer, so come prepared for the elements.
  • There is no cell phone reception in the quarry itself. You can get cell phone reception on the hill above and we have Starlink Internet available by our check in building.
  • To access the quarry you will travel down about 8 miles of dirt road. It is well maintained so even buses and RVs can typically access the quarry just fine. However, rainy weather can turn this road into a muddy mess, so all-wheel drive is necessary for this weather.

Read more on our FAQ…

What Visitors Should Bring?

  • Plenty of food and water to last the day
  • Proper clothing to protect you from the elements (hats, sun shirts, etc) while hunting fossils
  • Sunscreen is highly recommended
  • Sturdy shoes (NO open toe shoes or sandals)
  • Work or gardening gloves
  • Storage containers, empty boxes, and wrapping materials for your treasures such as newspaper or paper towels.

Read more on our FAQ…

What Fossils Are Found In The Quarry?

At this time 27 species of fish, 30 species of birds, 15 species of reptiles, 10 species of mammals and over 400 types of plants have been described from the Fossil Butte Member of the Green River Formation.  These range from extremely abundant species of fish like Knightia and Diplomystus to extremely rare types of reptiles, birds and mammals. Fossils of reptiles, birds, and mammals are quite rare, so finding one in one of the Green River Quarries is akin to winning the lotto. Read more…

Knightia fossil fish
Knightia, the most common fossil fish in the quarry.
Diplomystus fossil fish
Diplomystus, the second most common fish in the quarry.
Priscacara fossil fish
Uncommon Priscacara serrata fossil fish
Mioplosus fossil fish
Mioplosus, an uncommon type of fish.
Phareodus fossil fish
Phareodus, a large predatory fish found in the quarry
Fossil stingray (Heliobatis)
The stingray Heliobatis, one of the most coveted fossils among collectors.
Fossil gar, one of the largest fish in the quarry
A fossil gar, one of the largest and also rarest fish in the quarry. Can reach almost 6 feet.
Rare fossil paddlefish
A rare fossil paddlefish.
Uncommon Amphiplaga brachyptera fossil fish
Amphiplaga, an uncommon fish in the quarry.
Fossil monitor lizard
Possibly the most spectacular fossil ever found in the quarry, a 4 foot monitor lizard. Only three specimens are known.
Large fossil turtle
A giant fossil turtle. Reptiles are very rare finds in the Green River Formation.
Fossil bird from Green River Formation
A fossil bird found at the quarry. The Fossil Safari quarry has produced at least 13 new types of birds.
Fossil bat
Rare fossil bats from the Green River Formation represent the oldest known bats in the fossil record.
fossil primitive otter-like animal
Fossil otter-like mammal. Three specimens are known from the quarry.
Apatemys

Why Are The Fossils So Well Preserved?

The remarkable aspect of the Fossil Lake deposits lies in the exceptional degree of preservation found in many of the fossils. Fish are frequently found with scales and fins still intact. Even very delicate bird and bat fossils have been found complete and sometimes with soft-bodied preservation. But, what accounts for this?

1. At the lake’s bottom, an anoxic environment prevailed, characterized by little to no oxygen in the water. This inhibited bacterial decomposition and deterred scavengers that typically consume deceased organisms.

2. The mountains surrounding Fossil Lake were mostly composed of limestone. This meant the streams feeding into the lake were very rich in dissolved calcium carbonate. The water column of the lake became supersaturated with this calcium carbonate and it would periodically rain down, coating the lake bottom in very fine sediments.

This slow, steady rain of calcium carbonate along with the lack of oxygen at the lake bottom created an ideal environment for fossilization.

Quarry History

In early 2024 FossilEra acquired the Fossil Safari quarry from Warfield Fossil Quarries.  Possibly the most famous of the Green River quarries, its history goes back almost 60 years.  It has been known by many names, including Fossil Safari, the Warfield Fossils Quarry and the North Dempsey Quarry.  It was the first commercial fossil quarry on the Green River Formation to extensively collect the sandwich beds and it has likely produced more fossils over its six decades of operation than any of the other Green River quarries.

Rick Hebdon of Warfield Fossils
Rick Hebdon of Warfield Fossils who created the Fossil Safari and operated the quarry for nearly 40 years. Despite the new owner, Rick remains involved with the quarry.

Going back to 1969, the quarry was initially worked by three generations of the Tynsky family beginning with Sylvestor Tynsky, one of the most famous Green River collectors.  In 1986 the quarry was leased to Rick Hebdon of Warfield Fossils, who would operate the quarry for nearly 40 years and create Fossil Safari, the first large scale pay-per-dig operation. In his four decades of digging at this quarry Rick made many of the most important discoveries in the Green River Formation, including 13 holo-types for new species.  He meticulously collected, photographed and prepared these important specimens, many of which are now on display at the world famous Field Museum in Chicago.

Who Is FossilEra Adventures?

FossilEra Adventures was launched in 2024 as an offshoot of FossilEra.com, the largest retailer of authentic fossil specimens in the world.  Created with the mission to provide unique fossil experiences to everyone and develop the untapped paleo-tourism market.  The Fossil Lake Safari quarry represents our flagship “adventure”, but stay tuned as there will be many more in coming in the future.