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Fossil butte national monument entrance sign

The Fossil Butte National Monument

The Fossil Lake Safari quarry is practically a stone’s throw away from the Fossil Butte National Monument, Located off of Highway 30 about 15 miles west of Kemmerer, Wyoming. This National Monument is part of the United States’ diverse network of national parks and monuments, and offers visitors a fun-filled interpretive adventure through the Eocene environments of Fossil Lake full of incredible fossils. You can’t collect or dig fossils here, but there is still plenty to explore.

Fossil Butte National Monument covers about 8,000 acres of the Fossil Butte Member of the Green River Formation the most fossil-rich member. Much of this formations area covers Fossil Lake! The monument was designated in 1972 to preserve one of the world’s best deposits of Eocene fossil life: it serves as steward to “America’s Aquarium in Stone”! Its visitor center displays thousands of fossilized fish, birds, reptiles, mammals, insects, and plants (and even a prolific coprolite display next to their restrooms) in its own interpretive museum. All of the fossils and fossil casts found in their museum are from the formation, many sourced from quarries like ours only a few miles away. Learn about the diverse ecosystem of Fossil Lake in its prime, the fossilization process, and about local history and the cast of characters that first quarried the area commercially. 

fossil fish on display - fossil butte national monument
Over 2,000 fossils from the Green River Formation are on display at the Fossil Butte National Monument interpretive center.

FBM also hosts a variety of ranger programs in the summer months, including demonstrations on fossil preparation, activities in their research quarry, local geology, and numerous other ranger talks. Check their website for schedules, teaching materials, and offered programs here.

But the monument doesn’t just operate to preserve fossils: it’s an active research center for both local geology and wildlife! Rangers study the local ecosystem every day to learn how to better care for the plants and animals that call the monument home, as well as ecological processes that keep the ecosystem running. The monument is part of the Northern Colorado Plateau Network, which monitors parks and monuments in the region that include Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, Dinosaur and Capitol Reef national monuments, and other federally designated lands in western Colorado and eastern Utah. The monument works to also keep the numerous species of high-desert dwelling birds and mammals, as well as a few elusive species of reptiles, amphibians, and fish, happy in their homes. The monument maintains several hiking trails and a 7.5-mile Scenic Drive to take in the sights all around their 8,000 acres.

picnic area and hiking trails at fossil butte national monument
Picnic area and hiking trails at Fossil Butte National Monument

Want to see what other national parks and monuments have to offer? You’re in luck! FBM is centrally located around some of the country’s most famous areas. FBM is a 2 ½-hour drive from Grand Teton National Park, 5 hours from Yellowstone National Park, 3 hours from the Utah side of DInosaur National Monument, and about 5 ½ hours from Moab and Arches National Park. Make sure you also plan a visit to Fossil Butte National Monument and Fossil Safari along your national park crawl road trip this summer!