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Is there any place to search for fossils in our area?

Hunter Ingram
StarNews
Bigstock photo

Bigstock photo

Q. Is there any place to search for fossils in our area?  I had heard stories about old quarries but have never discovered anything!

A. With “Jurassic World” all the rage (or roar, that is) at the box office, fossil hunting will likely see a spike this summer as amateur archaeologists look to the ground for a peek into the past.

But is Southeastern North Carolina a hotbed for a prehistoric finds? Roger D. Shew, a geology professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, thinks so.

“We do have multiple intervals of different ages here that could produce quite a few fossils,” he said.

The best fossil collecting in the area can be done along the Cape Fear River, Shew said, or at the Rocky Point Martin Marietta Quarry in Pender County, which is open occasionally to fossil hunters.

“There are several sites from Lock and Dam No. 2 all the way down to Wilmington and at some of the bluffs where exposures of different age rocks have fossils in them,” Shew said.

The Ideal Cement Quarry, a formerly rich site, has been closed.

A problem facing those in the public looking to hunt for fossils would be that many of the best places to dig are in quarries or on private property.

“That one has the Cretaceous Age fossils of the PeeDee formation,” he said. “It also has the younger 35 million years old Castle Hayne limestone as well.”

Shew said the most famous fossil-collecting location nearby is the PotashCorp mine (formerly known as the Lee Creek mine) in Beaufort. Its purpose is to mine for phosphate, but its formations are rich in marine fossils including molluscs, gastropods, coral, whale bones and the N.C. state fossil — the shark teeth of Carcharodon megalodon.

But getting access to the mine is difficult – you have to become a member of the N.C. Fossil Club or join a geological field trip.

But for the casual fossil hunter, there is a small fossil pit available for digging at the nearby Aurora Fossil Museum, which Shew calls a “fantastic” museum for those interested in fossils.

For more information about the museum, call 252-322-4238 or visit www.aurorafossilmuseum.com.

Wherever you go, Shew said don’t expect to just fossils to be sitting on the ground waiting to be found. And excavating the fossils will take some work.

“The reason is because we are in the coastal plain and have very low topography,” he said. “So the only places you are going to be able to see fossils is where that top soil has been removed in places like the quarries and near the Cape Fear where (the water) has cut through the layers. Or even Lake Waccamaw, where there is a bluff. You need to find a place where there is erosion or scouring, either naturally or man-made, where you can look below the surface of the soil.”

Happy digging!

RELATED LINKS:

Why are there no sharks teeth on Brunswick beaches? Topsail Island has SO many!

Geologically speaking, how old is the Cape Fear River?

User-contributed question by:
Mary

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One Response to “ Is there any place to search for fossils in our area?”

  1. On July 23, 2015 at 4:08 pm Michael wrote:

    Shark Tooth Island is a short kayak ride from the River Road County Park. Renting kayaks from Hook Line and Paddle land offers fun and the chance to find shark teeth and small fossils



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