Sample of Fossils found from the Devonian of Western NY
Printable Fossil Identification Sheet for
the Devonian of Western NY
Similar Devonian Fossil Collecting Location:
The Eurypterid Gallery:
Learn about New York's most famous Silurian Fossils!
The Trilobite Gallery
See and Learn about Different Trilobites
Western New York;
Lake Erie, Creeks, & Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center
~385 Million Years Old
Middle Devonian, Givetian
Hamilton Group, Ludlowville and Moscow Formations
" Walking to the Cliffs "
Here, Amy is crossing 18 Mile Creek to get to the Lake Erie shore. It's a decent hike to get
to lake Erie from the parking area, but well worth it to get to the Devonian trilobite fossil location.
" Collecting at the Cliffs "
Fossil Hunting in an ancient Devonian coral reef. Fossils from Western New York are all from the Devonian. It all was once a shallow sea, teaming with trilobites.
" Paydirt "
Soon after we got there, we found one of the famous trilobite layers of the Hamilton Group.
The image shows some of the enrolled trilobites we were finding.
Enrolled ones are far more common than prone trilobites. Also, you may notice many are still
covered in matrix. They will stay covered until we get them home, where we can properly clean them
with an air abrasive unit.
About the Devonian Fossils of Western New York
Paleontology of Western New York
During this time period, in the Middle Devonian, a
mountain building phase was beginning. This is called the Acadian Oregony,
and occured when a landmass called Avalon collided
into, what is today, eastern North America.
This collision was the first step in the
assembly of the supercontinent Laurussia. The collision of Avalon began to create a large
mountain range called
the Acadian Mountains along eastern North America.
Rivers running down the Acadian mountains
picked up sediments and
carried them into the Catskill basin, a basin just west of the Acadian mountains and running
parallel to it. This basin was flooded by the Kaskaskia Sea. The Kaskaskia epicontinental sea,
was just west of the Acadian mountains. It
covered New York west of the Hudson river, as well
as many other states down to, what is today, the gulf of Mexico
The sediments from the Acadian mountains eventually made their way into
the Kaskaskia Sea. This occurred throughout the Middle and
Late Devonian. The sediments flowing into the sea created sedimentary deposits
that formed the sedimentary
rock layers seen today in New York, and specifically those found
at 18-Mile Creek. The most fossiliferous shale and mudstone at 18-Mile Creek
tends to be the Wanakah shale of the Ludlowville formation and
the Windom Shale of the Moscow formation.
During the Middle to Late Devonian period, the global climate was much warmer
than it is today. Also, New York was almost on top of the equator.
As a result, the warm shallow Catskill basin, spoken of earlier, was the home
of a wide variety of creatures, such as coral reefs, and many other invertebrates,
such as brachiopods, pelecypods, crinoids, cephalopods, red algae,
gastropods. The corals and algaes contributed to the reef building
of the time period. Trilobites (Phacops rana) were common in the Devonian as well, but by
this point they were on the decline. By the end of the Devonian
period, most were extinct.
In addition, the Devonian period is known by some as the "Age of Fishes."
Armored fish, placoderms, and primitive sharks lived in the Devonian
fact, most modern fish can trace their ancestry back to that time
period. By the end of the period, fish had evolved jaws and became
the major predators of their time. The problem with these fish,
however, is the fact they were mainly cartilagenous, meaning to us
they do not fossilize much. However, the dermal armor, scales, and
teeth did, and these parts become the major links to fish of that
Note that the area of 18-Mile Creek is so large it is divided
into eight distinct sections, with each housing differences in rock
formations and, then, of course, fossil specimens. Found at the mouth
of Eighteen Mile Creek is the Lake Eerie Cliffs, which contains some of
the same exposures as Eighteen Mile Creek. For clarification, it is this
area and several
of the other sections which contain fossils of trilobites, gastropods,
corals, crinoids, brachiopods, pelecypods, and cephalopods. This is where
we have mainly collected.
Here is a cross-section of the cliff exposures, showing the formations.
Fossil Collecting Sites in New York:
Site 1: Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center
This is a very family friendly place to collect at. However, don't be fooled, you can bring tools and dig into
the famous trilobite layers and find prized specimens.
This is a "Fossil Park" that is situated in Hamburg, NY, near the 18-mile creek area.
The Penn Dixie Education Center is situated
on an old quarry that has exposed the same formations as found at 18-mile creek
(however the trilobite layer is found by digging 1-2 feet below the surface).
The Penn Dixie Site is open for the public to collect fossils for a small fee.
They also have a few "Family Fossil Fun Days" and "Junior Paleontologist
Days" during the summer.
Please visit their website for directions and dates and hours in which they are open:
Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center.
Site 2: 18 Mile Creek and Lake Erie Cliffs
18-Mile Creek is about ten miles south of Buffalo, lying between the
Towns of Evans (to the southwest) and Hamburg (to the northeast). More
it is found off of Old Lake Shore Road (this road crosses the creek
near its mouth), but be warned there is no
public parking on this road. At the bridge over 18-mile creek, almost under it,
there use to be a house with a nice man & a cute dog
who let collectors and fishermen park there for a
small fee. The state bought the land, and demolished the house.
The last time
I was there, there was an empty lot where his house use to be. Fisherman and
fossil collectors still park in the lot. Once the state decides what to do with
the land this parking situation could change.
Once at the creek, you'll notice the expanse of cliffs containing the Devonian exposures.
Please DO NOT dig in the cliffs, as the cliffs are someone's property. There
are plenty of natural rock falls to look through.
If you hike up the creek a bit to the mouth, you will see the lake Erie cliffs. Again, DO NOT
dig in the cliffs. There's plenty of rock falls on the ground to look through.
Almost any creek near Lake Erie south of Buffalo
The Devonian exposures of Western New York are expansive. There are many other spots you can find.
Many geologic publications (including the ones in the recommended books section below) feature other sites.
Just remember due to development, many areas are private property. Please get permission first.
View a Sample of Fossils Found:
If you plan on fossil collecting in Western New York, or need your Devonian fossils identified, this is your place, click the image below!
Recommended Fossil Equipment:Do not dig in the cliffs. The fossils on this page were found in the rubble that has already fallen at the base of the cliffs.
If you are at a location where cliffs are present, remember it's probably someone's private property. Fossil hunt in the fallen debris.
Sturdy Rock Hammer and Chisels.
You need to split the rocks you find!
Protective Eye Glasses
It's time to blow the dust off those old chemistry goggles!
The fossils are very fragile, and can break on your way home. So, pack them up carefully.
Also, most of the complete trilobites are found still partially/mostly inside the rock.
I would suggest not "operating" on the potential complete fossil at the site, but taking
it home and then carefully extracting it to see if it is complete.
Air abrasive units tend to work the best at extracting these fragile fossils from the rock
(all of our trilobites were extracted with a home-made air abrasive tool, which shoots
baking soda at high speed).
If in a creek, wear thick shoes or waders; there are broken bottles all over the place.
Please note that almost all of the trilobite fossils we find here are only partial fragments.
Very few are whole. Also, most of the whole ones are enrolled. Therefore,
do not expect to find many complete trilobites, as it takes many trips to the site to find
those elusive "trophy" specimens.
Geology and Paleontology of 18 Mile Creek
Grabau, Amadeus Willian, and Bastedo, Jerold C. "Geology And Paleontology Of Eighteen Mile Creek And The Lake Shore Sections Of Erie County, New York"
International Union of Geological Sciences, Vo. VI, Buffalo NY, (1898)
This is a famous publication by Grabau himself. Any Devonian fossil hunter needs this! Although some of the Genera have changed, this
book is chalk full of pictures and descriptions for fossil identification.
A hard copy of the book is available at
(link to the left), or it can be downloaded free via PDF.
Click here for the free PDF version,
Devonian Biostratigraphy of New York
International Union of Geological Sciences
Subcommission on Devonian Stratigraphy, (Part 1 and Part 2)
Editors: Willian A. Oliver, Jr. and Gilber Klapper
July 1981, Washington D.C.
This is an incredibly informative book, however it is somewhat difficult to find. Your best bet is probably a University Library.