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Finding Fossils in New York - Where to find fossils: facts and information about western New York's devonian fossils - Including Trilobites.

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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:
Sylvania, Ohio.

Eldredgeops (Phacops) Facts and Information
Everything you wanted to know about these trilobites!

The Eurypterid Gallery:
Learn about New York's most famous Silurian Fossils!

The Trilobite Gallery
See and Learn about Different Trilobites


Fossil Location:
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

Western New York Devonian Fossils Page Map:
About the Fossils of Western New York Fossil Collecting Locations: Where to Find the Fossils Fossil Identification - Sample of Fossils Found Devonian of Western New York Identification Sheets Recommended Books and Links

" 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.

Devonian Fossils of Western New York Site Map

About the Fossil Site, Fossil Collecting Tips, Directions, etc...

View a Sample of Devonian Fossils from Western New York

Devonian of Western New York Fossil Identification Sheet

Additional Photos/Images from the Devonian Outcrops of Western NY

Recommended Books and Links

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, and gastropods. The corals and algaes contributed to the reef building of the time period. Trilobites (Eldredgeops milleri - formerly 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 period. In 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 time period.

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.

cross section of the devonian fossil exposures of 18-mile creek, New York
This diagram is a cross-section of the cliffs, which shows the formations, and different members in the formations. Also, the letters correspond to different faunal assemblages. Please refer to the book for more information.

This image is from page 3 of Part 2 of: Devonian Biostratigraphy of New York International Union of Geological Sciences Subcommission on Devonian Stratigraphy Editors: Willian A. Oliver, Jr. and Gilber Klapper July 1981, Washington D.C.

Devonian Fossil Collecting Sites in Western New York:

Site 1: Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center

Penn Dixie 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
The bridge over 18-mile creek

** The lake shore is now POSTED on both sides of the creek **

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 specifically, it is found off of Old Lake Shore Road (this road crosses the creek near its mouth), but be warned there is no parking on the road. There is however a state owned area used for a fishermen parking lot almost under the bridge over 18-mile creek.

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. Someone bought the land and POSTED the lake Erie cliffs as no tresspassing.

Site 3: 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 section below) feature other sites. Just remember due to development, many areas are private property. Please get permission first.

View a Sample of Devonian Fossils Found around 18-mile creek, NY:

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 for the 18-mile creek area:

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! stuff

Newspaper/Old Towels/etc...
The fossils are very fragile, and can break on your way home. So, pack them up carefully.

Other Recommendations:
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.

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.

Recommended Books

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 The prices often fluxuate, but you can usually get a copy from $30 - $40.
Email me for a link to the PDF version.

Devonian Paleontology of New York
Paleontological Research Inst (July 1994)

This is another great book. It's an essential guide for collecting Devonian fossils in New York and surrounding states. It is full of detailed pictures to help you identify fossil from the Devonian time period.

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.

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