Celebrating the Richness of Paleontology through Fossil Hunting

C & D Canal, Fossil Hunting Site Near Delaware City, Delaware - Cretaceous - Information, Directions, Tips, and Fossil Identification

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C and D canal fossil hunting site in Delaware

Fossils are found in the Dredge piles near the mouth of the C & D Canal.

Dredge piles at the C&D canal in Delaware. These piles contain Cretaceous Fossils

These are the Dredge piles that contain fossils. It's a ton of sand, with some fossils mixed in.

Information about the C and D Canal Fossil Collecting Site:

This is mainly a location to find Belemnite fossils.

The fossils found in the spoil piles come from the Mount Laurel formation which is dredged up from the bottom of the canal. This formation was deposited during the late Cretaceous, somewhere between 65 to 85 million years ago. This was a time when the great interior seaway of North America began to close, and a new ocean was forming. During this time, this area was just off the coast in the new Atlantic Ocean.

According to the fossils found in the formation, this area was full of Beleminites. Also, Mosasaurs and sharks thrived. Along the coast, Dinosaurs, such as hadrosaurs, were still common.

Please note though, the fossils found here are rather limited. Mostly one finds Belemnites and Oyster shells.

Dredge area of the C and D Canal in Delaware where fossils are found

Image of a fossil containing Dredge area at the C and D Canal.

Location where Fossils are Found

map showing the fossil bearing dredge piles in Delaware

Map of the mouth of the C and D canal, showing the Dredge piles.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has jurisdiction over these canal lands. They allow small scale collecting for private collections. It is illegal to collect fossils from the area to sell.

Just south of Delaware city near the base of Reedy Point Bridge on Rt 9 are spoil piles from the canal (you can see the bridge in the image and map in this section). On the Google Map below, the Dredge Piles are the light sandy areas.

To get to the spoils, go toward the bridge from Delaware city, just before going onto the bridge, make a right onto a small road, this road will lead to the edge of the canal, make a left, you will see a small road leading to the spoil piles.

There are also dredge spoil piles near St. Georges, again, follow the road next to the canal until you see the piles.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers only Dredge the Canal every few years, sometimes less. This means if Dredging has not occured over a few years, the fossils will be picked over and the dredge piles will be overgrown.
Ideally, it is best to collect after Dredging has occured. Usually you just have to go there and see!

Google Map of the C and D Canal Area

Sample of Fossils that can be found

click the image below to go to the fossils that can be found at the Canal.

Equipment for Fossil Hunting:

Not much equipment is needed for this location. One can simply walk around the sandy areas looking for fossils sticking out of the sand.

Since there is no shade, I would recommend sunscreen and water. Also ticks and biting flies are in the area, so insect repellent is recommended.

To increase your finds, you can try a small shovel and sifter, to sift the sand. A sand sifter works great also:

10" Shark Tooth Sifter This is a sifter designed specifically for shark tooth sifting in sandy areas. It works great for the dredge piles at the Canal. This is the 10" version that I recommend. They are all lightweight and easy to use, you simply scoop, shake, and flip to sift.
Another cool thing about these sifters is they are made by a family owned shop called Tri Star Manufacturing.

Bosmere N480 Sieve, 1/4-Inch Mesh This is a nice and small 1/4" sifter that is ideal for the Canal sand piles. I would recommend something like this if you are not using a combo sifter mentioned above.

Recommended Books:
Recommended Book for more Information:

Delaware Geological Survey Special Publication No. 18 "Cretaceous Fossils from the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal: A Guide for Students and Amateurs"
by E.M. Lauginiger, Copyright 1988, Delaware Geological Survey

This is a great publication for the Canal. You can download it by going to the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) Publications Website and doing a search for the name.

Fossil Collecting in the Mid-Atlantic States: With Localities, Collecting Tips, and Illustrations of More than 450 Fossil Specimens

This book is a wonderful resource for fossil collecting in the Mid-Atlantic area. It contains a specific section on the C and D Canal.

What makes this book a classic is Jasper Burns incredible sketches of the locations and the fossils found at each location. It is a very descriptive and useful guide book. Even after all these years, I still find myself referencing it!

Fossil Collecting Locations in this book are from Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware.

When Dinosaurs Roamed New Jersey
by William B. Gallagher, 1997

Thisis a great book to learn about New Jersey Paleontology and the geologic history of New Jersey. It is very accurate, as the author is a scholar in the field of paleontology. There is even a section that describes fossil hunting sites in New Jersey. I know this site is in Delaware, but it's so close to New Jersey that this book is very relevant.