Celebrating the Richness of Paleontology through Fossil Hunting

Fossil Shark Teeth of the Potomac River - Paleocene Fossils

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Potomac River Weather:

Potomac River Fossil Shark Teeth

Potomac River Fossils: Paleocene Shark Teeth of Maryland and Virginia

The Potomac Rive shores in MD and VA
~56-59 Million Years Old
Paleocene: Aquia Formation, Piscataway Member
This is your place to travel to find Paleocene Fossil Shark Teeth

view of the paleocene Fossil cliffs along the Potomac River

View of the Aquia Formation (The gray clay layer with the white shells in it) along the Potomac River. Paleocene Fossil Shark teeth are found here

Fossil hunting for prehistoric shark teeth along the Potomac River.

Paul and Amy are walking along the cliffs looking for fossil shark teeth.

Potomac River Fossil Hunting.

Toward the end of summer, seaweed and mats of algae bloom in bays along the potomac. These aquatic plants often wash ashore and cover the beach in a stinky muck. It makes it difficult for fossil hunting.

Looking for Fossil Shark Teeth along the Potomac River.

Watch out for the trees. fossil collecting with all the down trees can make it a little cumbersome.

There is a layer roughly 15-20 ft up that is chalk full of fossil Turritella Gastropod molds. This layer is collapsed along some sections of the Potomac Cliffs, which means huge rocks are laying on the beach that are full of the gastropod molds.

Click here to see more pictures of collapsed cliff sections containing the fossil Gastropod molds

About the Fossils along the Potomac River

Fossils found along the cliffs of the Potomac River just south of D.C. are from the Aquia formation, which is from the Selandian, or late Paleocene.

This time period markes the final ending of the supercontinent Pangaea, as the last vestige split apart into Antarctica and Australia. Also, at the end of the Paleocene, the climate was warming from the cool Paleocene climate into the tropical climate of the Eocene. Another special event marked in the Paleocene is the development of grass. Without the evolution of grass, mankind would have long perished from lack of cutting it.

Again, as in the Eocene and Miocene, this area was just offshore in the young, and much narrower Atlantic Ocean. The fossiliferous deposits contain mainly shells, fish, and ossil shark teeth (including the fiercest shark of the Paleocene, Otodus obliquus), ray plates, and crocodile and turtle material. These deposists are too old to find marine mammals, as mammals did not return to the sea for another 4 - 6 million years, in the Eocene. However, the Eocene Nanjemoy formation occasionally pops up along the cliffs. Sometimes Eocene fossils can be found along the shores from this formation.

View a Sample of the Paleocene Fossils Found Here, Including Fossil Shark Teeth:

If you plan on fossil hunting along the Potoamc River, or need Paleocene fossils and shark teeth identified, this is your place, click the image below to go to the Paleocene Potomac River Fossils Identification Page!

Access to Fossils Exposures of the Potomac River

When looking for fossil along the potomac, please remember that private property starts at the LOW tide line in VA, therefore, all beaches in VA are private property. In MD, private property starts at the HIGH tide line, so you must stay below the high tide line in MD.

  • Access is limited, especially without a boat and VA property laws.

    However, the VMNH takes field trips to places along the potomac. For information about their public field trips, click here.

  • Recommended Equipment

    A small Shovel and Sifter with a 1/8" - 1/4" screen.
    The shovel and sifter is for sifting the pebble areas along the Potomac river. DO NOT DIG IN THE CLIFFS, as the cliffs are provate property.

    Waders or thick bottomed shoes - there is lots of broken glass in the stream beds.

    Bug spray - there are lots of mosquitos and biting flies along the river, plus there are lots of fallen trees and vegetation, so ticks can also be an issue.

    Water - It gets hot in the summer, don't get dehydrated!

    This Bosmere N480 Sieve, 1/4-Inch Mesh is a 14.25-Inch diameter and 3-Inch deep sifter made of green powder coated steel. It's lightweight and ideal for shark tooth sifting at the river.

    Recommended Books Potomac River Shark Teeth:


    Fossil Shark Teeth of the World , A Collector's Guide
    by Joe Cocke, 2002

    A great book for identifying all those teeth. This book is laid out "as simple as possible." It's ease of use and small size makes it great to carry during collecting trips. This book shows teeth from around the globe, but all the New Jersey teeth can be found in it.