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C and D Canal Fossil Collecting


Guide to Fossil Hunting at the C and D Canal in Delaware

Weather info for Wilmington

C and D Canal Fossil Site

C and D Canal near Delaware City, DE

65 to 85 Million Years Old
Late Cretaceous, Maastrichtian
Mount Laurel Formation

Warning: The canal has not been dredged in many years. Therefore, the spoil piles are severely depleted. Some people are not finding any fossils, while others are only finding a few fossils. I would not recommend large groups, such as school groups or scout groups, to go to this site.

C and D canal fossil hunting site in Delaware. Fossils are found in the dredge piles near the mouth of the C & D Canal.

These are the dredge piles that contain fossils. It's mostly 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. During this time, this area was just off the coast in the young Atlantic Ocean.

According to the fossils found in the formation, this area was full of Beleminites (squid like animals). 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. Sometimes a shark tooth can be found, and very rarely a dinosaur tooth.

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

Location: Where the Fossils are Found / Planning your trip

Warning: The canal has not been dredged in many years. Therefore, the spoil piles are severely depleted. Some people are not finding any fossils, while others are only finding a few fossils in the few overgrown areas that remain.

Note to large groups and collectors planning on using the state park picnic tables or parking lot:

I do not recommend large groups collect at the site due to the few fossils that remain.

If visitors plan to use the State Park to park vehicles or utilize the picnic tables during their visit, or if bringing a group of people, please contact the Park office (302-834-7941) in advance so they will be better prepared to direct the group where to go.

The State Park does not manage or book reservations to use the sites. These are open to the public on a first come/first serve basis. It's only those that want to utilize the park as well, that need to advise the park of their arrival.

Map of the mouth of the C and D canal, showing the Dredge piles. Some of these piles are no longer there to collect. Check google maps below to see the actual dredge areas.

Google Map of Dredge Area

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. Don't drive in too far, you'll get stuck in the sand. It's best to walk to the dredge piles from the road.

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, which hasn't been for years, so the area is currently severely depleted in fossils.

View a Sample of Fossils Found at the C and D Canal:

If you plan on collecting at the Dredge piles, click the image below to go to the fossils that can be found at the Canal.

Recommended Fossil Collecting Equipment:

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 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.

101 American Fossil Sites You've Gotta See
By Albert B Dickas, 2018
This is a great updated fossil sites book with at least one fossil site in each state. Each site is broken into 2 pages. One has detailed information, such as directions, GPS coordinates, formation information, etc... The other is dedicated to images of the site and the fossils found there. It also gives information on fossil 'viewing' sites such as dinosaur trackways, museums, and active excavations.

This book is great for both beginning and expert fossil collectors. Beginners will find fossil hunting much easier with this book and experts will find it to be a great reference.
Plus, my fossil photos are peppered throughout this book!

Here is a link to my Review of the book.

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

Thisis a great book to learn about New Jersey Paleontology (Similar to Delaware 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.

About the Author

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