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C and D Canal Fossil Collecting


Guide to Fossil Hunting at the Canal

Weather info for Wilmington

C and D Canal Fossil Site

CLOSED: Note, the Dredge area is now closed to the public. No Fossil collecting is permitted.

C&D Canal near Delaware City, DE

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

YOUTUBE VIDEO: Overview of C & D Canal Fossil Hunting

Short video giving an overview of fossil hunting at the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

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

This is the dredge area that contains the Cretaceous fossils.

Information about the Chesapake and Delaware Canal Fossil Collecting Site

The C&D Canal carves through the Late Cretaceous Mt. Laurel formation. The canal is dredged periodically to keep the canal deep and the dredge spoils are piled up along the mouth of the canal.

Fossils from the Mt. Laurel dredge piles are mainly invertebrates, such as Belemnites, Oysters, and Solitary Corals. Although there were sharks and mosasaurs in the ocean, and dinosaurs along the coast, these fossils are rare in the Mt. Laurel formation.

Belemnite fossils in the dredge piles at the C&D Canal

Location: Directions and Planning your trip

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has jurisdiction over these canal lands. They allow small scale, non-commercial collecting for private collections.

The Canal dredge piles are now closed to collecting. No one is permitted to enter the site.

Directions have been removed.

When to go:

Dredging is not a regular process, so the piles are often old and grown over. There are 4 general sites left used for dredging (see the maps above). You can usually get to any of these sites by driving parallel to the canal roads and parking near one of the gates.

It's best to collect in the winter or spring, before the vegetation has a chance to grow.

NOTE: The Us Army Corps of Engineers will be dredging part of the Canal soon and will deposit the material at the Reedy point area. Unfortunately, this new dredge material has no fossils. It may be some years before the fossil bearing dredge piles will become available again.

A Belemnite fossil from the C&D Canal.

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 Equipment for Big Brook

SE 13 1/4 Inch Stackable Classifier Gold Prospecting Pan - 1/4 Inch Stainless Steel Mesh Sifting Pan, Green

This is a 13.25-Inch diameter and 3.5-Inch deep sifter. It's lightweight and the 1/4" screen is ideal for shark tooth sifting at the brooks. It is also under regulation size so you won't get fined! There is also a 1/8" screen version for the really small stuff, but I recommend the 1/4" version.

iunio Camping Shovel,Shovel Folding, Portable, Multitool, Foldable Entrenching Tool, Collapsible Spade, for Backpacking, Trenching, Hiking, Survival, Car Emergency (Basic E-Tool)

This is a small protable folding shovel to go with the small sifter. The blade is 6 inch regulation length, so it's good to go for in the brooks! Just remember to get this 17" length one, as the others have blades that are too large for the regulations.

Recommended Books for New Jersey Fossils and Paleontology:

When Dinosaurs Roamed New Jersey
William Gallagher, 1997

Explore New Jersey's geological journey from Cambrian seas to the Pleistocene Ice Age in 'When Dinosaurs Roamed.' Gallagher unveils fossil hunters' tales, ecological insights, and scientific controversies, offering a concise and captivating glimpse into the state's prehistoric wonders. Although it was written in 1997, it is still the best book on NJ paleontology out there!

101 American Fossil Sites You've Gotta See
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.
Plus, my fossil photos are peppered throughout this book, including the Big Brook site!

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