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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

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 become available again.

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.

Note from the State Park: If you are bringing a large group and plan on using the State Park picnic tables or parking lot during the visit, 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 may no longer be there to collect, as Dredging is not a regular process.

Google Map of Dredge Area

Parking Directions

Just south of Delaware city near the base of Reedy Point Bridge on Rt 9 are spoil piles from the canal. On the Google Map above, the Dredge Piles are the light sandy areas.

To get to the spoils, go toward the bridge from Delaware city on Rt. 9, just before going onto the bridge, make a right onto Polktown Pl., it will lead to the edge of the canal. Make a left at the T onto Canal Rd. The spoils are to the left of this road. The Army Corps of Engineers do not want people parking at or in the spoil piles. Please park safely along the side of Canal Rd., just don't block any roads to the gates. Then walk up past any of the gates and you will be in the dredge area.

There are also dredge piles on the other side of the bridge, you can access these in a similar fashion.

Park along the side of the canal road and walk past any of the gates, the spoil areas are past the gates. Just don't block the road or the access roads to the gates.

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 Fossil Collecting Equipment:

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

There is no shade. I would recommend sunscreen, water, and also insect repellent for ticks and biting flies.

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 fossil ID at the Canal Dredge piles. The publication is very old and almost all of the sites it mentions are developed over, however it's still a comprehensive resource for fossil Identificaiton. You can download the PDF HERE at the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) Publications Website.

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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