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Guide to Fossil Hunting along the Peace River


Fossil Hunting Guide

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Peace River Florida

Fossil Hunting Guide to the Peace River

~ 23 - 5 Million Years Old
Miocene to Early Pliocene
Hawthorn Group, Peace River Formation, Bone Valley Member
Unconsolidated Pleistocene Layers of Sands and Gravel
Ice Age: ~2.6 million to 11,700 years ago

Remember to get your FOSSIL PERMIT before fossil hunting in Florida!

A view of the Peace River in Florida; a perfect spot to Fossil Hunt
Image used with permission of Lee Cone.

A sampling of fossils found in the Peace River of Florda. Notice the nice Megalodon shark teeth!
Image used with permission of Lee Cone

A Fossil Hunter sifting for fossils in the Peace River.
Image used with permission of Chuck Ferrara: Southwest Florida Fossil Society

A Fossil Hunter sifting for fossils in the Peace River.
Image used with permission of Chuck Ferrara: Southwest Florida Fossil Society

Why Are There Fossils Here? About the Geology of Florida: Peace River Formation and Ice Age Fossil Origins

So, how did Florida end up with countless fossils??
Let's start in the Cretaceous around 50 million years ago, when high sea levels caused Florida to be submerged. Florida stayed submerged for many millions of years. During this time at the bottom of the ocean, layers of limestone accumulated on the sea floor, creating the "bed rock" of Florida.

Starting in the Oligocene, about 30 million years ago, the global climate cooled and sea levels began to drop. An island of limestone emerged in north central Florida called Orange Island. This was the first appearance of today's Florida. Rains eroded the porous limestone, creating the cave systems and sink holes common to Florida.

Peace River Formation

Jumping ahead to 20 million years ago, into the next Epoch, the Miocene, sediments coming from the Appalachian mountains further north accumulated around Florida and built up the Orange Island. Although the sea levels were in constant flux during the Miocene, Florida started to get its modern appearance. During this time land animals roamed central Florida, while a very shallow sea covered the coastal areas. At this time nutrient rich deposits washing from the Appalachian mountains created heavy sediment laden and nutrient rich waters. These sediments sank to the bottom entombing dead marine animals, countless teeth from sharks (including the Megalodon Sharks), and also land animals when the sea levels would rise. This trend continued until the Early Pliocene, about 5 million years ago. Today the sediments form the phosphate rich formations, including the Peace River Formation. This formation is mostly underground, but rivers, such as the Peace River, expose this formation. Also just off the beach near Venice, this formation is exposed.

Ice Age Fossils

Besides for the Peace River fossils, there are also fossils from the Pleistocene. During the Pleistocene, from 2.5 million until about 11,000 years ago the Earth was (and still is) in constant glaciations events. During glacial periods, the sea levels would drop, and Florida's land would double in size. Ice Age animals lived here including Mammoths, Dire Wolves, Glyptodonts, Horses, and Giant Ground Sloths. During interglacial periods, the sea levels would rise, covering much of Florida. Sediments would bury and preserve the remains of these Ice Age animals. Today, these fossils erode out of the layers of Pleistocene sands and gravels and wash into rivers.

These Ice Age sand and gravel layers make Florida one of the richest places on Earth to find vertebrate fossils!

Geologic maps of Florida showing the
uplift of Orange island and the Pleistocene glaciation

Left Image: Florida in the Oligocene, showing the emergence of Orange Island.
Center Image: Florida in the Early Miocene, during the Miocene uplift event.
Right Image: Florida in the Pleistocene during maximum glaciation/low sea level.

The following book: Geologic History of Florida: Major Events that Formed the Sunshine State is a great book filled with lots of illustrations. It covers the entire geologic history of Florida. It starts with Pangea and goes until the formation of the Florida Keys. Check it out if your an avid amateur paleontologist in Florida!

How To find Fossils in the Peace River

Fossils erode from the banks and bottom of the Peace River and collect in gravel areas. The information below shows you how to hunt for these fossils.

Fossil Hunting Permit and Artifacts

In order to fossil hunt vertebrates on state land in Florida, you must have a Fossil Permit. Anyone can obtain a fossil permit. Fossil Shark teeth are specifically excluded, but in the Peace River, you will be finding more than just shark teeth, so be sure to get a permit first.

The permit application, permit renewal, and additional information from the FLMNH is here: FOSSIL PERMIT.

Do Not Collect Artifacts

In the state of Florida, it is illegal to collect artifacts on public land. If you find arrowheads, pottery shards, or or any other type of artifact, toss them back into the river.

When to Go (October - April)

You can fossil hunt here any time of the year. However, some times can be better than others.

It's best to fossil hunt along the Peace River when it has not been raining. If the river is running high, the gravel areas may not be accessable. Also, a high river means fast currents, which can be dangerous.

Usually, the best time to go is during the Florida "dry season" from Fall to Early Spring (October through April). This is when the river is at its lowest

River Water Level

As mentioned above, you are sifting for gravel on the bottom of the river, so you want the river height to be relatively low. The USGS has water level gauges along the Peace River. Below are some recommeneded river heights and real time river heights.

At Arcadia, you want the water to be around 1 foot in height or lower.
Above is the Arcadia river gauge height provided by the USGS:
(If the dates are not up-to-date, you will have to refresh your cache)

At Zolfo Springs, you want the water to be around 7 feet in height or lower.
Above is the Zolfo Springs river gauge height provided by the USGS:

How to Look for Fossils

Looking for fossils is fairly simple. It requires finding a gravel area on the bottom of the river and sifting it with a shovel and sifter.
In order to search the river, people usually rent a canoe or kayak and paddle up or down the river looking for a "perfect" gravel spot. If you don't want to canoe or kayak, you can simply find a public access point (listed in the Locations section below) and wade into the river.

The gravel is on the bottom of the river, so wade into a shallow area and test the bottom to see if there is gravel. When you find a spot, start sifting!

Recommended Equipment

Most people use a shovel and sifter to sift for fossils in the river, so you will need a shovel and a sifter, or a shovel/sifter combo.

RELODECOR Beachcombing Shark Tooth Sifter - Lightweight Sand Sifter for Shark Teeth and Fossil Hunting, Durable with Comfortable Grip and Wrist Strap

This is a small 14/5" x 11" lightweight shark tooth mesh sifter. Made of PVC and pool floaties, it floats in the surf and is very light to carry. The small mesh is good for a scoop of pebbles along the surf to search for shark teeth.

Invariably 4 Pcs Beach Sand Sifter, Shark Teeth Sifter Shell Shovel Rock Scooper with Shell Collecting Bag- Beach Scoop Shovel and Sifter Tool

If you don't want to lug a small shovel and sifter to shark tooth hunt, this is for you! These light weight 30" extendable scoops are perfect for cathing shark teeth in the surf before they wash away, AND you don't have to constantly bend over! A must-have for shark tooth hunting along the beach!"

Hiearcool Waterproof Phone Pouch, Waterproof Phone Case for iPhone 15 14 13 12 Pro Max XS Samsung, IPX8 Cellphone Dry Bag Beach Essentials 2Pack-8.3 inches

After a few mishaps with my phone fossil hunting in the rivers and coast, I highly recommend a cheap waterproof phone holder. Even though phones are now waterproof, it keeps the mud, salt, and sand off, and out of the speaker and charging ports, which quickly destroys a phone. This keeps your phone in pristine condition so you can use to I.D. your fossils on this website! This model is large enough to fit most newer phone sizes.

Locations: Where to find Fossils in the Peace River

Google Map of the Peace River, Florida
This map is centered between two of the main canoe rental companies

Fossils erode from the banks and bottom of the Peace River and collect in gravel areas along the river. Usually people will paddle up or down the river in search of a gravel spot.
The Peace River is slightly over 100 miles long, so you can spend years looking for perfect gravel areas!

Below are locations where you can rent canoes and sift for your own fossils.
The boat rental places below are not endorsed by the website, but are here to help you find a boat rental location on the Peace River.

Make sure you check the water level heights in the "How to" section above.

Don't Want to Paddle? Simply go to a public boat ramp and walk along the river to find a gravel spot.

1. Take A Guided Tour:

Tour Guide for Peace River - Paleodiscoveries

I recommend going with a guide or a fossil club for your first time on the Peace River

Paleo Discoveries
There are a handfull of Fossil Tour companies that will take you out on the Peace River. Fred Mazza of Paleo Discoveries is a fossil hunting expert and his company is a great option if you want to use a tour guide. (I am not affiliated with them)

2. Arcadia: Canoe Outpost Peace River

sifting for fossils in the peace river

2816 NW County Rd. 661, Arcadia, FL 34266
This canoe rental company is located in the heart of the Peace river in Arcadia.

You can rent a canoe and paddle the river in search of fossil gravel beds to sift.
Website: Canoe Outpost Peace River (
They also have a place near Zolfo Springs.

3. Peace River: Public Boat Ramps

sifting for fossils in the peace river

If you have a canoe or kayak, you can use one of the many public boat ramps along the scenic river, or you can simply wade into the river from one of these boat ramp access points. Here are a couple ramps:
Brownville Park Boat Ramp:
885 NE Brownville St, Arcadia, FL 34266

Gardner Boat Ramp:
547 River Rd SW, Zolfo Springs, FL 33890

To find all of the ramps, check out the Florida Public Boat Ramp Finder and do an advanced search for the Peace River.

Identification of Peace River Fossils:

Click on the image to go to the Peace River Fossil Identification Section:

Peace River Fossils Identification Guide

Additional Information for Fossil Hunting on the Peace River

Alligator in Florida


Don't get close to baby gators and gator nests, the mothers don't like it!

If you bring small pets, keep an eye on them, gators have been known to snack on them.


Yes, there are poisonous snakes in the river, if you don't know what's poisonous, it's best to stay away from snakes in general.

Biting Insects

Yes, there are biting flies, ticks, and other nasty bugs. Use bug spray.


Yes, there are poisonous snakes in the river, if you don't know what's poisonous, it's best to stay away from snakes in general.

Sun / Heat

Yes, it can get hot! Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat.

River Current

If you managed to make it to the river when the water is too high or a storm comes through, don't risk it, stay out of the river!

Low River

Usually you will fossil hunt when the water level is low. Often, the low level and snagged trees will force you to carry your boat on occasion. Being in good physical shape is recommended.

Recommended Florida Shark Tooth Books and Items:

Florida Fossil Shark Teeth Identification Guide: The Fossil Shark Teeth Most Commonly Found In Florida
Robert Lawrence Fuqua, 2020

This identification guide is a must for fossil shark tooth enthusiasts in Florida, offering detailed descriptions and color photos. Although it's around 35 pages, the well-made booklet is a is an informative and enjoyable tool for identifying shark teeth, making it highly recommended.

Fossiling in Florida: A Guide for Diggers and Divers
By Olin Mark Renz

Mark Renz, offers a great educational guide that includes illustrated tales of discovering saber-toothed cats, mammoths, and more. His book, an excellent educational guide for fossil enthusiasts, offers practical advice and over 250 photos for identifying fossils and navigating the hunting process.

Shark Teeth Shirt

The perfect gift for any shark tooth hunter!

Get Your Very Own Megalodon Tooth:

These are Authentic Megalodon teeth sold by Fossil Era , a reputable fossil dealer (that I personally know) who turned his fossil passion into a business. His Megalodon teeth come in all sizes and prices, from small and inexpensive to large muesum quality teeth. Each tooth has a detailed descriptions and images that include its collecting location and formation. If you are looking for a megalodon tooth, browse through these selections!

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