We have a unique family tradition. Before spring warmth wakes up the rattlesnakes but after the snow has melted, we take a trip out west to go fossil hunting! We pack plenty of snacks, a picnic lunch, sunscreen, water, shovels and pails. We arrive mid morning and are usually home by suppertime. Spring was a little too cold and wet this year and we weren't able to go, so we snuck away last week for a quick trip.
As we were approaching the limestone bluffs near Deighton, Kansas, we took a few minutes to talk with the boys about rattlesnake safety. We have never come across a snake while fossil hunting, but we've also never been there in the summer. This is their territory and we need to stay alert! After I finished my little speech about walking carefully and looking before jumping, I asked the boys, "So what are we going to be?"
Abe happily piped up from the back seat, "CAVE MEN!"
The answer was, "Snake aware," but we did kind of feel like we were being cave men for a day.
We were joined by Aaron's parents (who I also failed to get a picture of) and our friends the Millers (also no pictures.... oops). This was their first time fossil hunting with us and the boys were thrilled to have friends to 'teach.' I was happy to have a little more competition, because finding shark teeth and bones is WAY more fun with a bigger group! Aaron and I tend to get a teensy little bit competitive with each other. Shocking, right?
5 tips for fossil hunting with children
- Remember to bring sun protection & bug spray. Hats, sunglasses, sunscreen and possibly a tarp/shade for resting are also helpful.
- When the boys were toddlers and preschoolers, we brought toy dump trucks and tractors for them to play with. They were able to play while we searched.
- Bring lawn chairs and a picnic blanket. The blanket can also be used for a spontaneous nap if the kids get tired.
- Each person fossil hunting will need a bucket or bag to keep their fossils in.
- The following items are optional, but fun to have! Paintbrushes of all sizes for removing dirt from the fossils, screwdrivers or little pics for excavating and explorer vests are really adorable!
We found several fossilized barnacles, shark teeth, bones and petrified sea plants. The boys were fascinated by iron "poppers," which look like little sparkly dark space rocks. Apparently they spark when you clap them together. They also have an odd weight to them, they feel much heavier than they look.
The first year we went to the Cathouse, we brought home a bucket of fossils. Everything seemed like a priceless treasure. We have become more discriminate now, and left everything just as it was except for the shark teeth and a few cool bones. I'm happy to report that everyone found something cool this time!
I'm going to leave you with a few pictures from past years. Enjoy!