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You can go rockhounding and fossil hunting just about anywhere. That is a common hobby with many Northern Wyoming residents. However, most of them are not going to tell you where their favorite spots, you might beat them to an excellent find. In general one of the places I'd recommend is the area East of the Big Horn Lake and the many canyons and washes that feed down into the Big Horn River between Lovell and Greybull. As well as the entire Big Horn Basin expedition4 (http://www.fieldmuseum.org/expeditions/pete_expedition/expedition_interactive/expedition4.html - broken link)
If you're not a member of any local historical societies, you might want to see if there's one near your home. I'm not a member of any, but a friend of mine took me along with his local club several years ago (mid-70s) on a group fossil hunt to a private ranch on the west side of the Bighorns. I'd guess that sort of outing isn't too uncommon, and it might get you onto private land that you'd otherwise not be allowed to enter. Several in the group found arrowheads, spearheads, etc. On the same trip, the group visited another private ranch where there was a large "petrified forest". I was amazed to see giant petrified logs in the middle of the prairie.
It would probably be wise to research what the laws are where you are hunting. Growing up in Wyoming we knew numerous people who collected arrowheads and fossils. It was a common form of recreation. So I was a little surprised to read recently when I was researching places like the Natural Trap Cave and the Mummy Cave near Cody, that it is now illegal for the average person to remove artifacts from places where they are found out in the wild. I think this may extend to fossils also, but I'm not certain of it.
Ironically, some of the authors/archeologists/scientists writings that I encountered, who were complaining about artifact thieves in Wyoming, were themselves collecting the artifacts from places like Natural Trap Cave and removing them from the State of Wyoming to place them in collections in museums in Kansas and other states.
I agree that it is good these artifacts are going into museum collections where they will be cared for and preserved for the future. But why aren't they retained in the great state of Wyoming? I feel like these things are being stolen from the people of Wyoming.
Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway: An ... - Google Books From 1974 until 1985 the University of Kasas at Lawrence ecavated this cave described as and removed numerous fossils and remains that are now filed away in Kansas. Including remains of things like a Giant Musk Oxen, extinct "BigHorn" sheep, and an american cheetah.
Cathy Sherman: Natural Trap Cave, Wyoming
For thousands of years during the Pleistocene Epoch, mammals had fallen into an 85-foot-deep cave on the western slope of the Big Horn Mountains. Paleontologists from KU and the University of Missouri at Columbia were digging up the bones of thousands of animals, such as mammoths, cheetahs, camels, bison, bears and horses. (Some of these bones are now on display at the KU's Dyche Museum of Natural History.)
Larry Martin, a vertebrate paleontologist from the University of Kansas, was one of the scientists leading this dig in the mid-1970s. Among the more than 30,000 specimens recovered were the bones from animals now extinct, such as mammoths, camels, American lions, woodland musk oxen, cheetahs, dire wolves, short-faced bears and four kinds of horses.
KUNHM Vertebrate Paleontology Contact Information
C.C. Black became curator of the mammal collection in 1970, and added to the Eocene, Oligocene, and Miocene collections from Wyoming. Black left the University of Kansas in 1972 and Larry Martin was appointed to replace him, a position he still holds. Tertiary collections from the early Miocene of Nebraska, and a large and important Pleistocene assemblage from Natural Trap, Wyoming, have been the chief additions in recent years.
That's a good point, CaptnRn. It's not even *legal* to pick up a rock in the Bighorn National Forest as a souvenir, IIRC. Granted, a small rock in your pocket isn't likely to get you into trouble, but a big rock or several smaller rocks just might get you a fine. I think I learned about this law several years ago when I read a story in the local paper about someone getting fined.
My brother has a 100-pound rock in his (Minneapolis) flower garden that took him several years to remove from Minnesota's timberland. He picked it up and carried it on his shoulder for a few hundred yards each year when his family trekked into/out of the woods. That few hundred yards each year finally totaled a few miles to the parking lot where he could drop it into his car's trunk. I don't know if it was legal there or not, but apparently it wouldn't be in the Bighorns.
At the petrified forest I mentioned uptopic, there were signs reminding visitors not to remove anything. Of course, that should be obvious, but I'm sure it's done by many.
I have been searching for the laws or rules relative to rock/fossil/artifact hunting in Wyoming and had trouble finding much. But I did find the following and have quoted limited pertinent portions of the laws and rules:
(ii) Rules and regulations promulgated by the department under this act and governing state parks and historic sites shall include the:
(A) Conservation of peace and good order within each park;
(B) Preservation of state property;
(i) Any person violating W.S. ' ' 36-4-101 through 36-4-123 or these rules is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not more than seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00), imprisoned for not more than six (6) months, or both.
(f) Park land shall mean all state owned or controlled parks, historical sites, archeological sites and recreation areas administered by the department.
Section 15. Preservation of Public Property.
(a) The destruction, injury, defacement, removal or disturbance in any manner of any building, sign, equipment, monument, statue, marker or other structure, or of any animal or plant matter and direct or indirect products thereof, including but not limited to petrified wood, flower, cane, or fruit, egg, nest, or nesting site, or of any soil, rock or mineral formation, artifact, relic, historic or prehistoric feature, or of any other public property of any kind on park lands is prohibited without prior permission of the superintendent.
(c) The use of any mineral or metal detecting device at a state historic or archeological site is prohibited, except for official use. The use of any mineral or metal detecting device at a state park or recreation area is prohibited without written permission of the superintendent.
RULES AND REGULATIONS
BOARD OF LAND COMMISSIONERS
Conditions and Requirements Under Which Permits
are Issued to Collect Fossils on State Lands
Section 2. Ownership of Fossils. All fossils and paleontological deposits on state lands are the property of the State of Wyoming and removal of specimens from these lands shall not be allowed unless authorized by the Board of Land Commissioners by means of a valid fossil removal permit.
(a) Nonexclusive, Noncommercial Fossil Removal Permit; to be issued to applicants involved in the noncommercial
collection of specimens for incorporation into their own or other scientific collections, for museums and public displays, and
for teaching purposes. Such specimens may not be sold.
(b) Exclusive Commercial Fossil Removal Permit; to be issued to applicants involved in collecting specimens for
purposes of sale to others. Such permits shall be issued withthe utmost discretion only when the request and need has been
fully justified as beneficialto Wyoming. The Curator or a designated representative of the University of Wyoming Geological
Museum shall have the right to inspect all commercial fossil collecting sites and examine collected material at any time.
Section 5. Removal Statement. All recipients of fossil removal permits shall be required to submit to the State Land
and FarmLoanOffice a complete removalstatement inventoryofthe specimens collected. Such inventories shall be notarized
copies due on or before the annual anniversary date of the permit
Certain areas of the BHB also have large deposits of Sharks Teeth. You can spend 10 minutes in one small area and have your pockets filled up. They're mostly tiny ones, but sometimes you can find some larger teeth... TNT
Yesterday in the 7th and 8th grade environmental science classes I was assisting in, I was able to share some rocks I picked up between Riverton and Dubois, years ago. They are a great example of metamorphic rocks and the kids thought they were pretty neat. (so did their teacher...she said it made her want to go exploring in Wyoming).
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