Since Penn Dixie welcomes many first time fossil collectors, we created this compendium of frequently asked questions. For information about our science and history, read our Official Field Guide. Please contact us if something is missing or needs clarification.
How do I purchase tickets? Admission tickets can be purchased ahead of time or at the site check-in station. We accept cash and all credit cards. There is no charge for parking.
|Adults||Seniors 62+||Military||Students||Children 3-17||Members|
No charge for children under age 3. Senior, military, and student discounts with valid ID. Veterans may visit for free if they present a valid Erie County ‘Thank A Vet’ Discount Program card. Members should carry their cards with them during their visit.
Which days are busiest? Generally, weekends are busier than weekdays. Since Penn Dixie has 54 acres — and a very large fossil quarry — it almost never feels crowded, even when we host big groups. Daily site traffic peaks around lunch time, though we occasionally have people waiting to enter before we open and guests who wish to stay until we close at 5 pm.
How long do people spend? It depends on how much time you’d like to spend looking for fossils! Some folks spend 1-2 hours, while others hunt all day. Serious collectors may visit the site for several days at a time in order to get the best/most specimens.
When is the best time of day to visit? That’s up to you. Mornings tend to be cooler, while afternoons and evenings are much warmer. Since there is little shade in the quarry, we recommend bringing sunscreen, a shade hat, and water. Our nature trails have excellent canopy coverage if you need a break from the heat. And, we have several shelters that are perfect for a quick rest.
Are restrooms available? Yes — we have several portable toilets available. We look forward to installing permanent restroom facilities in the future.
Is the site accessible? Yes! By design, most of Penn Dixie — including our fossil collecting areas — is accessible to those in wheelchairs and with mobility impairments. We have many paved trails and much of our park is flat with little vegetation.
Does a mobility impairment prevent fossil collecting? Absolutely not! Some of the best fossils are found by guests who slowly and methodically scan the ground. We recommend the use of a reach tool for those in a wheel chair.
What about the weather? With the exception of lightning, the site will be open regardless of weather. Be prepared and dress for the conditions.
What are the chances of finding fossils? If you look — 100%!! Nearly all of Penn Dixie has some sort of geological treasure waiting to be discovered. We estimate that there are tens of thousands of fossils present just at the surface. For first-time visitors, our trained staff will help you to locate and identify fossils. Members and returning visitors are welcome to join a guided tour or collect on their own.
What can I expect to find? Since Penn Dixie has many fossils, everyone is guaranteed to find something — probably lots of things. You can get an idea about what has been found in the past by viewing our fossil gallery.
What if there is nothing to find? Not possible! We excavate a new part of the quarry every spring and there are always fossils to be found.
Are all of the fossils real? Definitely. They’ve been hiding out under layers of rock ever since the organisms lived and died almost 400 million years ago.
Who built the pyramids?
How common are trilobites? The trilobite Eldredgeops rana is fairly common if you know where to look. But, it’s a real challenge to find a complete trilobite — or, several complete trilobites — in a single rock.
Can I keep what I find? YES! We do not restrict or limit what may be collected. However, if you find something really cool or unique, we ask that you submit a photo that we can include on our website.
What do I need to bring to collect fossils? It’s up to you, but everyone should bring at least a bag or small bucket to store their fossils. Surface collecting — without tools — sometimes yields really cool stuff, especially after a strong rain. Digging — with the right tools — helps to unearth fresh specimens that have not seen the light of day in almost 400 million years. If you bring tools, we recommend:
- Rock hammer with steel handle
- Small sledge hammer and chisel
- Pry bars
- Safety goggles
- Newspaper/bubble wrap
- Bags for storing wrapped fossils
What if I don’t have that stuff? Penn Dixie has tool sets for rental at $5/day. The sets include a small sledge hammer, a geologist’s hammer, chisel, safety goggles, knee pad, and bucket. We will also sell fossil collecting bags for $2.49. Though our supplies are limited, we rarely run out of rental tools.
We require that all guests adhere to the following rules and procedures:
- Penn Dixie members may visit the site at any time, provided they follow our temporary access policy. Non-members may not visit when we are closed to the public. Trespassers are prosecuted.
- Penn Dixie staff and volunteers maintain a clean, safe, and family-friendly environment for all those who visit. Since we do not have a trash service, all waste must be carried off site. Please recycle any bottles, cans, and plastic water bottles.
- All Penn Dixie visitors, including members, are required to sign-in at the site. This helps us to track the numbers and origins of our visitors to our site.
- The followed are not allowed: dogs except for service animals; bicycles beyond the parking lot; ATVs and motorbikes; littering; firearms; archery; hunting; trapping; smoking; and alcoholic beverages.
- Running is not permitted due to the uneven nature of our site’s topography. Stone throwing is also prohibited.
- Visitors are welcome to bring their own food and drinks and utilize our picnic tables on a first come, first served basis. Since birthday parties and group tours often utilize our educational pavilion, use of this space is not guaranteed.
- All staff are trained in first aid and CPR. Should you experience a medical issue, please let us know right away.