Fossil tourism on the rise

Kemmerer continues to be a destination for fossil hunters

Patrick Gillette, grandson of repeat fossil hunter Al Scoggan, proudly poses for a picture after his efforts finally revealed a nice grouping of fossil fish in the quarry’s limestone layers. (GAZETTE PHOTO / Michelle Tibbetts)

KEMMERER — Summertime in Wyoming brings lots of traffic through Kemmerer  as tourists make their way to Grand Teton or Yellowstone. 

But more and more people are choosing Kemmerer as their destination for summer adventures. Kemmerer’s fossil tourism industry is on the rise as the word spreads about this unique activity, and local fossil quarries are along for the ride. 

Friends of Dinosaur Ridge in Colorado partnered with Ancient Lake Fossils, Inc., a local fossil restoration company owned by Adam Lindgren, to host a weekend excursion filled with adventure and digging for fossils at a private quarry in the Green River Formation near Fossil Butte National Monument. 

The second annual tour was a great success, and every fossil tourist went home with some spectacular specimens. The group arrived in Kemmerer on May 25, and the journey began with a great educational presentation from Fossil Butte National Monument’s Arvid Aase that got everyone excited to get out into the quarry and start digging. 

The group had prepared for a long day in the hot sun with wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts. Conditions were just right as a breeze kept everyone cool while they chiseled away at the limestone, eager for a fossil find as the sounds of clanking metal echoed through the quarry.

The group’s focus and determination was clearly a driving force as clients were quickly discarding shards of rock off to the side as they move through the layers of limestone searching for fossils. Just a few short minutes after arriving at the quarry, Andrew Graham, a geologist from Colorado, stumbled upon a partial stingray (heliobatis radians) and a decent-sized fish (mioplosis). 

Andrew Graham and Sophia Coury traveled all the way from Colorado to enjoy their first fossil-digging tour, hosted through a partnership between Dinosaur ridge Museum and Ancient Lake Fossils. Graham also found a partial stingray in addition to many fish fossils. (GAZETTE PHOTO / Michelle Tibbetts)

“It’s the thrill of discovery,” quarry owner Lindgren explained. “It’s not knowing what may be under that next layer of stone.”

Lindgren’s passion for fossil hunting started when he was just 17 years old digging for fossils with his brother. He found a rare baby turtle fossil, and he was hooked. It’s been more than 14 years since then, and Lindgren has never looked back.

Two turtle species, countless fish, and even some rare snake and crocodile fossils have been discovered in Lindgren’s family quarries.

Adam Lindgren, owner of Ancient Lake Fossils, determines the orientation of a stingray fossil found by Andrew Graham at the Lewis quarry over Memorial Day weekend. (GAZETTE PHOTO / Michelle Tibbetts)

Appropriately wearing his Jurassic Park T-shirt, one fossil tourist’s enthusiasm spreads through the quarry. “This is so much fun,” said Patrick Gillette, a recent high school graduate from Colorado. “I used to read a lot about this. It’s great to be doing it.”

Gillette was joined by his grandfather, Al Scoggan, who returned for a second fossil-hunting trip this year.

The dust settled down as the group broke for lunch and shared their findings.

It was just day one of the adventure, and the anticipation of what was to come over the next day fueled the group’s efforts — they were back to splitting the rock in no time.

View of the Lewis fossil quarry.  The Green River formation is rich in ancient fossil finds. (GAZETTE PHOTO / Michelle Tibbetts)

A group of fossil-hunting tourists joined Ancient Lake Fossils owner Adam Lindgren for an adventure in the Lewis fossil quarry over Memorial Day weekend. All the group members found a fossil to take home. The Kemmerer area is receiving more and more attention from fossil experts and tourists alike who take an interest in the ancient fossil history of the area. (GAZETTE PHOTO / Michelle Tibbetts)

“I wanted to be a paleontologist when I was a little girl,” said Tani Kickham from Colorado. “When I heard of this ‘tourist quarry,’it sparked my interest.”

Three more stingrays and quite a few good fish were found during this trip, making everyone happy customers

Ancient Lake Fossils, Inc. is only one of the many fossil quarries that offer digging tours in the area. Kemmerer locals and tourists shouldn’t miss the opportunity to dig for fossils.

So, journey back in time and discover what life was like 50 million years ago, by exploring the Green River Formation’s pristine snapshot of the animal and plant life locked in between these numerous layers of limestone. You just never know what you will find.

© 2019-Kemmerer Gazette