University of Waterloo
200 University Ave. W.
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1
Phone: (519) 888-4567 ext. 32469
The Earth Sciences Museum is temporarily closed until further notice. We apologize to all of our visitors and groups for this inconvenience. Thank you for your understanding.
Recommended fossil collecting sites:
The landscape of Southern Ontario has changed very little since the glaciers which sculpted it receded from the area 12,000 years ago. Southern Ontario’s bedrock consists mainly of sedimentary rocks: sandstones, shale, limestones and dolostones. This bedrock originally began as mud and limy oozes at the bottom of a shallow tropical sea between 360 and 450 million years ago. Since then, the sediments have undergone burial, lithification and sedimentation to become the rock that now lies under our feet.
Southwestern Ontario is underlain by rocks of the Lower and Middle Paleozoic Era, ranging from 570 million years to 360 million years in age. They are further subdivided by age into rocks of the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian Periods.
Taken from The Geology and Fossils of the Craigleith Area, by Verma, Harish M.
The bedrock of southwestern Ontario can be best understood with reference to the Niagara Escarpment. This feature extends from Queenston Heights near Niagara Falls to Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula. Bedrock occurring to the east and north of the Escarpment, including some in the lower part of the Escarpment, is Ordovician in age. Westward from Kingston to the Niagara Escarpment there are belts of successively younger Ordovician rocks. Thus, the area extending from Kingston, past Lake Simcoe, to Nottawasaga Bay is underlain by limestones of Middle Ordovician age. Next westernly is the younger Upper Ordovician grey and black shales of the Whitby Formation. Toronto, farther west, is situated on top of still younger Upper Ordovician shales and limestones. This section is called the Georgian Bay Formation.
Most of the Niagara Escarpment itself, as well as a large belt of bedrock on top of the Escarpment to the west and south, is composed of Silurian dolostones and shales as well as beds of gypsum and salt. The remainder of southwestern Ontario, extending up to the shores of Lake Huron and Lake Erie, contains bedrock of Devonian age. The break in the rock record since Devonian times spans nearly 360 million years. This type of break is called an unconformity. Marked by an erosional surface between two rock units, an unconformity represents an interruption in erosional surface between two rock units, an unconformity represents an interruption in continuity of deposition between the eroded rock unit and the overlying unit. Thus, the Quaternary glacial deposits dating back several hundred thousand years rests, like a mantle directly on top of the eroded paleozoic rocks.
Although some Precambrian fossils such as stromatolites can be found in northern Ontario in the Canadian Shield, most of the fossils in Ontario will be found in the Paleozoic rocks that record the life that lived in the shallow seas emergent during the times. For example: On Manitoulin Island, Silurian corals formed reefs that are now exposed as fossils, and on the shore of Lake Huron (near Kettle Point), abundant corals, trilobites, sea lilies and other marine invertebrates can be found.
Please note: There has been a "No Trespassing" sign installed at this site.
Fossil collecting at Hungry Hollow quarries is only allowed by members of mineral clubs associated with the Central Canadian Federation of Mineralogical Societies (CCFMS) on organized trips. (Families with children) are allowed into this site on these field trips. Contact the CCFMS to see if you can access the site.
Turn off Highway 21 at the road marked with provincial historic site markers to Kettle Point. The famous "kettles", or concretions, are exposed in a 2 metre high shoreline outcrop which extends laterally for approximately 150 metres, exposing 5 metres of the lower part of the Kettle Point Formation This outcrop is a provincial historic site in the Kettle Point Indian Reserve and kettles must not be removed. Look along the shoreline for marcasite concretions. The concretions are 3–5 centimetres in diameter and are pale yellow metallic when broken open. These may be collected. For further information about this site read “The Origin of the ‘Kettles’ at Kettle Point, Lake Huron” in the Fall 1990 issue of What on Earth.
Drive to Arkona and follow the signs to Rock Glen Park. Visit the museum and see samples of the types of fossils to be found in the area. Hike down the valley to view the waterfalls, Widder Beds and Arkona Shale. This area is not good for fossil collecting.
Turn left as you drive out of Rock Glen park and then left onto the main road. Watch for the road and sign on the left for the small community of Hungry Hollow. Turn left onto this road, cross the bridge over the Ausable River and turn left onto the gravel road. Park at the bottom of the hill and follow the road into the quarry. Fossils are easy to collect in this area. A path along the river to the west leads to an outcrop where trilobites Greenops boothi and occasional ammonite Tornoceras may be found.
Craigleith, Ontario rests on the southern shore of the Georgian Bay. The bedrock exposed in the area consists of slightly tilted layers of limestone and shale, which were originally deposited approximately 445 million years ago. Fossils of the once abundant sea-creatures in this area can be seen in some of the weathered surfaces. Some common fossils which may be found in the Craigleith Area include: Trilobites, Brachiopods, Grapolites, Ceohalopods, Pelecypods, Gastropods, and Conularids
Nearby Craigleith are three Provincial Parks, each with their own unique set of geological features:
Wasaga Beach Provincial Park is about 16km east of Collingwood. In this park there are interesting sand dune formations which originated along the shores of the ancient Lake Nipissing, almost 6,000 years ago.
Devil’s Glen Provincial Park is about 17km south of Collingwood. This park is ideal for observing and exploring the rock layers which make up the Niagara Escarpment.
Craigleith Provincial Park lies on the southern shores of Nottawasaga Bay, about 10km west (northwest of Collingwood). This park provides a unique opportunity to examine the fossils of creatures which once lived in the area.
Rock Glen is a conservation area close to Hungry Hollow, Ontario. It is located in a 67-acre preserved area and houses natural trails, waterfalls, and Arkona Lions Museum. The area is well-known for its rich fossils, which are as old as 400 million years from the Devonian era.
About 600 million years ago, rain and wind washed sediments from rocky areas into a shallow sea where millions of creatures like trilobites, corals and sea shells lived. Whenever the sea retreated the creatures would be buried by the sediment and fossilized. This process was occurred three or more times through 200 million years, creating layers of fossil-rich sedimentary rock.
About 1 million years ago, the Wisconsin Glacier covered Ontario, and as it advanced layers of gravel, sand and clay were deposited. The glacier retreated from the area 16,000 years ago, creating Lake Arkona. The fossils were hidden until 10,000 years ago, when a strong earthquake shook the area, causing a section of the bedrock to drop, creating a gorge and unearthing the rich fossil deposits.
Fossils which can be found include trilobites, brachiopods and crinoids. Rarer larger mammal bones have also been found in this locality, such as those of squirrels, mice, three-toed horses and rabbits. An archaeologist even found a fossilized tusk from what is believed to have been a mastodon. Evidence of ancient life can be found in this locality as well, as arrowheads, stone tools and pieces of pottery have been found.
Entrance fees are $5 Canadian for each vehicle and all of its occupants. Guided hikes and educational programs are available. Each visitor is allowed to keep only one of each type of fossil. Digging for fossils is strictly forbidden, but there are plenty to find on the surface.
Informally known as “fossil beach”, the region around Southampton is prime fossil hunting territory. Countless specimens have washed up on the beaches and have been gathered by private collectors and researchers.
The predominant rock is Ordovician limestone, formed by ancient warm seas which once covered this area. These were ideal conditions for a vast group of creatures like brachiopods. Boulders and pebbles from the ancient rocks north of Lake Huron were brought down by the glaciers.
The general region between Kincardine and Southampton contains various Provincial Parks and Conservation Areas, including:
See if you can find granite and "pudding stone" made of white and red quartz pebbles.
The University of Waterloo acknowledges that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land promised to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is centralized within our Indigenous Initiatives Office.