Fossils of Ontario

Fossils of Ontario Key and Activity

There are rocks like these in your neighbourhood, it might be a seat in your school yard or a wall near a community centre or along a path.

We challenge you to go on a #fossilfieldtrip. Venture out into your neighbourhood and search for Limestone or Dolostone landscape blocks. Or examine stone stairs and buildings. There is a good chance that fossils are hiding within!

Use the Fossils of Ontario key when you go on your #fossilfieldtrip with your family or a friend. Upload the fossil key below and bring it with you on your hunt.  Use the key to circle the fossils you find.  

If you find fossil life in rock layers send us a photo or connect with us through Twitter @EarthSciMuseum or show us on Instagram uwearthmuseum. We will place our favourite photos from the community below.

Image of Fossils of Ontario key linking to printable pdf

Listen to our curator, Corina, talk about the fossils you can find in your Southern Ontario community. 

About fossils in Ontario

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.

Fossil Brachiopod from Hungry Hollow. University of Waterloo Earth Sciences Museum

fossilized bivalveSouthwestern Ontario is underlain by rocks of the Lower and Middle Paleozoic Era, ranging from 485  to 360 million years in age. They are further subdivided by age into rocks of the Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian Periods.

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.

Recommended fossil collecting sites:

Learn more about the local Kitchener-Waterloo fossils.

Recommended fossil collecting sites

Arkona-Kettle Point and Hungry Hollow

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.

crinoid stem

Fossil Crinoid Stem from Hungry Hollow. University of Waterloo Earth Sciences Museum

3 fossil coral pieces from ontario

Fossil Coral from Hungry Hollow. University of Waterloo Earth Sciences Museum



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, Cephalopods, Pelecypods, Gastropods, and Conularids

Nearby Craigleith are three Provincial Parks, each with their own unique set of geological features:

Rock Glen

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.

Kincardine and Southampton

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.