Southwest Florida Fossil Hunting


Florida has long since been considered a paradise for fossil hunting. There is no need to purchase a pick and shovel because all you need is a sharp eye. This state is different than the American Northwest since the majority of fossils are not found encased in the rocks. You can find many different fossils in the gravel common among small streams or simply strewn on the beaches.

You can have an adventure and go hunting by yourself or arrange a trip guided by a professional. If you do not have a guide, a permit is required unless you are interested in collecting fossilized plants, shells or sharks teeth. It is illegal to collect any other vertebrate fossils on state land without the permit. If you explore the rivers, sinkholes, and caves, you may be lucky enough to find fossils from large mammals including cave bears, ground sloths, and saber-toothed cats so having a permit is a good idea. The link to apply is at the end of the article.

Venice Florida Sharks Tooth Fossils

One of the most popular activities in Venice is hunting for fossils. This is because the state was completely submerged by water ten million years in the past. During this time, there were a lot of sharks in the area. As time passed and the water receded, the land was revealed. When the prehistoric sharks died, the skeletons disintegrated completely. The good news is the fossilized teeth still remain.

If you go a little to the south of Sarasota in the coastal area of Venice, you will be directly above a fossil layer between 18 and 35 feet in depth. You will most likely see a lot of people walking up and down the beach looking for shiny black shark teeth in the sand. If you are interested in quicker results, there is a drop-off ledge where the waves are breaking right at the edge of the water. You can either wade out into the water just a couple of feet or reach down to scoop up handfuls of the sand. You can use either your hands, a simple kitchen strainer or a shovel. (Most of the local fishing shacks and even the town Wal-Mart carry the long-handled variety. It is worth the investment as the whole process is much easier! If you are searching online, try Sandflea Rake or Florida Sand Shovel.)

Then go back to the beach and pour your treasures right onto the sand. You never know exactly what you will find, but there will probably be a least one shark’s tooth in addition to unique shells, pieces of coral and little pebbles. Make certain you scoop up as much of the sand as you can to increase your chances of finding something interesting. Look for black, dark grey, or dark brown as fossilized teeth turn dark after tens of thousands of years in the ocean.

Fossilized shark’s tooth on Venice Beach.

Peace River Fossil Hunting

You will find the Peace River in the southwest. The area is an amazing prehistoric graveyard where you may discover fossils from a prehistoric shark called the giant Carcharodon or the Megalodon. Fossils from a wide range of different creatures have been found here including remnants of the mammoth, horse, whales, mastodon, alligators, camel and bison.

If you are not familiar with the Megalodon, you may be interested in learning this shark was once one of the most powerful and biggest predators anywhere in the world. The shark was between 55 and 60 feet long. If you are searching for fossils on any property owned by the state of Florida with a creek or river running through it, you are required to have either a permit or a guide.

Although you can find fossils nearly anywhere you look along the Peace River, your best options are from Arcadia to Wachula. The majority of areas are easily accessed by the general public including the boat launches. Keep in mind most areas have already been well searched with many of the fossils already discovered. If you hire a guide, you will be taken to the best possible locations to search for fossils. If you decide to strike out on your own, your best option is renting either a kayak or a canoe. This will enable you to reach many of the more remote areas where a lot of the fossils still remain.

Shell Creek Fossil Hunting

Shell Creek is considered one of the best places for fossil hunting in the state. The area close to Punta Gorda is a gorgeous location for canoes and kayaks. Due to the dam, you will see downriver, most of the waters are wide with high levels. If you go farther upstream, the water significantly narrows. The water supply for Punta Gorda is this creek. This means it is mostly undeveloped, beautiful and pristine.

In the past, Shell Creek was an ancient sea. For this reason, the area is excellent for discovering treasures from the Pleistocene area. In addition to the shark teeth so plentiful throughout the waters of the state, the chance of finding rarer fossils is good here. A wide range of interesting finds came from these waters including the plates from a large creature similar to an armadillo called an ancient Glypotherium. You may even find ancient alligator bone plates or prehistoric horse teeth. There are a wide variety of fossils right under the surface of the water. All you need to do is sift the gravel with a simple classifier to discover something incredible. You do not need to be an expert to discover fossils, many beginners have made some truly amazing finds.

For more information and to sign up for a permit, please visit the floridamuseum.ufl.edu site.

Tried your luck at Florida Fossil Hunting? Share photos of your finds with us in the comments below!

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