Route 51 in Ambridge , PA

The site is located about 20 miles northwest of Pittsburgh on the Ohio River, opposite the town of Ambridge and just south of Aliquippa. The site is a cliffside adjacent to PA Route 51 on the southwest side side of the highway. Route 51 is a four lane highway at the site but it is isolated from the road by a jersey barrier so once on the site, traffic is not a concern.

Parking is an issue as the road lanes are very narrow and there is no shoulder inside the jersey barriers. The place where I park is only accessible when traveling south from Aliquippa on Route 51. Go past the bridge and pull over at the end of the jersey barrier, then back up onto the berm on the cliff side of the barrier. Your car will be safe there. This puts you at the southern end of the exposure which extends for several miles north west towards Aliquippa.

The site is a cliff face composed of loose and lightly compacted shales. The overall height is probably 100 ft or more with several bench levels carved into the cliff.

South East View

This site is great because it is impossible to NOT find anything and it is NOT necessary to climb or scale the cliff at all. I once climbed up the cliff to hunt on the benches higher up but I found nothing that I could not find in the talus at the base of the cliff.

North West View towards the Ambridge Bridge

Nice fossils can be found in the scree along the entire face of the cliff and by splitting the larger blocks which have fallen from above.

Typical view of the Scree

Leave that rock hammer at home, you will need nothing more than a medium sized flat blade screwdriver here. The shale splits easily exposing a wide variety of nicely preserved leaves, ferns and other plants.

Samples of the Ambridge Fossils

The site is good for a few hours of hunting. After that, you will have likely found most of the typical specimens. This is a sampling of about an hour's worth of hunting.


A large horsetail type plant on a slab

I found this large specimen by patiently splitting one of the larger blocks in the scree pile.

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