Green River Shale - Kemmerer, WY

The Green River formations of Wyoming, Colorado and Utah are famous for the quality of preservation.
The Fossil Lake section, near Kemmerer, is famous for the abundant fossil fish.
The locality is protected by designation of the surrounding lands as part of the Fossil Butte National Monument.

Fossil Butte

The monument visitor's center, 9 miles west of Kemmerer, is well worth the time and gives you a good overview of the site.
Be sure to pick up the newly published booklet which aids in identifying the fish.

Fossils in the Visitor's Center

Although there is no collecting on the BLM land, as fish are vertebrates, there are several quarries, located on leased BLM land,
where you can dig for the fossil fish for a fee. The price is not cheap, $60 for a four hour stint.
However, since collecting on public lands is illegal, there are no other options.
Also, you are practically guaranteed to come away with some very nice fish fossils that would retail for as much or more as the fee.

We chose the Warfield quarry ( for our dig.
The quarry was about a 30 minute drive out side of Kemmerer on dirt roads.
The directions posted on the website are adequate to get you there.
The fee includes tools, instructions and all the common types of fish you can eat, I mean find.
Rare species of fish and anything else unusual is kept by the quarry operators, regardless of which quarry you choose.

Click here for a panoramic view of the quarry - Warfield Quarry

Bring water, sunscreen and food as there is nothing available at the quarry.
Before going to the site, be sure to prepare a method for transporting your fish plates home.
The method we used was to stack them edgewise in a rubbermaid bin, seperated by cardboard and thin bubble wrap.
The shale is rather fragile and a number of the plates broke in transit before we repacked them this way.

Ready to Start

Taking down some fresh rock to split

Making the split in search of fish

Working down the column

A fine little fish after about 15 minutes of splitting

A bit bigger specimen in excellent condition

Jim, the attendent identifies the fish in our pile.

After four hours, we were satisfied with the haul.

Some examples of the fish after getting them home and trimming off the excess rock.

Other Tips
The Fossil Butte motel is purported to be the nicest of the bunch. We stayed at the Energy Inn and it was OK.
For dinner, we ate at Bootleggers, on the square in Kemmerer, the food and service were both good.
There is an antique shop two doors down from Bootleggers which has fossils downstairs worth the look.
They also sell supplies for preparing and preserving the fish fossils.
Bob's Rock Shop was also worth a look and Bob is mighty nice.

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