Fossil Butte National Monument

Fossil Butte National Monument
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)

Fossil Butte National Monument
Map showing the location of Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte
Location Lincoln County, Wyoming, USA
Nearest city Kemmerer, WY
Coordinates 41°51′52″N 110°46′33″W / 41.86444°N 110.77583°W / 41.86444; -110.77583Coordinates: 41°51′52″N 110°46′33″W / 41.86444°N 110.77583°W / 41.86444; -110.77583
Area 8,198 acres (3,318 ha)[1]
Established October 23, 1972 (1972-October-23)
Visitors 16,552 (in 2011)[2]
Governing body National Park Service
Website Fossil Butte National Monument
Heliobatis radians, an extinct stingray, had small teeth for crushing snails and other mollusks and barbed spines on the tail for defense. This specimen is about 35 centimetres (14 in) long, including the tail.
This 1.7 meter (5 foot 6 inch) Trionychid softshell turtle is one of the largest turtles known from Fossil Lake.

Fossil Butte National Monument is a United States National Monument managed by the National Park Service, located 15 miles (24 km) west of Kemmerer, Wyoming, USA. It centers on an extraordinary assemblage of Eocene Epoch (56 to 34 million years ago) animal and plant fossils associated with the smallest lake — Fossil Lake — of the three great lakes which were present at that time in what are now Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. The other two were lakes were Lake Gosiute and Lake Uinta. Fossil Butte National Monument was established as a national monument on October 23, 1972.

Fossil Butte National Monument preserves the best paleontological record of Cenozoic aquatic communities in North America and possibly the world, within the 50-million-year-old Green River Formation — the ancient lake bed. Fossils preserved — including fish, alligators, bats, turtles, dog-sized horses, insects, and many other species of plants and animals — suggest that the region was a low, subtropical, freshwater basin when the sediments accumulated, over about a 2 million-year period.[3]


Coal mining for the railroad led to the settlement of the nearby town of Fossil, Wyoming.[4] When the fossils were discovered, miners dug them up to sell to collectors. In particular, Lee Craig sold fossils from 1897 to 1937. Commercial fossil collecting is not allowed within the National Monument, but numerous quarries on private land nearby continue to produce extraordinary fossil specimens, both for museums and for private collectors.


The Fossil Butte National Monument Visitor Center features over 80 fossils and fossil casts on exhibit, including fish, a crocodile, turtle, bats, birds, insects and plants. A 13-minute video is shown about the fossils found at the site and what scientists have learned. Interactive exhibits let visitors create fossil rubbings to take home, and a computer program discusses fossils, geology and the current natural history of the monument.


During the summer, lab personnel prepare fossils in public. Summer activities also include ranger programs, hikes, paleontology and geology talks, and participation in fossil quarry collections for the park.

Stingray prepared by R. Lee Craig (Asterotrygon maloneyi). In the collection of Fossil Shack. Prepared Circa 1920.

A Junior Ranger program can be completed by children aged 5–12 (with exercises scaled to the child's age) in 3–4 hours. A highlight is hiking 3/4 mile up the butte to the dig, where interns from the Geological Society of America talk about their excavation and let children help them flake apart sedimentary deposits to discover fish fossils and coprolites.

List of fossil species recovered at Fossil Butte National Monument

This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.






Primary source:[5]

See also

Other NPS Cenozoic Era sites in the western U.S.:


  1. "Listing of acreage as of December 31, 2011". Land Resource Division, National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
  2. "NPS Annual Recreation Visits Report". National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
  3. Geologic travel guide from American Geological Institute
  4. "Fossil, Wyoming". Retrieved 2008-05-06.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Green River Formation Fossils at Fossil Butte
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