Ladonia Fossil Park Relocation

Ladonia Fossil Park

The Ladonia Fossil Park is one of Ladonia’s most popular and visited sites. Located on the east side of FM 2990 and the north side of the North Sulphur River, fossil hunters flock to this portion of the river to discover fossils dating back to the Cretaceous period (145 million to 65 million years ago).

This fossil-rich region hosts a wide variety of fossils and artifacts including remnants of Cretaceous sea creatures – teeth, vertebrae, and bones of sharks, mosasaurs, and more to the shells of ancient ammonites, baculites, and oysters.

Fast forward to the Pliocene epoch around 4 million years ago and you may find the fossilized remains of animals from that era, including the wooly mammoth. The earliest residents settled in the region 10,000 to 15,000 years ago and were later settled by the Caddo Indians, where their arrowheads and spear tips are found today.

Upper Trinity Regional Water District (UTRWD) made improvements to the fossil park including upgrading the parking lot and building a ramp to provide easier access to the riverbed.

Fossil Finds

Fossil Park photo Ammonite

Fossil Park photo Ammonite

UTRWD will be working with paleontologists from the Perot Museum to preserve significant fossils should any be found during reservoir construction. Preserved fossils could end up being displayed at the Lake Ralph Hall Administration Facility and/or at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

Fossil Park Rules and Information

New, Permanent Fossil Park

UTRWD recognizes the importance of the Ladonia Fossil Park to the local community and visitors alike. The temporary park will remain open until the construction of Lake Ralph Hall is completed and a new, permanent fossil park can be created downstream of the lake’s dam. UTRWD and the City of Ladonia are working to select another spot where fossil hunters can continue to easily access the river bottom after the new reservoir is built. By offering access to different locations on the river, the park relocation will provide opportunities for additional and untapped fossil discoveries. More information about the new park’s location and when it will be constructed will be posted on this page.

Completed temporary fossil park

Completed temporary fossil park

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs courtesy of Ladonia Fossil Park Facebook Group Page

Q: When is the Fossil Park open?

A: The park is open every day from sunup until sundown.

Q: Where do we go to enter the river at the Fossil Park?

A: The temporary Fossil Park is on FM 2990, on the North side of the North Sulphur River. This will be the location of the Fossil Park until construction of the reservoir is completed in late 2025 or early 2026. Upper Trinity Regional Water District is coordinating with the City of Ladonia and others in selecting a new, permanent site downstream of the reservoir.

Q: What are the Ladonia Fossil Park rules?

A: See the rules below:

  • NO motorized vehicles allowed in riverbed, including ATVs

  • No overnight RVs

  • No camping

  • Do not litter – pack it in, pack it out

  • Pick up after your pets

  • Watch out for wildlife – this is their home

  • Be respectful of other visitors

Q: Any safety tips for fossil hunters?

A. See the tips below:

  • DO NOT ENTER during rain events; storms may produce flash flooding

  • Exercise caution always - identify hazards such as falling hazards

  • Shale is slippery when wet

  • Check weather conditions/flood gauge before visiting (see question 5 below)

  • Cell phones may not get reception in riverbed

Q: What should I bring?

A: See some suggestions below:

  • Take plenty of water – especially when it’s hot

  • Sunscreen

  • Bug spray

  • First-aid kit

  • Snacks

  • Backpack or buckets, totes and small containers

  • Walking stick

  • Something to turn rocks over, like a small utensil

Most importantly, you don’t want to be in the river without water to drink. Wear comfortable walking shoes or mud boots if it’s muddy - and be careful with mud as it can steal your boots from you - true story!

Q: When is the best time to hunt for fossils?

A: After a rain and the water has receded. Preferably when it’s not too hot as summer temperatures are very warm in the river with little breeze to cool you off. If you plan on going after a few days of rain, check this flood gauge that is east of Ladonia. It needs to be below 3 ft for preferrable conditions at Ladonia.

Visit the National Weather Service Flood Gauge/Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service website for the North Sulphur River.

Check the observed levels in blue and the forecasted levels in purple. The numbers are calculated east of the river towards Cooper – so for example, when it says 2.5 ft flow (on the right side of the graph), that means it's lower than 2.5 ft at the 2990 bridge, which is generally a good time to go.

Q: You found something and wonder - What is this?

A: There are lots of experienced fossil hunters on this Facebook page who are glad to help identify a found item when you post a picture. Try to post a clear, sharp image so they have a better shot at helping you ID it.

Q: Is there food, gas, and restrooms at the fossil park?

A: There are restrooms, and cell phone service is spotty, if you get it at all. You can find places in and around Ladonia to grab a bite to eat, fill up or use facilities including:

Q: Since overnight camping is not allowed at the Fossil Park, where can I stay overnight?

A: There are other places to stay the night. Here are a few nearby:

Q: Are there ATV entrances?

A: NO. It is illegal to enter the river on any motorized vehicle, so no, there are no entrances made for ATVs. Please respect the river. Please refer to this website on questions on where to ride your Offroad Vehicle (OHV). Learn more: https://tpwd.texas.gov/.../where-to-ride-ohvs-in-texas.

Q: What if I see someone in the river on an ATV?

A: If you see someone in the river in/on a motorized vehicle, you can contact the Sheriff’s Office to get someone to come out and take care of the situation: 903-583-2143.

If you can’t make the call, you can also take a picture and get the tag number for the vehicle they are driving if they trailered the ATV there. You can email this information to: mjohnson@fanninco.net

They will get back with you when possible.

Q: Where can I go for more information about Ladonia Fossil Park or the City of Ladonia?

A: Here are a couple places:

Location of the Temporary Park:

Please make sure to observe all construction signs and avoid any restricted areas during construction.