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 north of the North Sulphur River, fossil hunters flock to this portion of the river to discover a variety of fossils and artifacts dating back to the Cretaceous period (145 million to 65 million years ago). Fossil hunters can find everything from ancient ammonites, to the bones of sharks and wolly mammoths, to arrowheads and spear tips from the local Caddo Indians. Learn more about visiting below.
Upper Trinity Regional Water District (UTRWD) recently made improvements to the current fossil park, including upgrading the parking lot and building a ramp to provide easier access to the riverbed. UTRWD is working with paleontologists to preserve significant fossils found during its construction of Lake Ralph Hall, which may be displayed at the Lake Ralph Hall Administration Facility and/or at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.
Photos credit: Cheryl L. McClure
Visit the Fossil Park:
Park Location, Rules & Info
Location of the Temporary Park:
FAQs courtesy of Ladonia Fossil Park Facebook Group Page
Q: When is the Fossil Park open?
A: The park is open every day from sun up 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
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
Backpack or buckets, totes and small containers
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 preferable 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:
Eastside Grocery, Hwy 50/Main Street – food
JJs, Hwy 34/2990 – gas
Granny’s, Main St/Square – shopping
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: email@example.com
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:
New Fossil Dig Exhibit at Northeast Texas Children's Museum
Mosasaurs Museum Panel
A new Fossil Dig exhibit has opened at the Northeast Texas Children’s Museum in Commerce, TX. The exhibit includes a dig box with casts of dinosaur teeth, prehistoric seashells and other dinosaur bones for children to find, as well as an informative wall display. These casts are representative of prehistoric under water sea creatures that lived in North Texas dating back to the Cretaceous period.
Parts of northeast Texas were covered by a sea some 145 to 65million years ago, where giant reptiles and fish lived and hunted. Mighty Mosasaurs, 40-foot-long aquatic reptiles, ruled the deep sea, and Xiphactinus, a 20-foot-long fish that hunted other fish, reptiles and birds, were common sea creatures. The Columbian Mammoth also roamed the plains of North Texas some 420,000 to 11,700 years ago.
Bones from these sea creatures and more recent animals have been found by fossil hunters along the North Sulphur River near Ladonia in southeast Fannin County.
The exhibit provides children the opportunity to “dig” for fossils, similar to visiting the Ladonia Fossil Park. Fossil hunting is an exciting adventure. It’s like stepping into a time machine where you can discover animals and plants that lived on earth thousands to millions of years ago.
Whether you’re a teacher, parent or fossil enthusiast, visiting the new exhibit is like taking a time machine to the prehistoric past, to learn about life in North Texas millions of years ago.
The new exhibit is sponsored by the Upper Trinity Regional Water District, Lake Ralph Hall, the Perot Museum, City of Ladonia and the Ladonia Chamber of Commerce. For more information about the Fossil Dig exhibit, visit https://netxcm.com/.
Future, Permanent Fossil Park
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.