2021 Fossil Dig Event
Our normal dig season runs from late June through the middle of August, and may include all or some of the sites listed at the bottom of this page.
Each of our digs has a minimum age of 15 years for a Full Day, or 10 years for a Family Half Day. This is done for the safety of our participants, as well as the fossils. All minors (17 years and under) must be accompanied by an adult. There is no maximum age. We do not have any digs for children under 10 years.
A Full Day (ages 15+) starts in the morning ~7:45am, and ends between 4-5pm. We are on-site this entire time, and will not be making trips back to town.
A Half Day is broken into a morning and afternoon shift. Morning shift starts at 7:45am, and runs to ~11:30am. Afternoon shift starts at 12:45pm, and runs to ~4:30pm. You may only sign up for ONE session per day – not both.
A Family Half Day includes ages 10+. An Adult Half Day includes ages 15+. Please note: there are NO days that are restricted to 18+ years.
Every dig is set up so that participants may sign up for one or more days. It is not necessary to sign up for the whole dig week. If you are a first-time digger, you will be limited to two days per dig. Not every dig includes weekend days.
No! Here in North Dakota we have many types of fossils – not just dinosaurs. Please see the FAQs below to see what you may find on each of our digs. The short versions is: Bismarck = dinosaur age, Pembina Gorge = sea monsters, Medora = swamp critters, Dickinson = early mammals.
We removed the “beginner / advanced” titles on the digs, as over time they have evolved to include more amenities, allowing more people to attend any dig site successfully. However, if you have never dug before, we strongly suggest registering for the Medora dig – the fossils are small, the site compact, and the rock easy to dig through. It is a good site to learn the basics of proper digging technique.
Yes! Educating our diggers on proper technique is a big part of what we do. Paleontology is not a fast science – it is a careful one. Our staff spends most of the day working with our diggers, to ensure safe, proper removal of fossils.
The North Dakota Geological Survey Paleontology staff are doing all we can to make the summer digs as safe as possible. To do that, we need your help.
Vans: while in the vans, masks will be mandatory. We will have disposable masks available for those that do not have their own. Use proper mask-wearing procedures – your mask should come above your nose, and extend past your chin. You will be assigned a van to ride in - make sure you return in the same van at the end of your session as well.
If you feel sick (cough, shortness of breath, fever, or sore throat), do not attend the dig. Temperature checks will occur at the start of every day, for all staff and participants. Anyone that appears sick will not be allowed to attend. We reserve the right to refuse participation, and your ticket will be refunded.
After your dig is done, if you test positive for COVID-19 – let us know IMMEDIATELY. If our staff has been exposed to COVID-19, we need to enter quarantine and inform other diggers. If our staff enters quarantine, the digs will be cancelled (and refunded) for at least two weeks following notification.
We will do our best to keep things as sanitary and safe as possible, but we need your help to do that. Masks on site are not practical, as we need you to stay hydrated – touching masks repeatedly in order to take a drink negates the cleanliness of the mask. Please maintain social distancing as much as possible with those outside of your group. If a fossil is discovered that people wish to see – DO NOT crowd around the digger or fossil. Wait for them to move, then inspect the find. We will make sure that diggers have a chance to see important discoveries.
In years past we allowed diggers to move about the site or change dig spots. This will not be allowed this year. If you wish to move to another location, it must be approved by the paleontology staff. The staff will be around a lot of people this summer and will be practicing social distancing with the diggers as much as possible. We understand this will make examining finds more difficult, but please work with us. If you find something, need to cut roots, or need help with something, you will need to move away from the find for us to examine more closely.
Plastering in past years was a group effort, with the staff inviting the public to participate. To accommodate social distancing, group plastering will not be held this year. Plastering will only be done by the staff.
Friends of NDGS Paleo
We're excited to announce a new partnership with Friends of NDGS Paleo, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Any donations made to the public fossil dig programs through the Friends group are now tax-deductible! Starting in fall 2021, the Friends group will manage the Dig Supporter and Paleo Pals programs. For more information, you can contact the Friends group at:
Triss Ford - President
Katy Brooke - Secretary/Treasurer
PO Box 164
Mandan, ND 58554
Interested in learning more? Join our mailing list!