Since the state of Montana is known to be rich in prehistoric fossils, it’s only fitting to celebrate National Fossil Day! This national holiday was established by the National Park Service, celebrating the importance of paleontology and preserving fossils for future generations.
On National Fossil Day, the National Park Service partners with more than 400 organizations, museums, universities and other groups that offer paleontology education programs to help understand the history of past life on Earth. Programming is done through NPS units and partner institutions.
Montana is home to part of Yellowstone National Park, where many prehistoric finds exist. Some of the oldest finds in the park are found in the northwest region of the park in rocks from the Cambrian geological period. These rocks are dated at least 500 million years. In 1878, William Henry discovered ancient marine fossils during the Hayden Expeditions. Henry found sponges, brachiopods and fossilized trilobites. These finds were among the oldest fossils historically identified at Yellowstone. The Hayden Expedition also influenced the creation of Yellowstone National Park.
Paleobotanists, scientists who study fossilized plants, have also found fossilized leaves and trees, known as the Yellowstone Fossil Forest. This fossilized forest was covered in volcanic ash from an eruption that occurred millions of years ago. Prehistoric Yellowstone was the chosen inspiration for the National Fossil Day 2022 artwork. The artwork and additional information about this holiday can be found here.
There are several ways to celebrate National Fossil Day in Montana. The first being the visit to Yellowstone National Park! Explore fossil forests, geothermal features and geysers. It’s also a great way to learn about prehistoric history and the caldera that drastically changed the environment.
Or take the Montana Dinosaur Trail while the weather is still nice! Visit all 14 state museums and learn about all the incredible fossils found in the Treasure State. It’s also a great way to learn about Montana’s history in prehistoric times. Kids can become “junior” paleontologists with a downloadable National Park Service activity booklet.
Take the day to celebrate and experience what the earth looked like when dinosaurs roamed the earth.