Digging Deeper: A Fossil Hunters Guide to the Bay of Quinte Region
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Digging Deeper: A Fossil Hunters Guide to the Bay of Quinte Region

May 31, 2023
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Written by: Madeline Hoyle

Warm weather is upon us and it’s time to get out and explore the natural wonders that the Bay of Quinte region has to offer. If you look beyond the beautiful waterways and walking trails, you’ll find that the area is a fossil hunter’s paradise. Our shorelines and roadside rock cuts expose prehistoric creatures that lived hundreds of millions of years before dinosaurs ever walked the Earth.

Nearly half a billion years ago, during the Oridivician period, the area that we now call Quinte was at the bottom of the ancient Iapetus Ocean. Back then, the world was very different than it is now. Days were shorter, vast seas covered most of the planet, and new continents were just beginning to form. The land that now makes up the Quinte region was situated in the southern hemisphere, at approximately the latitude of modern-day Peru and northern Brazil. Over time, the land shifted north and rotated sideways, finally coming to rest where it is now.

Today, what was once an underwater landscape looks very different, but fascinating reminders of prehistoric life and dramatic geological changes can still be found scattered along local beaches and hidden within the bedrock that our communities are built on. If you are interested in finding a fossilized piece of the region’s past, here are a few suggestions on where to look:

Note: Before visiting any of these sites, please make sure to confirm hours, admission costs, and rules & regulations.


North Beach Provincial Park  |  Consecon, ON

Prince Edward County is a treasure trove of Ordivician fossils. Next time you find yourself heading to the beach to enjoy the sun and sand, consider adding fossil hunting to your itinerary.

A quieter alternative to nearby Sandbanks, visitors to North Beach Provincial Park can enjoy swimming in the open waters of Lake Ontario or picnicking along the more sheltered North Bay shoreline. No matter which side of the Park you choose to explore, pay close attention to the rocks under your feet. Parts of the shore have areas of exposed limestone, perfect for finding many of the typical Ordovician fauna, including brachiopods and gastropods. Brachiopods, resembling small hinged shells, are often quite small, so you may want to bring a magnifying glass in your beach bag. Gastropods can be found among the smooth beach stones, their distinctive swirls unmistakable. With waves and ice constantly breaking up the bedrock, there are always new specimens to be found, so check back regularly for new discoveries.


Potter’s Creek Conservation Area  |  Belleville, ON

The winding trails of Potter’s Creek Conservation Area offer a diverse range of terrain, including orchards, meadows, and forests. The rocky shoreline of the Bay of Quinte, however, is where fossil lovers will want to spend some extra time searching for a prehistoric souvenir.

A variety of trilobites and brachiopods are sure to be hidden within the jagged limestone shoreline. Peer into the shallow waters along the shore to find gastropods or rugosa fossils. Rugosa, or horn coral, is a common fossil find, though sometimes more difficult to spot. Pay close attention to rocks with a cone-like shape, possibly resembling a tooth or claw, as they are likely to be the fossilized remains of ancient coral.


Presqu’ile Provincial Park  |  Brighton, ON

Not just a popular spot for beachgoers, birdwatchers, and camping enthusiasts, Presqu’ile is also a favourite destination for fossil hunters. The origins of the park go back more than 450 million years to the middle of the Ordovician period, when the land that is now Presqu’ile was underwater. Limey sediment and shell fragments from underwater creatures gradually accumulated at the bottom of the sea. By the time the water had dried up 300 million years ago, these sediments had been squeezed and compressed, turning them into tightly packed sedimentary limestone about five kilometres thick. Shells from the sea’s inhabitants can now be found fossilized in this rock.

The most common fossils found at Presqu’ile are brachiopods, trilobites, and gastropods, all of which were abundant in Ordivician-era seas. Most of the fossils you will find of these animals are fragments of their shells, which broke apart as they tumbled down sloped seabeds before coming to their final resting place to begin the process of fossilization. Look closely along the park’s rocky shorelines for examples of these creatures.


Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area  |  Milford, ON

Located at the tip of a long peninsula on the northeast shore of Lake Ontario, Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area is a beautifully tranquil spot to spend a day exploring nature and hunting for fossils. In addition to being a protected habitat for migratory birds, the site is also home to the historic Point Traverse Lighthouse. After observing some of the area’s impressive species of songbirds, waterfowl, and butterflies, take a stroll along the cobble beaches littered with remnants of prehistoric life.

Trilobites and brachiopods that once inhabited ancient seas can now be found preserved in the limestone layers of the Lindsay Formation, deposited about 450 million years ago. Large, flat sections of stone display nearly-perfect outlines of these diverse creatures. Oftentimes, you will find only the hind segments of trilobities, known as the pygidium. While they may look very similar, there are actually about 20,000 different identified classifications of fossil trilobites and 30,000 brachiopods.  Next time you spot a fossil-ridden rock, try spotting the differences.


Wellington Rotary Beach  |  Wellington, ON

With a scenic boardwalk and great amenities, you will often find walkers and cyclists enjoying Wellington Rotary Beach year round. Dig a little deeper into the stony shoreline and you will discover that the beach is also a playground for fossil hunters.

Situated between the shores of Lake Ontario and West Lake, Wellington Beach may be small, but it boasts an abundance of Ordivician era fossils. Visitors to the beach have excellent luck finding gastropods and rugosa among the beach stones. Look closely at larger rocks for examples of crinoid or bryozoa fossils. Complete crinoid, or sea lily, specimens are rare due to the decay of soft tissue, but their calcite-rich stems are common fossils. These stems appear as raised, ridged sections in otherwise flat rock. Bryozoa are simple, aquatic invertebrates found in sedentary colonies when alive. When fossilized, they often appear as round, pitted rocks that are bumpy to the touch.


Zwick’s Centennial Park  |  Belleville, ON

Home to picturesque walking trails, soccer fields, a dog park, and a playground, Zwick’s Centennial Park is a great destination for your next outdoor adventure. Situated along the Bay of Quinte’s rocky shoreline, you are likely to find a selection of local fossils near the water’s edge.

A variety of typical Ordivician fossils, like gastropods, rugosa, and trilobites are common, but you might also come across a more unique specimen if you look hard enough. Cephalopods are a group of marine animals that include octopus, squid, cuttlefish, and nautilus. Found throughout today’s oceans, these unique creatures were also abundant in Oridocivian-era seas. Their soft bodies decay easily, so it is rare, but not impossible, to find well-preserved fossils of cephalopods. With their distinct cylindrical shape and ring-like markings, cephalopod fossils stand out among other shoreline stones. If you want to find a fossil the next time you are strolling along the waterfront trails, leave no stone unturned.


Hunting for fossils can be a fun and exciting pastime for all ages, but please remember to stay safe and leave the beach or park as undisturbed as possible. Keep your favourite fossil as a memento and leave the rest for future fossil hunters to enjoy. If you happen to come across a particularly interesting discovery, take a photo and share it with us. We might even be able to help you identify it.

Happy hunting!


4 Places in Ontario for Top Notch Fossil Hunting. Retrieved from https://cottagelife.com/outdoors/4-places-in-ontario-for-top-notch-fossil-hunting/

Discover Geoscience. Retrieved from https://geoscienceinfo.com/

Fossils of Presqu’ile. Retrieved from https://www.friendsofpresquile.on.ca/geology-and-formation-of-presquile

Potter’s Creek Conservation Area. Retrieved from https://www.quinteconservation.ca/en/outdoor-spaces/potter_s-creek-conservation-area.aspx

Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area. Retrieved from https://www.visitthecounty.com/business_listings/prince-edward-point-national-wildlife-area/

Wellington Rotary Beach. Retrieved from https://www.visitthecounty.com/business_listings/wellington-rotary-public-beach/

Zwick’s Centennial Park. Retrieved from https://downtownbelleville.ca/point-of-interest/zwicks-centennial-park/