Day Trips: Ladonia Fossil Park

North Texas riverbed a treasure chest of ancient bones

Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Ladonia Fossil Park in North Texas gives up its treasures reluctantly, but also in abundance if you know what to look for. After high-water events, the North Sulphur River churns up a new crop of fossilized bones, petrified wood, and shark teeth.

Free access to the river leads from a small parking lot at the northwest corner of the bridge and down a stair-stepped drainage channel. On a beautiful fall day, about a half-dozen people of all ages were digging in the rocky riverbed divided by shallow streams of water.

Straightened for flood control, the river channel is very wide with steep 30-foot banks. The Dallas Paleontological Society discovered the treasure trove years ago. After the waters recede from major flooding, the big dogs come looking for the large bones, ammonites, and petrified plants.

According to the DPS website (, the North Sulphur River is such a good place to find fossils because during the Cretaceous period (around 100 million years ago), the area was covered by a shallow sea. The remains of the abundant and diverse sea life were later entombed in shale, which is ideal for preservation.

Everyone hunting for fossils on that fine fall day came away with something. The most common discovery was ancient oyster shells. A few shark teeth were found in the gravel beds. One woman said she picks rocks that she likes whether they're fossils or not.

Ladonia Fossil Park is two miles north of Ladonia on Texas Highway 34, about 30 miles north of Greenville and 75 miles northeast of Dallas. The riverbed is open to rock hounds during daylight hours. For more information, call 903/456-2687 or go to

1,427th in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Day Trips
Day Trips: Presidio San Saba, Menard
Day Trips: Presidio San Saba, Menard
Spanish fort tells the story of a lost settlement

Gerald E. McLeod, Feb. 15, 2019

Day Trips: Boerne Brews
Day Trips: Boerne Brews
Four places to sample craft beer in Boerne

Gerald E. McLeod, Feb. 8, 2019


Keywords: Ladonia Fossil Park, North Sulphur River, Dallas Paleontological Society, fossils

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle