Description - This 50-million year old lake bed is one of the richest fossil localities in the world. Recorded in limestone are dynamic and complete paleoecosystems that spanned two million years. Preservation is so complete that it allows for detailed study of climate change and its effects on biological communities.
- Visitors discover that this resource displays the interrelationships of plants, insects, fishes, reptiles and mammals, like few other known fossil sites. The relevance and challenge of study and preservation of this ancient ecosystem are equal to those of a modern ecosystem.
The surface topography of Fossil Butte is now covered by a high cold desert. Sagebrush is the dominant vegetation at the lower elevations, while limber pine and aspen occur on the slopes. Pronghorn, Mule deer and a variety of birds are commonly seen. Moose, elk and beaver are sometimes observed.
Over 75 fossils are on display including a 13-foot crocodile, the oldest known bat and a mass mortality of 356 fish. Video programs, fossil preparation demonstrations and a book store are available at the Visitor Center.
Two short hiking trails explore the area. The 2.5 mile Historic Quarry Trail has wayside exhibits and a trail brochure. Information provided includes geology, wildlife and plants of the high desert. A short side loop leads to the site of an historic quarry. Moderately difficult with a 1000 ft. elevation gain.
The Fossil Lake Trail, 1.5 miles, This trail winds around and through a grove of aspen trees. A trail brochure interprets the wildlife, plants and geology of this high desert oasis. The lower portion of the Fossil Lake Trail is closed indefinitely due to environmental conditions.
A picnic area shaded by aspen trees; tables and charcoal grills are available.
Recreation - Plan 45 minutes to an hour at the visitor center to view the exhibits and watch the videos. Allow 1
hour to hike the Fossil Lake Trail or 2-3 hours for the Historic Quarry trail. Guided hikes are available on summer weekends, as well as daily paleontology/geology programs.
Climate - Summer: warm days and moderate evenings, light jacket needed some evenings, sturdy shoes needed for hiking, protection from sun recommended. Spring, Fall and Winter can be very cold, expect snow and winter conditions.
Fossil Butte is located in southwestern Wyoming, 15 miles west of Kemmerer on Highway 30.