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Fossils in Birmingham’s Back Yard – Bring Kids for a Dig

Imagine applying your skills in finding lost iPods and socks to locating a significant fossil. (This fossil model hangs in the Gatlinburg Aquarium)

Turns out that Sumiton, population 2,520 and bordering Jefferson and Walker counties, is near one of one of the most important fossil sites in the world for studying ancient sea fossils. You have the rare opportunity to explore the Sumiton’s secrets for yourself just like a real paleontologist.

Fresh Air Family and Kids 1st Club (sponsored by America’s First Federal Credit Union) has scheduled a fossil dig on Saturday, May 18, at the Union Chapel Coal mine near Sumiton. This mine was spared from destruction due to its significance as one of only four places in the world with its type of fossil record. During one dig, a mom found track prints from an Attenasaurus*, a PRE DINOSAUR that roamed these parts over 300 million years ago in the Coal Age. Now, that is an experience that you will never get at an asphalt paved amusement park.

The dig is under the direction of Carl Sloan of the Birmingham Paleontological Society, so you will have guidance from someone who knows a thing or two about things that end in -saurus. The cost is an unbelievable $10 for members, $15 for non members, and you may register here for either the 9 a.m. or 1 p.m. session. Both sessions will meet at the Walmart in Sumiton before heading out to the site, which they note contains jagged rocks and is not suitable for very young children. (Also note that the site is not open to the public, so your only opportunity for access is through an event such as this dig.)

Unless you find a piece that is of museum quality, you can keep what you dig. How’s that for a souvenir? Which had you rather have, a fossil remain from your state’s prehistoric past to remind you of a real adventure, or a gift shop plastic snow globe emblazoned with a logo?

*Sounds like this one had an original case of Attention Deficit Disorder


  • Vicki

    This Union Chapel dig is sponsored by the Alabama Paleontological Society, NOT the Birmingham Paleontological Society. Yes, there are two fossil groups based in Birmingham, Alabama. Birmingham Paleontological Society (BPS-AL.ORG) is a family friendly group who has been assisting professional paleontologists on real fossil digs since 1984, helping them find fossils for their museums, and getting to take some home for our own collections. BPS conducts monthly field trips, and meets at the Hoover Public Library on 1st Mondays, except for holidays. Families of all ages are welcome, but we cannot accomodate groups of children, such as classroom or scout groups due to the sensitivity of our collecting sites. There is no charge for BPS activities. Everyone is welcome.