At the vast majority of fossil-related parks, you can look but never touch. That may be good for the treasures that the parks protect, but it's not the best for getting people involved. Fortunately, most common fossils are not rare, and a scattering of parks allow the public to dig for fossils. If you know of a park that's not listed here, contact me at geology "dot" guide "at" about "dot" com.
USACE Caesar Creek Lake website no longer features this activity.
USACE Harsha Lake website: find fossils under Recreation > Wildlife to Watch.
Green River Formation, an ancient freshwater lakebed some 50 million years old (Eocene). On Fridays and Saturdays during summer, visitors can help park scientists dig for fossils on a strictly catch-and-release basis. The program is called "Aquarium in Stone." Fossil Butte ranger programs page
Fossil Park, Sylvania, OHSoft Middle Devonian shale of the Silica Formation is brought here from the Hanson Aggregate quarries for the public to pick over using only their hands. Trilobites, horn corals, brachiopods, crinoids, early colonial corals and more are found there. It's a popular school outing, complete with lesson plans and a geologist-authored field guide. There's no charge. The pit is open from late April to early November. Park website
fossil pamphlet shows more). Inquire at the Park Office before digging. During summer months, the park naturalist leads fossil hunts. Park website
Ladonia Fossil Park, Ladonia, TXSediments in the bluffs of the North Sulphur River near Dallas yield all kinds of Cretaceous fossils from mosasaur bones to ammonites, bivalves and shark teeth. The Pleistocene sediments above have mammoth bones and teeth. This is a rugged, at-your-own-risk kind of place where you need to watch for snakes, slides, feral pigs and sudden floods from controlled water releases. Park website
Lafarge Fossil Park, Alpena, MIThe Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan, near Thunder Bay in Lake Huron, hosts this site where the great Lafarge Alpena quarry contributes raw Devonian-age limestone for the public to explore. The museum's website has no information on the fossils, but it shows a nice coral specimen. Open from dawn to dusk year-round. Besser Museum website
Mineral Wells Fossil Park, Mineral Wells, TXA former borrow pit for the city of Mineral Wells now gives visitors a chance to collect fossils from the 300-million-year-old (Pennsylvanian) shale. Open all day Friday through Monday at no charge, the site yields crinoids, bivalves, brachiopods, corals, trilobites and much more. The Dallas Paleontological Society has a volunteer program for this unusual public resource. Park website