Tag Archives: Calvert County Maryland

5 Places for Shark Tooth Hunting Adventures Near the DC Area


Recently, another publication contacted me about using some of my photos for a piece they were doing about places in the area to go shark tooth hunting. I’m always happy to share, but it also got me thinking: If the publication didn’t have their own images, did that mean the writer hadn’t actually been to all of these places? Isn’t it better to get recommendations for an activity like this based on real experience rather than just research? (And am I being totally catty right now? 😼)

In that vein, I decided to put together this round-up of places within day-trip distance of DC to search for shark teeth and other remnants of millions-of-years-old marine life. Just about all of them have been either written up or at least mentioned on KFDC already, and it makes sense to have them all in one place. And I can assure you that we have, indeed, experienced every single one. Happy hunting!

Shark teeth for the picking at Purse State Park

Purse State Park

Purse State Park is by far our favorite place to gather shark teeth — and I say gather instead of search for, because chances are very good that you will collect lots of teeth and other prehistoric remains at this Charles County locale. The beach area at Purse is very narrow, but it stretches far along the Potomac River, and it is loaded with Paleocene Era gems, i.e. fossils from sharks, fish, shells, even crocodiles, that are up to 60 million years old.

It’s important to check the tide table (search Potomac River/Liverpool Point, MD) when you plan a visit to Purse, since the already thin strip of sand dwindles even more at high tide. If it’s warm, we often swim a bit, too, as the water is shallow and usually very mellow. There are no concessions or facilities, so bring a picnic and be prepared to pee in the woods or water.

To get there, follow GPS directions to Purse State Park in Nanjemoy, MD. It will take you to a wooded area with a very small parking area across from a trail head. Follow that trail about a half-mile to the beach, where your “treasure” hunting adventure will begin. Hours are sunrise to sunset, and admission is free. See more scenes from Purse State Park here.

Enjoy the calm waters as you search for shark teeth at Flag Ponds

Flag Ponds Nature Park

About an hour’s drive from DC in Calvert County, Flag Ponds Nature Park is just up the road from the well known Calvert Cliffs that are the source for many of the fossils found in that area. And in my opinion, it’s the best place to go for a day’s beach outing that involves shark tooth hunting. Not only can you search for teeth and other remains from the Miocene Era — that’s up to 30 million years old — there is a vast sandy expanse where kids can play, and the Chesapeake where they can swim (check for jellyfish first, though). Fossil finds, in our experience, aren’t as plentiful as they are at Purse State Park, but if you keep an eye out as you walk the shoreline or even sit in one spot and sift through shells and pebbles, you’re bound to come across some small teeth. And who knows… you might get really lucky and score a prized megalodon tooth — the largest shark ever existed during that time and its mega-sized teeth have been discovered there.

You pay to get in at an entrance gate, then park in a lot near the Visitor Center. From there, it’s about a quarter-mile walk on a paved road, then a dirt road to the beach. It’s best to set up close to the shoreline, as it can get buggy and hotter inland near ponds that form with the changing dunes and tides. There are restrooms and a rinsing shower at the entrance to the beach. And there are drink vending machines at the parking lot, but no other concessions, so be sure to bring snacks and water.

Flag Ponds Nature Park is located at 1525 Flag Ponds Parkway in Lusby, MD. From Labor Day to Memorial Day, hours are 9am – 4pm Friday and Monday, 9am -5pm Saturday and Sunday. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, hours are 9am – 6pm weekdays, 9am – 8pm weekends. Admission is $8/car. See more about Flag Ponds here.

Beach fun + shark tooth hunting at Calvert Cliffs

Calvert Cliffs State Park

This is the park that most people have heard about, it’s cliffs somewhat famous for the prehistoric treasures they hold. They were formed over 20 million years ago beneath what was then an ocean that submerged the region during the Miocene Era. As the waters receded and exposed the terrain below, the preserved remains of prehistoric sea life have also been revealed, and, hence wash up on Chesapeake shores now. However, while I like the park itself, in my experience it has not been a boon for shark tooth hunting; I have found only small amounts of fossils on my visits. (Perhaps this is why I have yet to do a write-up about it on the blog.)

The park is worth a visit, though. The beach area nestled between cliffs is very pretty, the water is swimmable, and fossil hunting makes for a nice activity while you’re enjoying a beach day. It’s about a two-mile hike through woods and marsh areas to the beach and cliffs, which adds some extra recreation and neat nature sights to an outing there, but also extra effort — something to keep in mind with little ones and/or strollers in tow.

Calvert Cliffs State Park is open daily, sunrise to sunset. Admission is $5 per vehicle. There are restrooms near the parking lot and portable toilets along the trail close to the beach. There are no concessions, so BYO food and drinks.

Younger days at Brownie’s Beach

Bayfront Park aka Brownie’s Beach

Brownie’s Beach was the first place we enjoying shark tooth hunting, though I use the term “hunting” loosely because it was almost effortless to find fossils there. The park in the town of Chesapeake Beach was our go-to, easy-from-DC beach destination when the kids were much younger. It’s a nice little spot with a small stretch of sand, gentle shallow water, and the cliffs edging the shoreline. It’s also a beach known for shark teeth finds, and they were always aplenty at Brownie’s. We would scoop up a handful of small shells and rocks near the water, wash away the sand, pick through, and small fossils were practically guaranteed in the mix.

I talk about Brownie’s (officially called Bay Front Park) in the past tense, because we haven’t been in several years, since they increased the summer admission fee to $18/adult, $10/age 3-11 for out-of-county residents. But the steep price likely means less people, so if you’re willing to pay, you probably get more shark tooth hunting space to yourself. You could also go during cooler months and avoid the cost.

Bayfront Park is open 6am – 9pm. As noted above, entrance fees from Memorial Day to Labor Day are $18/adult, $10/child and can only be paid by credit card — Visa, Mastercard, or Discover. While there are eateries in the town of Chesapeake Beach, there are no facilities or concessions at the park, so plan accordingly.

A pretty but chilly day at Matoaka Beach

Matoaka Beach

I can’t even remember where I learned about this beach a few years ago; the link above is a random one I just found. But after I read about it back then as a place to search for fossils, we checked it out with friends on a chilly February day (because who says all fossil hunting adventures have to be warm ones?). It was a pretty spot, less than 10 miles from Calvert Cliffs, in St. Leonard. We found a few shark teeth there, but it didn’t make a strong enough impression at the time to be post-worthy. We also paid $20 for parking to a man who seemed to be running things, even though I had read it was $5.

All that said, I’ve been thinking about giving it another go; we may have just been cold and not up for a long outing there. Again, there are no facilities or concessions, something to plan for. Find directions to Matoaka here. Once you park, it’s a very short walk to the beach.

The right footwear makes a big difference

Shark Tooth & Fossil Hunting Tips:

* Wear proper shoes! Water shoes in warm months and rubber boots in cold ones, so you can walk along the shell and rock laden shore without discomfort or freezing your tootsies off.

* Bring along a small shovel and sifter if you like to dig for your fossils.

* Hat and sunscreen always recommended, even on cold days… if it’s sunny, faces can still burn being outside for a long time.

* Bring water and snacks. Fossil hunting works up appetites!

* Take a good look at directions, maybe even write them down, in case GPS fails in remote areas (this has happened to us, but luckily I knew the way).

* Bring a container with a small hole cut in the lid to easily store your fossil finds.

* If you’re not sure whether or not something is a fossil, bring it home anyway and do some research to identify it when you get home.

* The Fossil Forum and Fossil Guy are great resources for more about your fossil finds.

* The Calvert Marine Museum is also a wonderful place to learn more about the Chesapeake Bay, including prehistoric marine life there.


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Plan a Perfect Autumn Day Trip with Ruddy Duck Adventures

ruddy-duck-flyer2

This post is sponsored by Ruddy Duck Adventures, however, I only promote programs, places, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.


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The Ultimate Fossil Hunting Experience with Ruddy Duck Adventures

Some of our finds after the fossil hunt

Some of our finds after the fossil hunt



I think it’s been established by now that I like fossil hunting. I’ve blogged about it several times, and have posted about my shark tooth searching excursions on Facebook even more. And something I’ve learned from that: You guys are pretty into it, too. Not only do the posts get tons of interest, I’ve also had many readers tell me they’ve gone fossil hunting with their families on my recommendation and loved it. Which is why I know you’ll be interested to hear about one of our recent adventures, easily one of our favorites this year.

The beach is a year-round destination when you're fossil hunting

The beach is a year-round destination when you’re fossil hunting

A few weeks ago, on a lovely Sunday in November, we went on a fossil hunting tour with Ruddy Duck Adventures. This is fossil hunting and then some. The day-long outing in Calvert County includes a fossil hunting excursion with an extremely knowledgeable guide, plus hot chocolate on the beach; a visit to the fantastic Calvert Marine Museum, including lunch brought to you there; and dinner at one of their restaurants with a beer tasting for the adults.

A half-mile hike precedes the fossil hunt

A half-mile hike precedes the fossil hunt

Our adventure started at Flag Ponds Nature Park, where we met our guide, Russ, in the parking lot. From there we hiked the half-mile to the beach, during which he gave us the prehistoric background on the area, engaging the kids as they talked about what it was like millions of years ago. Once on the beach, he didn’t waste any time getting us started on our search for shark teeth and other fossilized remains of the Miocene Epoch.

They're onto something...

They’re onto something…

A tooth!

A tooth!

And this was one of the best parts of having a guide. Russ is a huge fossil hunting enthusiast and knows about much more than just the shark teeth and skate dental plates that we’d normally look for on our own. He showed us all kinds of interesting fossils and talked about the species they came from that once inhabited the area. He also brought along special gear for the kids to use, which made them feel like “real” fossil hunters, and had them find some of the fossils for themselves once he led them to a general area after spotting the piece.

A cluster of fossilized shells

A cluster of fossilized shells

Getting the lay of the land from an expert

Getting the lay of the land from an expert

He was also happy to answer all of my random questions about his fossil hunting methods and habits. I learned some new ways to look for fossils (you’ve got to go yourself if you want to find out!) and that some of these guys and gals are super hardcore hunters. I asked Russ when he’d last been out to search and he casually told me it was during the previous night from 11pm to 2am when the tide was low — and he wasn’t the only one there. Needless to say, we were getting the grand tour from someone who was passionate about his hobby, which in my book is the best way.

Scanning the sand at low tide

Scanning the sand at low tide

A shark tooth to fill the gap?

A shark tooth to fill the gap?

After a good while on the beach with a nice stash of fossils, we headed back to the parking lot where we had snacks and hot chocolate (on my suggestion, Ruddy Duck now brings that down to the beach). We parted with Russ there, but not before he gifted us with Megalodon teeth a friend of his found in North Carolina and provided the itinerary for the rest of our day.

The Megalodon replica is one of many cool highlights at the Calvert Marine Museum

The Megalodon replica is one of many cool highlights at the Calvert Marine Museum

A display to compare our finds!

A display to compare our finds!

The next stop was the Calvert Marine Museum, which was a perfect continuation of the adventure. You can explore how the Prehistoric past, natural environment, and maritime heritage come together to tell a unique story of the Chesapeake Bay. Fascinating exhibits, including display cases full of fossils and artifacts, live fish and other creatures, and large installations are engaging for all ages. We toured an old lighthouse, watched otters play and pet a terrapin, checked out dug out boats, and learned more about the Chesapeake waters on the Marsh Walk. And the kids brought in their findings from our fossil hunt to compare with some on display there.

Getting a close look

Getting a close look

A peek into the lighthouse bedroom

A peek into the lighthouse bedroom

Dugout canoes and other old maritime craft

Dugout canoes and other old maritime craft

Our lunch was delivered to us at the Museum, so we took time out of our self-guided tour to eat outside by the water and enjoy the nice day. We’d made menu selections in advance, so everything was ready and we didn’t have to worry about finding a lunch spot, which let us relax and enjoy our outing more.

Setting up for lunch by the water

Setting up for lunch by the water

A diamondback terrapin encounter (Go, Terps!)

A diamondback terrapin encounter (Go, Terps!)

We spent more time at the museum, then explored the area for a little while before dinner to work up an appetite. We finally headed to Ruddy Duck Brewery & Grill, a cozy restaurant right up the road, where our table was reserved and we selected dishes from a special menu for guests on the fossil tour. It was a good meal that included a beer tasting and plenty of yummy fare for all of us.

Brewed on the premises!

Brewed on the premises!

We finally headed home that evening feeling quite satisfied — and not just from the food, but from a day full of fun, enriching adventures and wonderful, quality time together. Thanks, Ruddy Duck Adventures, for helping make it happen!

A Megalodon tooth parting gift -- and this wasn't even the biggest of the bunch!

A Megalodon tooth parting gift — and this wasn’t even the biggest of the bunch!



Ruddy Duck Adventures in located in Solomons, MD, and they offer tours all year round, starting at $89/adult ($20/child) for the Island Tour Winter Special. When you consider all that you get — the fossil hunt with an expert guide, snacks, admission to the park and museum, lunch and dinner for everyone — it’s more than worth it. You could even make it a special gift for an adventure-loving kid or adult (it’s in the KFDC Gift Guide!) or just a unique outing for the family. Either way, you’re in for a treat.


Disclosure: I received a complimentary tour from Ruddy Duck Adventures, however, all views expressed here are entirely my own (because I really loved it!), and I only promote activities, programs, and products that I truly believe in and/or think would appeal to KFDC readers.


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Beach Fun & Fossil Hunting at Flag Ponds Nature Park

flagponds_hangingout

We had an incredibly busy spring. Between multiple sports, ballet, the school play, and other random commitments, it seemed like someone always needed to be somewhere — practices, games, lessons, rehearsals — and our “chill” time was rather limited.

So, I’ve decided to make up for it these first two weeks of summer break. Instead of the kids starting camp right away as they usually do when the school year ends, we’re slowing things down and, save for a couple of drop-in camp days, relishing some carefree, undemanding time together. This includes lazy, loungy mornings, heading out whenever we’re ready with no worry of being tardy. Bathing suits and towels are part of our everyday wardrobe and gear. And we’re planning fun adventures that take advantage of the season and are best enjoyed in immersive, unhurried fashion.

flagponds_view

We kicked off our stretch of leisure in the most apropos way possible: By hitting the beach, of course. And we did so with a bit of serendipity. The original plan was to visit our go-to, easy-from-DC beach destination, Bayfront Park aka Brownie’s Beach. (And here I have to confess that I’ve never posted about it because the friend that introduced me to it years ago asked me not to share with the masses, but it’s apparently become better known, and for good reason.) It’s a fantastic little spot in Chesapeake Beach, MD, with a small but nice stretch of sand, gentle shallow water, and the Calvert Cliffs edging the shoreline. But the best part is the fossil hunting. It’s one of the beaches known for shark teeth finds, and they are aplenty at Brownie’s — scoop up a handful of small shells and rocks near the water, wash away the sand, pick through, and you’re practically guaranteed to find a few small fossils in the mix.

Younger days at Brownie's Beach

Younger days at Brownie’s Beach

Anyway, when I mentioned to a friend that we were going to Brownie’s, she informed me they now charge a pretty steep admission fee for non-residents of Calvert County ($16/adult, $9/child). However, as luck would have it, my friend Rebecca at Not-So-SAHM had just posted about a visit to Flag Ponds Nature Park, also out that way. It sounded nice — the $6 per carload admission fee a big plus — so we coordinated with friends, packed up beach gear and a picnic, and headed southeast. (UPDATE: Admission is now $8/car.)

flagponds_entrance

Flag Ponds is just an hour’s drive from the city, a straight shot out Pennsylvania Avenue. Really, you drive out PA Ave., which becomes Rt. 4 (but has a several other names along the way), and stay on that until you make a left onto Flag Ponds Parkway. A park ranger at a small trailer collected the entrance fee and directed us to a parking lot up the road. Next to the lot is a Visitor Center, and while we didn’t go in, I read that it’s interesting with displays of sea, plant, and wildlife that you might find in the area.

flagponds_road

Skink sighting!

Skink sighting!

The beach is about a half-mile walk down a dirt road from the lot, so we had bit of a load to carry with a cooler and our gear. There are tables near the parking lot where you can eat, but we were set on a beach picnic. (I recommend bringing a rolling cooler and stacking the rest of your stuff on it.) The road winds through a lovely wooded area, and you can hear bird calls and maybe catch a neat wildlife sighting, like the skink we spied. Near the end of the road, a narrow boardwalk leads to the sand, and there are restrooms and a rinsing shower right before you cross to the open beach area.

flagponds_boardwalk

flagponds_beach

The beach at Flag Ponds is fairly expansive (much bigger than Brownie’s), which has its pros and cons — more to explore, but more space for wandering children. It’s quite picturesque with a wide expanse of sand, sea grass blowing along the dunes, and pond-like inlets formed by sand washing in. We initially set up near one of the ponds, but quickly realized the water was kind of mucky and full of dead crabs, so we relocated to the outer edge of the beach close to the water. It’s very shallow, so the kids could easily swim and play, and with lots of shells and pebbles along the shoreline, it’s good for fossil hunting.

flagponds_waterplay

flagponds_sasha

Even though it was a hot day, there was a nice breeze blowing, and swimming kept us cool. The kids had a blast playing in the water and sand and taking nature walks to collect dead crabs and an eel(!).

flagponds_crabs

Owen joined me for some fossil hunting, though I probably enjoy finding shark teeth more than my kids and spent a lot of time sitting right at the shoreline grabbing handfuls of shells and sifting through them for fossil treasures — it’s quite therapeutic! However, I only found two shark teeth, much less than I would usually find at Brownie’s, something to keep in mind if that’s your main mission.

flagponds_fossilfinding

flagponds_sharktooth

After a good few hours of sun and surf, we decided to call it a day. On the way back to the car, we encountered a park ranger, who gave us the lowdown on the trails within the park. Apparently, there are a a few gentle mile-longish hikes that lead to ponds and wind through the woods.

With a great beach day in the books, we headed back to the city, thoroughly satisfied with a terrific start to our leisurely fortnight. And it gets even better, so be sure to check back here soon…

Flag Ponds Nature Park is located at 1525 Flag Ponds Parkway in Lusby, MD. from Labor Day to Memorial Day, hours are 9am – 4pm Friday and Monday, 9am -5pm Saturday and Sunday. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, hours are 9am – 6pm weekdays, 9am – 8pm weekends. Admission is $8/car.


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