Owen just returned from a few weeks of sleep away camp, and this is our week to hang out together, as Sasha is busy with Adventure Theatre acting camp, and he doesn’t begin Camp Arena Stage until next week. We spent yesterday at Purse State Park with friends, wandering the shoreline hunting for fossils, picnicking on the beach, and swimming in the Potomac (the kids did, anyway).
A lovely view of the Potomac
We first visited Purse a couple of years ago after my friend Jody heard from a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum that it was a great place to search for fossilized shark teeth and other prehistoric marine life remnants. It’s one of the best adventure tips I’ve received for KFDC — we love visiting and always come home with a good haul of fossil finds, occasionally with some pretty interesting pieces. In fact, yesterday Jody found a very rare pygmy white shark tooth (confirmed on The Fossil Forum)!
Jody’s rare pygmy white shark tooth
You can read more about the locale in Charles County, MD, in this post, which also has logistics for visiting. If you like a little adventure in your beach outing, this is a perfect place to go; it’s actually more about fossil hunting than beaching, but there is sand and surf to enjoy during the warm months — just be sure to check the tide table to make sure there is enough sand! Get a look at it all in these scenes from yesterday.
Fallen trees add some obstacles (and climbing ops for kids)
The squish of toes in the sand
Crouch anywhere by the water, and you’re bound to find a fossil
More swimming than fossil hunting by these kids – they were so happy the water was warm enough!
Fossilized shells embedded in the cliffside
Can’t beat a beach picnic!
Not the usual wildlife you expect to see at the beach
Sightings of these little guys are more common
Another friendly critter
I always bring a container with a hole in the lid to stash my finds
The boardwalk to the beach after a half-mile hike from the car
Happy first day of summer! Images of the beach seem like a perfect way to welcome the new season, so here are some scenes from our outing to Flag Ponds Nature Park yesterday. It was a nice time to be there — the sun was shining, the breeze off the water kept us cool on a hot day, and the water was calm (though unfortunately filled with jellyfish, so we didn’t go much more than ankle deep in it). But it was so nice to enjoy the sun, sand, and, of course, some shark tooth hunting.
You can read more about Flag Ponds Nature Park in this KFDC post. And a few new things to note: The admission fee is now $8/car. And we learned the hard way yesterday that they only accept cash at the entrance (luckily, there is an ATM about a 5-minute drive away). But put it on your summer to-do list. Just an hour’s drive from DC, Flag Ponds makes for a great day trip!
Looking for shark teeth on the shoreline
Colors of summer
Lounging in the sun
Beach goers bring fossil hunting gear here
There’s about a mile stretch where you can hang out by the Chesapeake
Shark teeth and fossil finds
The landscape is different every time we go as inlets change with the tides
The walk there and back winds through a pretty wooded area
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
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
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…
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
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
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
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
A peek into the lighthouse bedroom
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
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!
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!
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.