Fossil Hunting at Fort Negley Park

When most of us hear about Fort Negley, we think of only a couple of things – the Civil War and the Battle of Nashville in particular. But, what you may not immediately think about is the fascinating history hidden deep within the stones themselves.

Tennessee Limestone

Tennessee limestone was formed millions of years ago, from the remains of ancient sea creatures when our state was still under shallow sea water. You can still see evidence of those sea creatures, (coral, brachiopods, crinoids, trilobites, etc.) in the form of fossils. PLEASE NOTE — guests of Fort Negley are never allowed to disturb or take any rocks, artifacts, or plants from the park. However, this is where it gets exciting…

Free Fossil Hunting…Can ‘ya Dig It?

Right next to the Visitor’s Center, near the parking lot, you’ll find a giant rock pile. This is no ordinary rock pile… it’s actually a fossil-rich dig pile brought in all the way from Parsons, Tennessee, 90 mi. west of Nashville. Here you and your kids are free to dig and search and take home any cool fossils you find! We found all kinds of cool things within a 15 minute timespan when we went last time.

Fossil Finders

Have super curious kids? On the 2nd Saturday of each month the park hosts a Fossil Finders event from 10am – noon. Paleontologists and Geologists will be on-site to answer questions and help guide families on their hunt. Kids will be given Fossil Identification Guides and you’ll leave with a deeper understanding of what our great state would’ve looked like during the time of the dinosaurs. If you can’t make it to Fossil Finders, you can always grab a Fossil Guide from the Visitor’s Center any time they’re open. Hours vary based on time of year. We’ll have that info posted down below.

Family Fun Facts

Location: Fort Negley Park (Map)

Cost: FREE


Hours: The park itself is open year-round from dawn until dusk. The Visitor’s Center hours are as follows:

Winter (Sept. – May)

  • Tues. – Fri. Noon – 4pm
  • Sat. 9am – 4pm

Summer (June – Aug.)

  • Tues. – Thurs. Noon – 4pm
  • Fri. – Sat. 9am – 4pm

What to bring with you and other tips:

A shovel for digging in the fossil pile.

A bag for carrying home your rocks.

Wear sturdy shoes! (hiking boots, rain boots, etc.)

There aren’t a lot of places for shade, so pack the sunscreen & plenty of water on hot days.

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Crystal was born and raised, and now raising a family of her own in Middle Tennessee. She currently lives in Murfreesboro with her husband Glenn, and their three children; Hunter, Grayson, and Hailey. They are an unschooling family, meaning they spend lots and lots of time out and about exploring all that this area has to offer!

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