Fossil Programs - Friends of Fort Negley Park
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Fossil Programs

The rock outcrops at Fort Negley Park contain fossils of corals that grew on the floor of the Bahamas-like sea that covered the Nashville area ~450 million years ago. These fossils and their enclosing rocks provide a unique glimpse of Nashville’s ancient history. All rocks, artifacts, plants, and animals at Fort Negley Park are protected and must not be disturbed or removed (Metro Ordinance BL 2011-834).

However, in the pile of fossil-rich rock located next to the Fort Negley Visitors Center, visitors are free to collect and take home fossils that they find. These rocks and fossils are from a quarry at Parsons Tennessee 90 miles west of Nashville. The rocks are donated and transported to Fort Negley Park by the quarry owner, Vulcan Materials Company.

Fort Negley Park, Friends of Fort Negley Park, and Vulcan Materials Company provide three types of fossil programs.

School Field Trips

Fossil field trips designed to meet objectives of specific K-5 Tennessee science standards are offered on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings during the school year. Trips are approximately two hours long, with a maximum of 60 students.

Email: [email protected]

Fossil Finders

Visitors to “Fossil Finders” are encouraged individually to find fossils in the Vulcan Materials fossil pile and learn about the ancient history and life of Tennessee with enthusiastic help from paleontologists. Guided walks to see Fort Negley Park’s rocks are provided, as are free fossil identification guides that can be taken home.

Fossil Finders is held from 10AM to noon the second Saturday of every month. Note, however, that the fossil pile is available when the park is open during daylight hours, with fossil identification guides available whenever the Visitors Center is open.

Fossils at the Fort

“Fossils at the Fort “ is a “fossil extravaganza” held in the spring. The event results from a partnership between Vanderbilt University’s Life through Time course taught in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Students in the class give guided walks to the corals in Fort Negley’s rock walls, explaining the geography and conditions at the time the rocks were deposited. They also explain a time-line that provides temporal context for the fossils. Students and other paleontologists from the community help visitors find fossils in the Vulcan rock pile, and visitors also can learn about fossil specimens from representatives of Vulcan Materials and local fossil-collecting groups. In addition, students give short presentations about spectacular fossils found around the world.


Fossil Finders and School Field Trips are run by trained volunteers.