10 Tips for Rock and Fossil Hunting in Alberta

Nate is one of those kids with pockets full of rocks.  When we’re out for a walk his eyes are on the ground searching for treasure.  He comes by this honestly because my father is the same way.  My dad is retired now and he’s taken up rock hounding formally as his hobby of choice – there’s a club and everything.  When my parents were here visiting over the summer we took the kids ‘rock looking’ as Nate calls it a few times and he’s really taken a shine to it.  I can’t argue – it gets me out for a leisurely walk riverside.  It was a beautiful fall day today so he and I ran out to Bragg Creek to see what we could see.

elbow river alberta

Just look at that bounty!  So many rocks – what are the odds of finding a treasure here?  Actually, your odds are really good.  All the flooding from last year has jostled stuff about pretty well and there are so many different sorts of rocks to dig through.  I ended up finding a fossil!  Can you believe it?  I almost couldn’t but Alberta is known for it’s abundance of fossils after all.  I found some fools gold too.

rock hunting bragg creek

Rock hunting is a fantastic hobby to take up at this time of year when you still want to be outside enjoying the weather before the snow flies but don’t want to be in the water swimming. Brrrrr!  We can easily spend an hour at the river poking around without any other agenda.  Here are a 10 tips for taking your kids rock hunting:

  1. Wear sturdy shoes and be prepared for Alberta weather and slippery rocks.
  2. Bring a bag or backpack for toting around your treasures.  Nate carries his own backpack and it helps him be picky about how many rocks he hauls home.
  3. Bring a snack and remember to take your garbage home with you.
  4. If you bring your dog, clean up after it.  Poop is not the sort of discovery anyone wants to make. Gross.
  5. Walking sticks are a good idea to help you keep your balance and make sure to keep young children away from fast moving water.
  6. Nate likes to bring his toy clue finders (binoculars) but you might wish to have your kids bring their cameras or butterfly nets or other related toys.  Pack them in their backpacks.
  7. My son is a little young for it, but older kids might love to bring a journal or field guide to document their finds and learn about what they see as they see it.
  8. A small rock hammer can be helpful for cracking stones open or digging through soft shale.  Safety glasses are a good idea to protect from flying shards.
  9. Stick to clearly marked paths and remember there may be wildlife about.  If you head into the mountains bring any required safety gear.
  10. Remember that things aren’t always what they seem.  Flip rocks over and pick them up to examine them closely.  If you come up empty handed try again another day!


I’m not an expert by any means but in Alberta you can find dinosaur bones, fossilized fish, fools gold, real gold, quartz, granite and many other types of stone.  There are stones within stones and I’m sure you could learn about it for ages and still find something new here.  Next time we take a trip to the library I want to get out some reference books and get the kids involved a bit in the science behind our trips.  Here’s the treasure I found today, you can clearly see the shape of the fossilized bone and the texture of it too.  It’s a pretty neat find and Nate was impressed.

fossilized bone alberta

Even if you don’t find anything special, it’s still a fantastic way to get out and enjoy nature before it’s all covered in snow.  We had a little walk through the woods and we climbed a few hills.  We chatted about what we saw and what we heard.  The squirrels were quite annoyed at our presence and Nate laughed at how they told us so by chittering and chattering as they jumped from branch to branch. It was a lovely morning and we can’t wait to go again!

alberta river



Southern Alberta Rock Hounds

Hunting for Bones – Global News

Calgary Rock and Lapidary Club

Alberta Parks Fossil Prospecting Tour

Four Hotbeds of Canadian Fossils




  1. My son is addicted to “prospecting” and desperately wants to find a fossil or crystal! We live in Cochrane and have the Bow River right in our backyard….though haven’t had the luck you have…..YET!

  2. I want to find my very own Geode. I also want to share it 4 ways.
    Where in Alberta closest to Medicine Hat can I find one?

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