A number of years ago we were at a friend’s house and their daughter brought out a box of rocks. Well, fossils actually. Her dad mentioned that there was a nearby park where you could explore an exposed rock hillside for fossils. In fact, that was the whole point of the park. At the time we didn’t have children and we didn’t live in Sharonville.
Fast forward 12 years and we now have 4 children, and we happen to live in Sharonville. Until this past weekend, we still had not explored this unique park. My wife was in the middle of a project that really required that the boys be out of the house. We had just gone to the zoo a week or two prior, and it was a beautiful day, so the idea hit me to drive up the road to the fossil park.
When you go, it’s not hard to see why people use phrases like ‘hidden gem’ to describe this park. It’s located off Hauck road, which does not look like a park kind of location. There is an entrance halfway between route 42 and Cincinnati-Dayton which looks like an entrance to an industrial park. It looks like that because the park is actually located in an industrial park. After you turn onto the entrance road it’s a short drive and there is sign and parking lot on the right side of the road.
When we pulled in, there were a few other cars in the parking lot, and a hillside, with lots of exposed rocks, with a moderately steep elevation, leading up to a bank of trees. It looked like no other park I had been to. I had been in Jordan the prior October, and we had taken a trip along the Dead Sea. To get back ‘home’ to where we were staying our host drove us on a two-track through the mountains. At one point we got out of the SUV and walked around a bit and it was dry rocky soil. This hillside, on a small scale reminded me of that.
When I Googled the park prior to our trek there I didn’t run across much more than very basic information. Having gone there here are some things I would suggest to make the visit more enjoyable.
Wear shoes with good support. The hillside is a little steep in some spots and you’re walking all over loose rock. Tennis shoes are probably fine if they are not falling apart, but sandals would be a bad choice for this location.
You’re going to get dirty. The whole point of this park is to explore the rocks to find fossils. To do this you will be sitting on the ground, digging in the dirt, and getting dusty. Don’t wear your best clothes or anything you’re afraid to get dirty.
Bring sturdy gallon baggies or small buckets. You’re allowed to take the fossils you find with you. I had no idea prior to going, and brought nothing except me and my boys. My oldest son figured this out and soon found one of the couple other families that were there and wound up getting them to part with a few baggies (‘thank you’ prepared family for coming to my rescue).
The other item that seemed to be a staple in the groups that were prepared to visit this park was some type of rock hammer. My boys ran across another boy of a similar age that was there with his Grandfather and they had rock hammers (which is what drew my boys over to them). When they graciously let my boys share in the use of their hammers we wound up making park ‘buddies’ and hanging out with them. The hammers do serve a practical purpose in that you can split open larger rocks that have coral or shells showing. The split rock sometimes provides even more to look at inside than what you could see on the surface. My boys are 8 and 6 so honestly the hammer was mostly used just to beat on rocks which they found to be incredibly fun.
The hillside is sort of steep in some spots, and my youngest did admit to being nervous on the slope a few times. Falls and skinned knees and such I’m sure are pretty common here. The parking definitely seems to be adequate. I did not see a bathroom building, but there are portable toilets on the site as well as what looked like a pretty elaborate hand (fossil?) washing station. There are also a few picnic tables. There is a fair amount of signage which provides information on the park’s origin, as well as explanations of the types of fossils and natural history that can be found on the site.
Your kids aren’t going to find T-Rex bones. In fact, the fossils we found were all coral and shells. There are lots of them though, and it really doesn’t take a lot of work to come away with some fossils. While all but the die-hard natural scientists would have a hard time making this park an all day adventure, it’s not the same old park experience you could get anywhere. I can definitely see is making a return visit...but more prepared this time.