Days added, spots still available for fossil digs

BISMARCK – The North Dakota Geological Survey still has spots open for this summer’s public fossil digs. These additional spots were opened after all advertised dates and openings were filled by 1 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 1. Registration opened at 8 a.m. the same day.

“Due to media coverage of our 2017 digs, we anticipated the 2018 digs to fill very quickly. We knew we had to do our best to accommodate as many people as possible, so the decision was made to open up additional days,” said senior paleontologist Clint Boyd. “Many of the people who called noted that they were intending to plan their vacations around our fossil digs.”

As the spots quickly filled, new days were added to each of the dig locations. The number of dig spots had already been increased from a record high in 2017 of 299 to a planned total of 350 in 2018, but as registration continued and demand increased, a total of 603 dig spots on 40 days were made available. By the end of the day, 95 percent of spots were filled, three of the four dig locations (Bismarck, Medora, and Pembina) were completely filled, and names were being added to wait lists in case anyone already registered had to cancel their attendance.

The only dig that has openings left is Dickinson. This is a dig for experienced diggers.

– Wednesday, June 20: 8 openings

– Thursday, June 21: 7 openings

– Friday, June 22: 1 opening

About half of the people who signed up to dig in 2018 are from North Dakota, while the rest of the spots are filled by people from 28 other states across the county. The previous record for most states represented in a single year was 12. On average, most participants attend two days of digging, and typically then spend time vacationing elsewhere in the area to round out their trip.

With 40 days of digging packed into nine weeks, it will be a busy summer for the North Dakota Geological Survey paleontology program. However, given that one of the main goals of the program is to help people learn about and protect North Dakota’s prehistoric past, these record attendance numbers indicate that goal is being successfully met.