To see dinosaur bones and other fossils, most people head to the nearest museum, but 230 of our national parks have quite a collection of fossils themselves.
Remains of billion-year-old stromatolites, 200 million-year-old dinosaurs, and ice age mammals from thousands of years ago all appear in national park fossil collections.
In acknowledgement of this collection, the National Park Service (NPS) and the American Geological Institute (AGI) will be holding the first National Fossil Day on Oct. 13, 2010, in order to promote awareness and conservation of fossils, as well as to foster greater appreciation of their value to scientists and educators.
"Fossils deserve Americans' attention and appreciation," said NPS director Jon Jarvis, "and I am proud that the National Park Service has been one of the driving forces behind the establishment of National Fossil Day. Fossils provide clues to how living things respond to change and hold important lessons for us, here on our warming Earth."
In Arizona, National Fossil Day coincides with the opening of the Trail of Time at Grand Canyon National Park. As visitors walk the trail, they can read about the geology and human history of the Grand Canyon and about recent climate change. As they stride through the eons, they gain a better sense of geologic time; 3 feet or so (1 meter) on the 2.8-mile (4.56-kilometer) trail represents a million years.
Children and adults throughout the country will have access to various Fossil Day events, such as the National Fossil Day Celebration on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where they can excavate fossils from chunks of sediment at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, and watch lab workers clean and identify fossils with the help of paleontologists.
More information can be found at the National Fossil Day website, http://www.nature.nps.gov/geology/nationalfossilday/.
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.