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A National Parks Fossil Tour for RV Campers

A National Parks Fossil Tour for RV CampersA National Parks Fossil Tour for RV Campers

You love traveling in your RV and enjoy learning more about America's past via its rich fossil records. Why not combine the two hobbies? Plan a tour of national parks with notable fossil finds; three destinations stand out.

Badlands National Park: See Paleontologists at Work

5214 Ben Reifel Place in Interior, SD 57750

605-433-5361

$15 entrance fee

Measuring 244,000 acres, Badlands National Park has a lot to offer to the fossil-minded RV camper. The Cedar Pass campground features 96 sites, some of which offer electrical hookups for $28 per night. If you are willing to forego electricity, the cost is $15. Use of the dump station adds $1 to the bill. There is no need to reserve a campsite, unless you want to make sure you have hookups. Head over to the Saber Site fossil quarry between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. -- open from June 4 to August 24 -- and watch paleontologists at work. As noted by the National Park Service, the "fossil remains include camels, three-toed horses, oreodonts, antelope-like animals, rhinoceroses, deer-like mammals, rabbits, beavers, creodonts, land turtles, rodents, and birds." Hike the Fossil Exhibit Trail off the Badlands Loop Road. It is an easy 20-minute trail with beautifully displayed fossil replicas.

Death Valley National Park: Camp in the Winter

Furnace Creek Visitor Center on Highway 190 near Furnace Creek, CA 92328

760-786-3200

$20 entrance fee

Head for the Furnace Creek campground, which is open year-round. There are 136 sites, a dump station, and full amenities. The cost is $18 per night from the middle of October to the middle of April. Thereafter, the cost goes down to $12, and you no longer need to make reservations by calling 877-444-6777. Since there are no hookups, Death Valley National Park is the kind of national park to visit during the winter months, not the summer. The U.S. Geological Survey notes that while fossils are infrequently seen near the Furnace Creek and Artist Drive formations, fossils of vertebrates are plentiful at the Titus Canyon area. To get there, drive up Scotty's Castle Road and turn right onto the canyon road. Since plenty of Death Valley roads restrict traffic to rigs shorter than 25 feet, be sure to tow along a passenger car for daily use.

Grand Canyon National Park: Ranger-Led Fossil Walks

2 Albright Ave. in Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023

928-638-7888

$25 entrance fee

Fossil finds in Grand Canyon National Park include trilobites, brachiopods, sponges, tracks, leaves, birds, and mammals. Avail yourself of the ranger-led fossil walks, which are great opportunities for fossil lovers new to the hobby to learn exactly what to look for. Campers with larger RVs check into Trailer Village campground, which features paved sites and full hookups. Call 888-297-2757 to reserve your place. Fees are $35 per night. If you want to rough it without hookups and your rig is shorter than 30 feet, consider the 50-space Desert View campground east of Grand Canyon Village. Arrive early -- there is no reservation system -- and pay $12 per night. This campground closes in the middle of October.

Points to Ponder for Parents

Children have a keen eye for fossils. If you are traveling with youngsters, be sure to train them not to pick up any fossils they may find. Instead, photograph the fossil, mark its location on a map, and alert park rangers to your find. By the way, be sure to curtail the kids' desire to collect rocks along the way. Known as "rock hounding," this activity is illegal in national parks and might get you into quite a bit of hot water with the rangers.

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