Beginner fossil hunters will find success at Purse, a section of the Nanjemoy Wildlife Management Area (WMA) on the Potomac in Charles County about 20 miles southwest of LaPlata. An undeveloped area of forest, Purse is used for bird watching, hunting, fishing and fossil collecting.
Quick Look at Purse Park
Address: 2750 Sweden Point Road, Marbury, MD
Pets: ON A LEASH ALLOWED
About Purse Park
Purse is in an isolated location. There are no close facilities or places to stop for food so plan accordingly. As you get close the road narrows and is surrounded by trees on both sides. Keep an eye out for a small gravel parking lot on the left side of the road. There is a sign but you could miss it and have to turn around.
Once you have parked, look for the trailhead on the opposite side of the road. It’s less than half a mile to the beach and the walk is easy. When the path splits you can go in either direction to reach the beach, but the left-hand walking trail will lead to a larger sandy area. The beach isn’t wide so it’s best to plan most of your trip around low tide. You will find gentle waves and shallow water suitable for wading and swimming. The sand is littered with small shells, stones and shark’s teeth.
You can bring some sort of strainer, but it also works to let a handful of sand shift through your fingers and pull out the shark’s teeth. Most of the teeth you will find are under an inch long, but the quantity and ease of finding them make up for the size, especially for beginners. Most your finds will be Paleocene Fossil Shark Teeth. Make sure you bring a bag for your finds, bug spray and drinking water.
Address: 1440 Wilson Landing Rd, Nanjemoy, MD.
Your crew may be content spending the entire day looking for shark’s teeth, or they may feel like exploring Mallows Bay, a National Marine Sanctuary and the home to over 100 WWI era wooden steamships, known as the “Ghost Fleet.” Mallows Bay is only a few miles from your fossil collecting location and you have to pass by it on your way home. The best way to see the ships is by kayak. REI does weekend tours. But if you don’t have time for kayaking there is a trail overlooking the bay where it is possible to see several of the partially submerged ships. A big map by the boat launch identifies each boat.
Bird watching is another great pastime at Mallows Bay since both Eagles and Osprey have made their homes among the wreckage of the ships.
By Donna Jefferson