History & Heritage
Explore Fossil Basin and uncover the area’s rich history. While it’s known for it’s paleontological past, there’s plenty more history to dig into. When visiting the Fossil Basin area, a great place to start is the Fossil Country Frontier Museum. The museum features artifacts and information about the area’s past. Exhibits include a replica of an underground coal mine, bootlegging stills, fossils and much more.
Another important part of Fossil Basin history happened in the early 1900s. In 1902, the first J.C. Penney store opened in Kemmerer, Wyoming. The JCPenney Kemmerer Mother Store is still in operation and sells current merchandise. It also features a museum portion with historical artifacts, including a pulley system that was used to deliver cash receipts. In addition to visiting the original JCPenney store, during the summer months, tours are available at the J.C. Penney Homestead, the home of James Cash “J.C.” Penney, Jr., who founded JC Penney. The J.C. Penney Homestead is a National Historic Landmark located just down the block from the ‘Mother Store.’
Located in Fossil Butte National Monument, the Haddenham Cabin is another piece of Kemmerer area history. The cabin is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was a fossil hunter’s dwelling in the early 1900s.
Fossil Hunting & Digging
Unearth a fossil fish in a 52-million-year-old limestone graveyard! The Fossil Basin area has multiple ‘dig-your-own’ fossil quarries located in the hills surrounding ancient Fossil Lake, just west of Kemmerer and Diamondville. When fossil hunting at a private quarry, you will be able to take home any common fish fossil that you dig up. Going fossil digging at a private quarry is an incredible experience for people of all ages, especially those interested in the geological history of Earth.
Fossil Butte National Monument is a must-see attraction in the Kemmerer-Diamondville area. At the visitors center, over 300 fossils are displayed, including 10 species of mammals and 15 species of reptiles. These fossils have been found from Fossil Lake, the ancient lake in southwest Wyoming. Fossil Butte National Monument also offers a fossil quarry program during the summer, where you can help look for fossils and learn about the work that paleontologists do. The ranger talks offered also provide a great opportunity to learn more about the area’s history and Fossil Butte’s ecosystem.
Discover the outdoors in Kemmerer-Diamondville. The Fossil Basin area offers a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities including hunting, fishing, four-wheeling, wildlife viewing and bird watching.
The Hams Fork River has multiple access points for fishing near Kemmerer. Other options for fishing in the area include Fontanelle Creek Recreation Area and Smiths Fork.
The Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of activities including fishing, hunting, boating, wildlife watching and hiking. The refuge is home to a diversity of wildlife including trumpeter swans, moose, pronghorn antelope, bald and golden eagles, elk, river otters and more.
About 30 miles north of Kemmerer, WY is the Fontenelle Creek Recreation Area that has reservoir access with a fully functional boat ramp, boat dock, campground, picnic tables and other amenities.