Searching for Shastasaurus on the shores of Shasta Lake!

Recently our Shasta-Trinity National Forest Geologist Dennis Veich joined a team of paleontologists from institutions such as California State University, Chico, Sierra College and the North America Research Group who were looking for fossils of extinct marine reptiles near the shores of Shasta Lake. This trip, which was the third annual expedition for the group, focused on finding fossils of Shastasaurus, a dolphin-like ichthyosaur that lived during the upper Triassic Period about 230 million years ago. At that time, the area which is now Shasta County was comprised of volcanic island chains in the eastern proto Pacific Ocean. The type of ichthyosaur found in this area, Shastasaurus Pacificus, is thought to be the largest marine reptile of its kind that ever lived. Their fossils have also been found in Canada and as far away as China. The first specimens found in Shasta County were discovered in the early 1900s by John C. Merriam and his party in the Hosselkus Formation.

Reminder: These fossils are protected. The collection and/or duplication of vertebrate fossils, including vertebrate trace fossils, from National Forest System Lands requires a permit (36 CFR 261.9 (i)). Permits are issued to qualified paleontologists and researchers who collect and curate the fossils for scientific and educational purposes.

No permits for the collection of any fossils (plants, invertebrates, vertebrates, or any trace fossils) are issued for commercial purposes, except for petrified wood. Trading, bartering, or selling any fossil material (plants, invertebrates, vertebrates, or any trace fossils) removed from National Forest System lands is prohibited.

For more information about fossils on Forest Service land visit -

Fossilized bones found on Shasta Lake

A large block containing fossilized ribs, vertebrae and possible limb (flipper) bones. These fossils very likely came from the same animal found in 2017. (photo credit Dennis Veich)