Purse State Park, now called the Purse Area, in the Nanjemoy Wildlife Management Area is a hidden gem along along the Wades Bay part of the Potomac River.
Just a little over an hour away from the DC metro area, this is a popular spot for fossil hunting. Fossil hunting you say and so close to our area? You’re in for a treat!
Every time we’ve visited, we’ve found lots of fossilized shark teeth. And in this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know before you go…
Table of Contents
What To Do at Purse State Park
There are several activities at Purse State Park. The most popular area:
- Fossil hunting
- Playing at the beach in the water area (when you’re done fossil hunting of course!)
- Walking on the unmarked trails
- Nature walk & bird watching
- Bring a picnic
Finding the Fossils
As you come to the beachfront, pick a spot to set-up and off you go.
There is shade where you can set-up. You start your search right in the sand just by digging around a little. Otherwise, head right into the water.
Even just digging around in the shallow water, you’ll go home with several shark teeth so this is even great for the littlest ones in the family.
When the kids are bored of fossil hunting, they’ll enjoy swimming and playing on the sandy beach. Plus, there are all kinds of shells and rocks for them find as well.
When to Go
Before heading out to Purse State Park, you’re going to want to check the tide. Purse State Park is a quiet and secluded narrow strip of land.
Since this is such a narrow strip of beachfront at low tide, during high tide there won’t be much space available. That’s why, we recommend only going at low tide.
You can check the tide table here. Select Potomac River and Liverpool Point, Maryland as your search criteria.
If you’re planning ahead, you can also select the month and day in advance to see what the tide schedule is expected to be.
How much time do I need to spend at Purse State Park?
Once you have your timing down, plan on having a 2 – 3 hours of fun with the kids. This makes for a great day trip!
If you’re short on time, it only takes about 10-20 minutes (depending on if you have kids with you) to get to the beach area. You can spend 30 minutes digging around for fossils and skip the extra time for playing around at the beach.
What to Bring
You don’t need to bring much with you. A little sense of adventure and these few recommendations to consider:
- Sturdy shoes for walking on the trail
- Flip flops or sandals for the beach area
- Water shoes for the water (the shore is rocky as is the shallow water)
- Plenty of water
- Something to carry your finds back home.
- Bug spray
How long does it take to walk to the water?
It only takes about 10 minutes for adults and about 20 minutes with kids to get to the beach area.
What kind of fossils can I find?
You can find fossils from sharks (sand tiger sharks, mackerel sharks), Turritella (snails), Eagle Rays, bones, shell fragments, fish and even crocodiles (occasionally) which all lived during this time period (as described below).
How old are the shark teeth?
Purse State Park is a part of the Paleocene Epoch which is about 60 million years old. When a gigantic meteor hit earth, this area was covered with shallow water which made it perfect for the sharks listed above.
Getting There & Parking at Purse State Park
On your way, simply plug Purse State Park into your GPS.
There is a very small lot across the street from the trail head where you can park. It can only hold about 10 – 12 cars.
You’ll need to keep watch as you’re getting close to the park as it’s a small dirt area on the left directly off the road so it can be easy to miss.
Take the trail head about a half mile down to the beach area.
Good to Know Before You Go
- There is no admission fee
- Purse State Park has no bathrooms, so plan accordingly.
- There’s also more space for kids to play and have a picnic.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray! You may not always need the bug spray but better to have it just in case.
- The parking area is very small and easy to miss
- Pets on a leash are allowed.
- The park is open from sunrise to sunset.
- Be aware that hunting is allowed in this park with a limit of 10 total hunters at any given time.
- Accessible until you get to the beach area