Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dinosaurs—Colorado Style

by Linda Farmer Harris

I fell in love with dinosaurs at Dinosaur Valley State Park on the Paluxy River in Glen Rose, Texas when I was 32 years old. I thought dinosaurs were a boy thing and we had a 10 year old daughter. During the summers, we visited state parks for their historical value within a hundred mile radius of our home in Austin. Jerry taught eighth grade history and these excursions augmented his lessons.
Amanda at Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose, Texas
Back then you could walk in the creek and put your foot in the tracks embedded in the limestone.

Fascinated, I learned along with Amanda about the theropod and sauropod tracks and saw the models of an Apatosaurus - meaning deceptive lizard (70 feet) and Tyrannosaurus (45 feet). I enjoyed the prehistoric stories and reading the controversies about man walking among the dinosaurs. Yes, I had heard of  Triceratops, Stegosaurus, and the T-Rex, but now they were more than facts on a page.
Tyrannosaurus Rex

As their collection and exhibits grew over the next two decades so did my enjoyment. I was still the proverbial "Kid in the candy shop." The movie Jurassic Park I & II are still fun to watch even with some of its wobbly paleontology. 

Then Jerry and I retired and moved to Colorado. My days of Texas dinosaurs came to an end.

Colorado took the reins and guided me to the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center (RMDRC), west of Colorado Springs. The colorful, life-sized dinosaur statues of the Das[pletosaurus and Styracosaurus are awesome.

Human & Daspletosaurus comparison by Robinson Kunz
Human & Styracosaurus comparison

Even through they're skeletons now, the Anzu wyliei, edmontosaurus annectens, Pachycephalosaurus, and the T-Rex once walked the Midwestern and Western United States. Some of the skeletons at the RMDRC were built from the actual fossilized bones, while others were molds cast from fossilized bones.

As if dinosaurs weren't enough, I moved on the prehistoric fish like the Xiphactinue audax.

Xiphactinue audax with a Gillicus arcuatus in its stomach. Photo by Spacini

These fossils were recovered in 1952 from Gove County, Kansas by George F. Sternberg (1883-1969). They are on display at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kansas. It's estimated that they are "probably the most photographed fossil specimen in the world."

Other places in Colorado to visit dinosaurs. Websites after the cities.

Dinosaur Journey Museum—Fruita—Dinosaur Journey 
This museum is devoted to hands-on experiences with robotic displays of the stegosaurus, triceratops and T-rex. 

Dinosaur National Monument—Fossil Bone Quarry—DNM 
Explore craggy hills embedded with fossils, rock art, and go whitewater rafting. 

Dinosaur Ridge—Morrison— 
The Discovery Center features bones of the Stegosaurus and the Apatosaurus, plus the Backyard Bones Dinosaur Dig. 

Denver Museum of Nature and Science—Denver— 
Visit Dinosaur Gulch in the Discovery Zone 

Florissant Fossil Beds—Divide (near Cripple Creek)—FFBNM 
Petrified redwood stumps with detailed fossils of insets and plants. 

Picketwire Canyonlands—south of La Junta—PC 
Explore the largest known set of dinosaur tracks in North America, Native American rock art, plus abundant wildlife. 

Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience—Cañon City—RGDE 
Features among other exciting experiences full-scale dinosaur fossil casts, hands-on experiences, skinned animatronic exhibits. 

Triceratops Trail at Parfet Prehistoric Preserve—Golden—Triceratops Trail 
The half-mile hiking trail is full of trace fossils.

For more Colorado places and links go to 

Read Amy Higgins's interesting article "A Gig You Can Dig" in the Colorado Country Life Magazine. 
Dinosaur Trackway near Morrison, CO. Photo courtesy of Mark Ryan
Science Buzz's article on The Science of Ichnology, a specialized branch of paleontology that studies the trace fossils of prehistoric creatures, offers information about a couple of recent discoveries. Plus the author traces previous finds. Reports of new prehistoric tracks from Montana could be a rare footprint of a Tyrannosaurus rex. In New Brunswick, Canada the discovery involves some 315 million year-old reptile tracks.

In 2012, Science on NBC News called Colorado the Dinosaur Freeway after more than 350 "newly" discovered tracks made by various dinosaurs, crocodiles and pterosaurs were found. The Dinosaur Freeway goes from Boulder, Northeast Colorado, to Tucumcari in east central New Mexico.

On our first trip to Glen Rose I found a print-embedded small rock. The pathways to the outdoor exhibits had been graded before the park opened for the season. This marvelous little rock was cast into the grass on the shoulder. The director let me keep the rock because it was palm-sized.
Photo by Linda Farmer Harris
Maybe I'm a paleontologist at heart and just now finding that out. 

Do you have an interest that stayed hidden for a long time or a hobby that's recently emerged? Do you live near a dinosaur park?

I don't write Jurassic era historicals but my novella, The Lye Water Bride set in 1849 is included in The California Gold Rush Romance Collection (Barbour Publishing, August 1, 2016).

Join us on Tuesday, August 2 at 8PM - 10PM (CDT) for the Release Party of The California Gold Rush Romance Collection. We'll be giving away a Kindle Fire and a beautiful necklace as a grand prize, hear behind-the-scenes stories from some of the authors, and more.


Lin and her husband, Jerry, live on a hay and cattle ranch in Chimney Rock, Archuleta County, Colorado. Alas, no dinosaur remains have been found on our 129 acres.  

Linda Farmer Harris  
Turning Tidbits of History into Unforgettable Stories


  1. Fascinating. No dinosaur museums near here. It would be awesome to go to one. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Deb, so glad to hear from you. One of my favorites is your state fossil the California sabre-tooth cat. I've wanted to visit the La Brea Tar Pits for a long time. If you ever get a chance to go Los Angeles County and visit the Pits let me know.

    2. That would be cool, but alas, I cannot see it happening anytime soon.

  2. Oh, Lin! We are dinosaur people too! We have wanted to go to Glen Rose for YEARS (like 30 some!). We have spent time in Morrison (two days!), Dinosaur Natl Monument (Utah side), the Denver Museum, and Florissant. The wall at the Utah side was phenomenal! Our love for dinosaurs started when we heard Dr. Ken Ham speak in Odessa, Texas. Then we were at the Colorado Springs Zoo, which had a nearly living display of various dinosaurs. By that I mean they moved and roared. Scary for my five year old (26 years ago)! Thanks for adding to our list of places to see. All we need to do is get to Texas and take my grandson to Glen Rose. I wonder if there are any up her in Michigan? Will have to go exploring!

    1. Hey, Kathy thanks for dropping by. You and your grandson will definitely enjoy Glen Rose Park and the surrounding area. Those automatons are incredible and scary even at my age. We heard Dr. Ham when we lived in Abilene and you're right that just deepened my love and now Jerry is a fan, too. The Stegosaurus is the Colorado fossil. Your state fossil is the Mastodon. I've read about the Ossineke Dinosaur Gardens Prehistoric Zoo on the western shore of Lake Huron. I think it would be exciting to visit the abandoned dinosaur amusement park in Irish Hills. Don't know if it's accessible to the public, but that would be awesome.

  3. In Virginia, there is Dinosaur Land in Front Royal. :-) We loved taking our son there when he was a little boy.

    1. Howdy Melissa, thanks for stopping by for a chat. Front Royal has some giant models. I get your son loved seeing them. I hope you got pictures. Your state fossil is Chesapecten jeffersonius-an extomct scallop-that lived on your coastal plain. Have you every collected any of those more modern fan-shaped shell?

  4. I just took two of my granddaughter's to the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience near Canon City, and it was fabulous!

    1. Hi Davalyn, don't ya love our Colorado dinosaurs! Jerry reminded me that I'm usually the one behind the camera. I'm going to make a habit of getting at least one of me with the dinosaurs. Royal Gorge is a great please to start.

  5. Fascinating post, Linda. We live within a day's drive of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta, and have wandered through Dinosaur Provincial Park several times. However, unlike you, we weren't able to keep any fossils - had we found any but since we stayed on the regular paths, we didn't see any other than the marked ones.

    We live within an hour of Regina's Royal Saskatchewan Museum that used to have a huge T-Rex which drew in school groups on field trips etc, but since someone discovered a complete T-Rex skeleton out in Eastend, SK near the Alberta border, they've built a T-Rex Discovery Centre and our Regina T-Rex went there to live. We haven't visited him in Eastend yet, but as it's only a 4 hr drive we'll make it one of these days.

    1. Hey, hey Anita, good to have your here today. I wish I'd known about Royal Tyrrell when we were in Calgary driving our daughter to Wasilla, Alaska. That would have made the road trip from Austin, Texas, even more spectacular. Let me know when you make the trip the Eastend and what new exhibits they've put in with your T-rex.

  6. I don't live near a dinosaur park, but Morrill Hall at the University of Nebraska in my home town has a wonderful collection complete with some life-size critters ... not to mention "Archie," a bronze full size mastodon who welcomes people to the museum.

    1. Hi Stephanie, thank you for stopping by. By now you must know that the Mammoth is your state's fossil. I think the Nebraska Department of Roads' Paleontology Program is awesome. I wish Southwest Colorado was mindful to fossils when they make new roads and blast mountainsides. The way I found my rock was serendipitous. Can you imagine being able to hunt while you do your day job? Amazing.