My daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter invited my husband and I to take a trip with them to Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Colorado last week. Dinosaur Ridge is located almost in our backyard--only a short 10 minute drive from our homes, and is part of the Dakota Hogback, which you can see in the top left of the photo collage above. It is one of the world's most famous dinosaur fossil locations! In 1877 the bones of many dinosaurs were found here, including Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Stegosaurus, and Allosaurus. Full size models of some of the dinosaurs can be seen around the grounds of the Dinosaur Ridge Indoor Exhibit Hall. (All photos and photo collages in this post can be enlarged for easier viewing if clicked on)
As soon as we entered the exhibit hall and my granddaughter saw this skeleton head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex on the wall, she declared"Dinosaurs too scary!" and asked to go back outside with her Mommy and Daddy. Meanwhile, my husband and I took a quick look around the hall.
There were many interesting exhibits, murals and maps to read with information about the topographical and weather conditions of this location 150 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. It was quite different from today!
During the late Jurassic time this land was flat, and tropical with the shoreline of a vast sea that sat in the middle. Over the millenniums, earthquakes and volcanoes raised the topography of Colorado to what it is today, and in the process raised the fossils and dinosaur tracks to be in an almost vertical position.
The Dinosaur Ridge Trail (map above--click on to enlarge) is approximately two miles long and has interpretive signs along the way that explain the geologic and paleontological features. The rocks on the east side of the ridge are part of the Cretaceous Dakota Formation. When Alameda Parkway was being constructed in 1937 to provide access to Red Rocks Park, road workers discovered hundreds of dinosaur footprints. along the exposed ridge. The west side of the ridge is called Triceratops Trail, and are part of the Morrison Formation of Jurassic age and it is where Arthur Lakes discovered the dinosaur bones in 1877.
The Dinosaur Ridge Trail can be walked......
...or one can take a shuttle bus tour that makes a few stops along the way with a guide for a nominal fee. We took this option, since this was our first visit and we wanted to see the highlights.
This is an example of the multiple layers of rock and sandstone along the exposed areas.
Our tour guide (man in the hat) would stop the bus at certain points .We would get out of the bus and sit on seats while he described the history of the area and what we were seeing at each point. My granddaughter was looking for dinosaurs to appear (smile), as we heard about the footprints they left behind, 100 million years ago, that were fossilized in the rock.
She even had the opportunity to step into some of the tracks, with the aid of her Daddy.
This is a good view of some of the dinosaur tracks.
We learned that these trace fossil tracks were left by the Eolambia and the Acrocanthosaur dinosaur.
On these sandstone rocks, preserved ripple marks can be seen that were made by gentle waves and currents in a intertidal zone along what was the western seaway.
Multicolored sandstone rock showing the remains of ancient vegetation and volcanic activity, which has left coal and clay deposits.
I took a few moments to look around at the view from Dinosaur Ridge, and saw this perspective of the Red Rocks Amphitheater in the distance. It was a grey and misty morning but this shows the beautiful natural setting of the amphitheater.
Our tour guide pointed out indentation bulges in the ridge rocks that were the footprints of large dinosaurs, like brontosaurs or apatosaurus. From studying footprint patterns paleontologists are able to learn much about how dinosaurs lived, such as they traveled in herds, accompanied by their young.
When we returned to the visitors center we took the time to read more of the interesting informational placards about the geology and background of Dinosaur Ridge.
We also learned that Dinosaur Ridge is a favorite area for scientists and volunteers to do an annual "hawk watch" of migrating hawks. The Red Tail Hawk is most often seen living in this area.
My granddaughter enjoyed the gift shop and digging in the "Backyard Bone Pit, " and identifying more dinosaur footprints on the ground. Dinosaur Ridge is a fascinating place to visit no matter what age you are!
Parking at the visitors center and self guided walks up Dinosaur Ridge Trail and Triceratops Trail and the gift shop are free. There is a fee to enter the Exhibit Hall and to take a guided tour/shuttle bus ride up Dinosaur Ridge. Full fee schedule can be seen on this link.
Do you find the days of the dinosaurs fascinating? Come visit Dinosaur Ridge!
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