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madness

Many trips to fossil exhibits in TX, CO and UT - indoors and out!

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madness

I figured I'd share a little bit of information here. Since April of 2017, I've made a concerted effort to quench the insatiable fossil/dinosaur curiosity of my kids. Many of these field trips were actual fossil hunts themselves, but we've also gone to museums and other fossil displays. Here's a short description of some of them we've visited. I don't have a ton of pictures for the purpose of really illustrating what is available at each location...more pictures of my kiddos enjoying themselves! :)

 

Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas

 

I cannot recommend this place enough. Especially for young dino-obsessed kids. The visitor center is staffed with friendly rangers and has a display area that kept my kids entertained and educated for quite awhile. The video wasn't quite exciting enough for them to really hold their attention, but they sat quietly through it - I thought it was great! The gift store is in an entirely separate building - something I appreciate. It can be hard to hold kids' attention on the exhibits when toys are lurking nearby. There are two old World's Fair dinosaur statues in the park. They are an outdated idea of what these dinosaurs were like. The signage explains this well and you get a good sense of how our knowledge has changed over the decades. Plus the kids thought they were awesome. :)

 

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I loved the way we explored the park - we apparently started with the least well-marked site first (because it was closest to the campground) and spent nearly an hour in the cold, damp weather tracking down the handful of theropod (probably Acrocanthosaurus) tracks at the Denio site. It gave us a true sense of discovery when we FINALLY saw them in the water.

 

(you can see a print right between the girls)

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We then ventured to the main site with several long, distinct track ways of both a theropod and a sauropod (Sauroposeidon...which us Texans like to still refer to as Paluxysaurus). Also the Ballroom site which is a huge jumble of prints in every direction (possibly also iguanodonts). The sheer sense of wonder at being able to literally walk in these footprints is indescribable.

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Not only is the park a wonderful paleontology stop, but it's just simply a beautiful place. We went on the Black-capped Vireo Trail (plus connection trails, it was ~4 miles) and thoroughly enjoyed it...even the copperhead we startled! We also saw lots of marine fossils on the trail, but left them in place as the rules require. The Paluxy River is gorgeous and when it finally warmed up enough for us to be in the water, we didn't stray far from it. :)

 

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Texas Memorial Museum on UT Campus in Austin

 

I love museums. I could spend HOURS in them…but not while toting 2 young kids. They love them too, but just don’t have the attention span for huge museums that can suck up your whole afternoon. Enter the Texas Memorial Museum. It’s PERFECT. It’s $7 for an adult, $5 for kids. It’s small, but packed with fun. The first floor takes you on a walk through time, explaining the Earth’s formation (and geology) and then leading you into a room full of fossils showing 500 million years of evolution. There’s cabinets with drawers and drawers full of neat little things in the Paleo Lab. Great for kids to explore.

 

(can you tell T Rex is her favorite?)

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The second floor, the Great Hall (where you enter), has numerous gorgeous gem and mineral displays, a rotating show of nature photographs, the Texas Pterosaur – the largest flying creature discovered.

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The third floor features the current wildlife of Texas through taxidermy animals in dioramas. Always a favorite with the kids.

 

And the fourth floor is about biodiversity, has some bizarre preserved specimens, and hosts travelling shows. Last time we went, the kids weren’t terribly interested (I think it was about viruses), but looking at the website now, the new show is about “Helicoprion, a bizarre 270 million year old whorl-toothed shark” …guess we need to make another visit soon!

 

This museum is just about the right size to do after school. It closes at 5, giving us an hour and a half – perfect for not wearing out their little attention spans. I’m sure adults with no kids in tow could spend far longer in the museum though.

 

Clayton Lake State Park near Clayton, NM

 

On our summer road trip, I chose this as a stopping point for its convenient location, as well as the promise of dinosaur trackways. The trackways were unearthed during the construction of the reservoir. You can see them from a raised boardwalk and there’s plenty of information on the signage.

 

(iguanodont tracks in the upper left of the photo)

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I have to admit that we have been completely spoiled by Dinosaur Valley State Park in TX. Still, this was well worth the stop. Not only were the tracks fun, but the single hiking trail in the park was absolutely gorgeous. There’s also plenty of interesting sandstone formations to explore. Plus, we were the ONLY ones tent camping. My kind of night. J This park is on our list of places to stop again, for sure.

 

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Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in CO

 

Um. WOW. What an amazing place! We spent hours looking through the fossils in the visitor center. In the shale deposits are all manner of plants and invertebrates. 1,500 different species of spiders and insects have been identified! There were also vertebrate fossils, as well as the magnificent petrified stumps you can visit on a short walk around the valley. This is another place I would love to visit again!

 

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Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park, CO

 

We’d passed by this place during our last few trips to Colorado, and finally made the effort to stop in. Glad we did! It was perhaps a bit pricey for what it was…plus the huge gift shop was a big distraction. The kids were a bit unruly that day so it wasn’t our usual, organized museum trip. I hardly had time to read any of the information. There was a puppet show (not fossil related) that took up most of our time, and we had to maneuver around a guided tour. But for a small space, this spot packed in a lot of fossils. Many of them were replicas, but that doesn’t make much of a difference to kids. My favorite was the triceratops leg with tyrannosaurus teeth marks. Still, I’m very glad we went in. There’s a working paleo lab in the back that you can peak in on people’s projects. That was neat. And THIS FISH FOSSIL! :o

 

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Copper Ridge and Mill Canyon Tracksites near Moab, UT

 

My dino-obsessed cousins had a blast showing my dino-obsessed kids these trackways! I was very impressed with the signage put up by the BLM. Informative and beautiful. The Mill Canyon site in particular was spectacular. I highly recommend that one.

 

Copper Ridge

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A perfect visual explanation of the tracks that can be seen just beyond this sign.

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Nice boardwalk that take you over the whole area.

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Malcolmt

Thanks for posting great pictures...

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ynot

Nice tour!

Thanks for the trip.

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Macrophyseter

Your trips are absolutely amazing... so many visits to some of the greatest midwest museum and fossil parks, your daughters must be having so much fun :wub:

Also seeing that you are able to go to Utah, I'd recommend a visit to the Museum of Ancient Life in Thanksgiving Point at the northern outskirt of Provo city. It's a perfect museum for children, filled with hundreds and thousands of fossil examples and giant dinosaur mounts. Although the infos have some spoofs, the way the fossils are displayed will make up for everything, and there's tons of fun educational activities within the museum for children. It's a great place to go, and it will never be a waste to visit! 

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madness
2 hours ago, Macrophyseter said:

Also seeing that you are able to go to Utah, I'd recommend a visit to the Museum of Ancient Life in Thanksgiving Point at the northern outskirt of Provo city. 

Oh yeah! That was on our agenda about 2 years ago when we were in UT but we got snowed in that weekend. Our trip this summer was cut short by me having an abscessed tooth on the road (had to finally get it extracted in Moab after visiting 4 dentists on the way from Colorado Springs!) and needing a bit of recovery time. We *barely* saw Arches and had to skip Canyonlands entirely. I had completely forgotten about Thanksgiving Point. I'll be sure to put it back on the list for next road trip! Thanks!

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