We left Moab, Utah on the morning of Friday June 17th and began the long, seven hour drive back to Colorado. Fortunately, I discovered a dinosaur museum that was en route called The Museum of Western Colorado’s Dinosaur Journey. Actually, it could have been The Museum of Barney the Purple Dinosaur and we’d of still stopped there just to break up the monotony. Fortunately, this was a lot better than that.
What really made this museum stand out were the fossils (mostly casts like the museum we stopped at in St. George) intermingled with life-size models. I think the ingredients for a successful dinosaur museum are 1) fossils, 2) replicas, and 3) interactive exhibit features and this attraction had all three while specifically highlighting dinosaurs that were once indigenous to this region.
One of their gorier replicas was a Utahrapter munching on a long neck.
And speaking of long-necks, they also featured one of North America’s most common Sauropods, Camarasaurus. In addition to a life-size head/neck of the animal looming over the walkway, they also had a replica cast of its most renowned fossil. In 1915 a nearly intact juvenile Camarasaurus was discovered at the Morrison Formation in Dinosaur, Colorado (yes, that’s a real place and we Daves are planning to go there next year). The specimen was found fully articulated (still lying in its death pose) and even its delicate ear bones were found intact. The actual fossil is on display at the Carnegie Museum in Pennsylvania, still encased in the sandstone it was found in.
The aforementioned Morrison Formation also yielded a high number of Allosaurus fossils. This top predator of the Jurassic is also Utah’s State Fossil.
Colorado’s State Fossil, Stegosaurus, was also represented here both as a skeleton and a life representation.
This museum offered lots of learning opportunities and did it in an entertaining way, such as letting guests participate in a simulated earthquake and touch screen modules for a more in-depth learning experience. We spent some time at one of these stations looking at the fossils of ancient arachnids.
Here’s a few more former residents of Western Colorado…
They also offered a couple of fun photo ops such as a falling meteor you could stand underneath.
But the best was a fully animated T-REX that moved its body, roared, and blinked its eyes.
I live near The Field Museum of Natural History, which is known for having one of the best dinosaur exhibits not to mention the T-Rex, “Sue.” Yet visiting places like this made me wish we had smaller dino-themed places too. Sort of like a Cheers bar where all the local Paleontologists and dinosaur enthusiasts know each other’s names and where they offer lectures and space to host your retirement party. And I wouldn’t mind volunteering at this one either since theirs make casts from real dinosaur teeth/claws to sell at the gift shop. I ended up buying a couple of T-Rex teeth casts for my sons.
In a related story, the museum also made a strong case for why it’s better to collect fossil casts rather than actual specimens. This was an important message for the folks living in these parts where stumbling over a Triceratops horn in their backyard isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. Trilobites, amenities, fish, and plants are no problem but the bigger stuff should be available for research and, hopefully, public viewing.
The next stretch of our drive took us through the Rocky Mountains; reaching elevations as high as 10,000 feet. While listening to our ears pop, we did see some rather interesting things…
Our Prehistoric FINAL day on the road wasn’t over yet. There was still one more stop before we’d finally be wrapping up our 2016 Terror Dave adventure…
Coming Up…Monsters of the Deep!
Photos by David Albaugh & Dave Fuentes