Dinosaur National Park – BUT NOT!

February 16, 2019

Quetzalcoatlus – so very, very cool – and BIG!

Fossil Discovery Exhibit

An excellent ranger-led tour really got us excited about this fascinating exhibit. It was an excellent program at an excellent interpretive center. We learned that Big Bend encompasses a longer geologic timescale than any other National Park, about 130 million years. MILLION!!! Watch the timeframes – MYA is Million Years Ago.

Mosasaur (just the head, which is scary enough by itself but with the body it was up to 40 feet long)

The signs and displays take you from the time that Big Bend was part of the sea; Marine Environment (130-83 MYA) – and the sea animal fossils found from that time…


…to the time when Big Bend was a marshy, river strewn shoreline; Coastal Flood Plain (83-72 MYA) – and the plant and animal fossils found from that time…

Coastal Floodplain Exhibit

…to the time when the mountains uplifted on the east and the west side of the continent and the land dried and the dinosaurs roamed; Inland Floodplain (72-55 MYA) – and the plant and animal fossils found from that time…

Palmetto frond

…to the extinction events that took out the dinosaurs and allowed the mammals to take over the area; Volcanic Highlands (55 MYA to the present) – and the fossils found from that time.

There were fossils of all sizes from each time period: microfossils as tiny as grains of sand, small sea urchins and mollusks, large mosasaurs, carnivorous lizards, and Agujaceratops, a large horned dinosaur. Our favorite fossil was a replica of an entire Quetzalcoatlus, a flying dinosaur, hanging from the rafters. The exhibit smoothly took you through the different time periods and showed why the land changed, how the land changed and the life that land supported. Murals, images, informative signs, fossils, and skeletons provided an impressive range of information.

This is a MUST SEE!!! It isn’t big. It isn’t flashy. Most people drive right past it on their way to “somewhere.” Don’t make that mistake. The exhibit is really good and if you can get there during their ranger program, it is even better.

We were amazed to find out that Big Bend has fossils covering a wider timeline than ANY other national park (including the one mentioned in the title). Many, many, many fossils have been found here and can still be found here just by walking out across the desert or into the canyons and washes of the park. Many are lying on top of the ground for you to discover and enjoy – just leave them where they are so the people that come after you can enjoy the discovery all over again! Note that it is illegal to “poach” anything out of the park. Look, take pictures, enjoy, then let it be for all to see.


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