The nice thing about following the same tracks that you took out back home is a second chance to see what you missed. In today’s case, that meant getting to stop in the town of St. George where multiple road signs pointed out “Dinosaur Exhibit.” Now, I don’t know about you, but when I see Dinosaur, things revert to my 5-yearold self (thankfully not my driving skills) and since this had been closed on my trip out east, I was pretty exited.
What makes the Dinosaur Discovery Site Museum so interesting and worthy of a full on post is actually less about what’s inside as the tale of how it all came to be, at least that’s what did it for me.
Sure, a huge assortment of tracks including the largest continuous set and biggest collection of swim marks plus fossils and even older plant / cell records is cool to see, but I’m interested in the story behind things. Step into most exhibits and you’ll find more stuff; bigger sculptures, entire wings full of options, and yet it’s all imported. Some dig site with a bunch of really well respected guys and gals who shipped it all back from far, far away.
On the other hand, this place is all local. In fact, most of the building was literally constructed around what was found right there. It’s as if you walked up to what’s been there fore millions of years yourself… only with a/c.
Making it even better, the place was found by complete accident. As the museum’s unexpectedly well done video explains, the property owner, Dr. Johnson (an optometrist), was excavating the very land you’re now on for commercial development in 2000. In the process of pulling out some large pieces of sandstone to sell off, one fell off the machine and, by pure luck, landed in a way that revealed the (very obvious) tracks imprinted on it. No other tracks were known in the specific area so you can imagine the flurry of activity, and random luck that had to happen (unfortunately, you can also assume lots has been lost in past development where things didn’t fall).
The land was later donated and most of what you see is still in the ground, just cleaned up enough to look at. Aside from a few pieces and casts, most of what’s imported is from just down the road too… the kind act of other local property owners.
Wandering around you will, as I said, see a lot of interesting pieces. Not so many of the big fossils I’m use to, but individual tracks from tiny to huge, small fossil pieces, even volunteers working in the “lab” towards the back to clean up and chip away at potential finds. Some of the Yelp reviews critique the small size but for $6 and just 5 minutes off the main road, I’d say it’s well worth the stop (plus you can refill the fuel tank at Costco, just up the street).
And oh, to make matters even better, the museum staff pointed me to a still outdoor and very much in discovery Dinosaur site 15 or so miles away, the Warner Valley Dinosaur Track Site. Unfortunately, while the map they gave me and online comments suggest it’s pretty accessible, the road was not looking so good for my run in a basic 4×2 SUV (I’ve taken my Escape many places but sand that’s deep enough to have me fish-tailing is a warning). Probably could have made it but being the only car out that way and the clock ticking on a slow, dirt drive… I’ll have to save it for a return trip.
So with that said, it’s off to look for a copy of Jurassic Park (sorry scientists, fake as it may be, I still enjoy it).
- Location: St. George, Utah off of highway 15 approx. 5 minutes
- Type: Private business / museum
- Cost: $6 / person
- Regular Hours: 10-6 M-Sat and 10-5 Sun
- Fall / Winter Hours: 10-5 M-Sat and Closed Sun
- Parking: Free on site lot