Dinosaur Ridge. Geological Feature in Colorado, United States

Dinosaur Ridge

Geological Feature in Colorado, United States

"We just hiked that?!" Photo © Chelsea Marie Hicks

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Dinosaur Ridge

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Dinosaur Ridge - Dinosaur Ridge
Dinosaur Ridge - Dinosaur Ridge. Photo by Matthew Saunders
Dinosaur Ridge is a part of the Dakota Hogback in the town of Morrison, just a short distance west of Denver, Colorado. It is a geologically significant National Natural Landmark in the United States and is listed in the Register of Historic Place in Colorado for its large number of dinosaur fossils and tracks. These fossils include famous Jurassic dinosaur species such as Apatosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Allosaurus. The 300+ dinosaur tracks date from the Cretaceous. Remains and traces from other prehistoric animals can be seen there as well.

The visitor center has loads of information on the geology and history of the area and is a suggested place to start a visit. The free0.0 kilometers-long, self-guided trail leads past the tracks and points out places where dinosaur bones stick out of the bedrock.

Dino-mite View - Dinosaur
	Ridge
Dino-mite View - Dinosaur Ridge. Photo by im me

History

The area of Dinosaur Ridge is one of the world’s most well-known and accessible dinosaur fossil sites. The first fossils were found in 1877 by Arthur Lakes in the Morrison Formation (Wikipedia Article), which is also found in Dinosaur National Monument, on the west side of the ridge; those fossils included the remains of enormous species like Apatosaurus and Diplodocus, the famous Stegosaurus and the huge predator, Allosaurus, among several others. Fifteen quarries were then opened along the Dakota Hogback to look for more valuable prehistoric bones, and triggered the infamous ‘bone wars’ that took place all over the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.

In 1937, during the construction of the Alameda Parkway that would offer access to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a crew of workers discovered hundreds of dinosaur tracks on the east side of the ridge. The footprints included those of Cretaceous species such as Iguanodon, as well as several carnivorous theropods. The area was designated the Morrison Fossil Area National Natural Landmark in 1973 for its tremendous geological and historical value. The site was open to everyone for 52 years and many tracks were subject to vandalism and even theft, until the Friends of Dinosaur Ridge was established to help protect and preserve the area.

The main site was expanded in 1994 and now visitors can see more than 300 dinosaur tracks, half of which are colored with charcoal to make them more visible in the sandstone.

Dinosaur Ridge -
	Dinosaur Ridge
Dinosaur Ridge - Dinosaur Ridge. Photo by Matthew Saunders

Geology

Dinosaur Ridge can be divided into two sides. The west side is part of the Morrison Formation, which dates back to the Jurassic age. This sedimentary rock can be found in many parts of the western United States and is the most fertile source of fossils – dinosaurs and others – in North America. It consists of sandstone, mudstone, siltstone or limestone, all relics of former river beds or floodplains. The Morrison Formation was in fact named after the town of Morrison, Colorado, home to Dinosaur Ridge and the very location where the first fossils were found in the formation by Arthur Lakes.

The east side consists of the Dakota Formation, which dates from the Cretaceous age and is also made up of sedimentary sandstone.

Harpers Corner, Dinosaur National Monument,
	UT - Dinosaur Ridge
Harpers Corner, Dinosaur National Monument, UT - Dinosaur Ridge. Photo by Maciej Ciupa


 - Dinosaur
	Ridge
Dinosaur Ridge. Photo by Mark Ryan

Visiting Dinosaur Ridge

The attraction that is present-day Dinosaur Ridge essentially consists of the Dinosaur Ridge Exhibit Hall, a visitor center, and the Dinosaur Ridge Trail.

Exhibit Hall

The Exhibit Hall features an indoor exhibit on the dinosaurs that were found in the area. The so-called Trek Through Time is a walk leading through several environments and prehistoric ages. There are paleogeographic maps of North America that shows the change in geography and climate over time, while glass cases display fossils, such as bones, plants and animals tracks from Dinosaur Ridge. It is a great place to start a visit, and especially children love the Trek Through Time walk. Entrance to that walk costs $ 2.00 USD for adults and is free for kids younger than three years old.

Trail

The mile-long Dinosaur Ridge Trail leads past Iguanodon tracks, ripple marks, scenic lookouts and dinosaur bones that protrude from the rocks. There are 15 sites along the trail, each one marked with an interpretive sign explaining the area’s geology, paleo-ecology, the economic development of coal, and many other interesting geological and paleontological facts. The Dinosaur Ridge Trail is free to visit and is open every day until sunset.

How to Get There

The visitor center is located west of the Alameda Parkway exit off Route C-470. The ridge lies between Rooney Road North and County Road 93. There is a parking lot along County Road 93 on the west side of ridge, from where it is possible walk around the ridge to the east side and the visitor center along the West Alameda Parkway.

Similar and Nearby Landmarks

Other natural landmarks in Colorado include the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Dinosaur National Monument, Mount Evans (Wikipedia Article), and Pikes Peak.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Feb 20, 2015

Pictures of Dinosaur Ridge

Dinosaur National Monument - Dinosaur Ridge
Dinosaur National Monument - Dinosaur Ridge. Photo by Charles (Chuck) Peterson

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