Thursday, July 12, 2012

Visiting Dinosaur Tracks in Utah

Standing by dinosaur tracks to mark the distance.

The Copper Ridge Dinosaur Trackway is located twenty-three miles north of Moab, Utah.  We decided to see it on our way home from our drive through southeastern Utah.  It isn't far from the Mill Canyon dinosaur site, so we turned off on yet another dirt road to find dinosaur tracks.  I had never visited a dinosaur trackway, so I didn't know quite what to expect.

Overview of the dinosaur trackway near Moab.

At first glance, we couldn't see anything.  The pale rock was washed out by the afternoon sunlight, and the crumbling stone didn't seem to hold any identifiable marks.  We studied the interpretive signs, and made another attempt at finding something that looked like a dinosaur print.  The distinctive three-toed shape of theropod tracks were the easiest to pick out.  Thankfully, someone in our group had water, and we poured some in the tracks, making them more visible in the bright sun.

The footprint showed up better when wet.

Although we never did locate as many tracks as the sign indicated we should be able to find, we were able to follow a series of tracks and get a feel for the strides of these great creatures.

Three dinosaur tracks.

The sauropod footprints were more difficult for us to identify.  We finally realized the big shallow pits hollowed out in the rock were the sauropod prints.  It is hard to fathom the size of these animals.  Who made these tracks?  The sauropod tracks could be Apatosaurus or Camarasaurus (both common in the Morrison fomration), and the theropod tracks could be an Allosaurus...the most common predator found in this geologic layer.  The signs show some other smaller tracks, but it was hot and the lighting was poor, and we decided we had done pretty well to find what we did.

These shallow depressions are sauropod tracks.

This site was interesting to our hard-core dinosaur fans, but a bit challenging for those who could not easily pick out the tracks.  If you or your kids are really interested in dinosaurs, this is worth a visit.  However, if you have very small children, they may not be able to see the tracks in this area.

If you go:  From Moab, Utah, travel north on highway 191 for 23 miles.  Pass milepost 148, and watch for a  turn-off (about 3/4 of a mile further).  If you come to milepost 149, you have traveled too far.  Turn right off of highway 191, and cross the railroad tracks.  Follow the signs and dirt road 2 miles to the track site.  There is a parking area.  This road is suitable for passenger cars, but do NOT take it if the road is wet.

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