Dinosaur State Park

Construction workers uncovered the dinosaur tracks in sandstone while excavating for a state office building project 46 years ago. The discovery prompted experts to converge on the area and it was soon designated as Dinosaur State Park.

The site primarily features footprints from the Eubrontes Giganteus species and the main trackway was reburied in 1976 to preserve the fossils. The Friends of the Park organization acts as a financial caretaker, expanding and maintaining museum exhibits. Learn more by clicking here.

The Trackway

The site is renowned for being one of the best places to see dinosaur footprints in North America. The footprints are encased within a geodesic dome which allows visitors to get close enough to touch them. There is also a Track Casting area where guests can make their own casts of the tracks.

The shape and spacing of the footprints indicate that they were made by a Dilophosaurus or similar small carnivorous dinosaur. The footprints were named Eubrontes by Edward Hitchcock, an American geologist with a love for paleontology.

The Friends of Dinosaur State Park is a non-profit organization that acts as the financial caretaker for the trackway and expands and maintains museum exhibits. Sales from the Dinosaur State Park bookshop are used to fund programs, field trips, lectures and other educational activities. Volunteers play a very important role as well.

The Exhibit Center

The domed structure at Dinosaur State Park preserves a large section of the Eubrontes footprint site, and it also houses a lot of great dinosaur-related exhibits. The educational signs/interaction stations in the center are some of the best I’ve seen at a dinosaur museum. The sign discussing how the tracks were found by a bulldozer driver is especially fun.

In addition to the Eubrontes footprints, visitors can view several other types of dinosaur tracks. Some of the most distinctive are the three-toed footprints called Grallator. These were left by a small bipedal ornithischian dinosaur that may have been herbivorous. The park also displays some two-toed prints that were made by a dinosaur called Plateosaurus.

In addition to the trackway and the exhibit center, there are trails that visitors can walk on. The park is also home to a nature center that offers a number of different activities including making a cast of a dinosaur footprint. Discover more exciting places here.

The Trails

Dinosaur State Park Rocky Hill CT is a National Historic Landmark and is home to some of the most well-preserved dinosaur footprints in North America. The main attraction is a large geodesic dome that houses 2,000 early Jurassic dinosaur footprints dating back 200 million years. The museum also has a few dioramas that help you imagine the setting in which the prints were made.

The remainder of the park is a network of hiking trails and an arboretum. The trails are a little muddy at this time of year but the park does have a track casting area (seasonal).

You can also visit a brewery with an excellent selection of local brews including some citrusy IPAS, stouts, and a Czech-style pilsner. The park is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM. Admission includes the museum, trail, and track cast area. The park also hosts many educational programs, films, and narrated slide shows.

The Park’s History

The Connecticut Valley has a long history of outstanding fossil track discoveries that have found their way into museums worldwide. A new chapter in this story was written on August 23, 1966, when bulldozer driver Edward McCarthy uncovered a fossilized Triassic lake bed that would become Dinosaur State Park.

After the discovery, paleontologists and geologists rushed to the site, lobbied Governor Dempsey, and made sure this remarkable find was protected as a state park. A fence was erected and state troopers guarded the area to prevent amateur collectors from taking the tracks away.

The Exhibit Center is well done and has a lot of fun interactive features for kids and adults alike. I particularly enjoyed the sign explaining how the tracks were discovered that features a cutout of a bulldozer. The park also has a nice display of plant fossils that are organized by geological time. Only about 1/3 of the main trackway is uncovered in the domed exhibit center today but the hope is to uncover more soon. Check out this interesting post!


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