FOSSILS IN THEIR NATURAL HABITAT: INTERPRETING PALEONTOLOGY SITES IN UTAH
The Carnegie Quarry at Dinosaur National Monument (DINO) may be the first in situ dinosaur skeletal interpretive site in the world. The site preserves a diversity of dinosaurs and other fossils within the bed of a large Late Jurassic river system. The Cleveland-Lloyd Quarry at Jurassic National Monument preserves a similarly high diversity of dinosaurs dominated by a great abundance of Allosaurus bones preserved in a large pond. A number of other sites in both the Upper Jurassic and in the Cretaceous have the opportunity to be developed in this way. Interpretive trails, where isolated dinosaur bones are preserved in hard sandstone protected from the elements, include the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail north of Moab, The Fossil Discovery Trail at DINO, and the future Fossil Point interpretive trail south of Green River.
Many of Utah’s hundreds of tracksites are well suited for in situ interpretation. There are a minimum of 12 interpreted tracksites spanning the Mesozoic with little stabilization and only a few signs to inform the visitor to the significance of what is present and encouraging good stewardship. The museum at St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm was built over a spectacular tracksite near the Triassic-Jurassic boundary with additional track horizons being developed for visitation nearby. The recently developed Lower Cretaceous Mill Canyon Tracksite north of Moab preserves the greatest diversity of tracks (10 types) at any site in Utah.
Wolverine Petrified Forest and Escalante Petrified Forest State Park both preserve abundant petrified logs that the public may visit in southern Utah.
Through publicly accessible fossil sites we can help visitors enjoy their public fossil resources while also educating them on how to best visit these sites without damaging these non-renewable resources.