Moab is “in the center of it all” when it comes to dinosaur tracks, according to longtime paleontologist John Foster.
While some parts of the country have the “right age” rocks containing fossilized dinosaur tracks, eastern Utah’s dry climate has allowed those rocks to remain exposed, uncovered by vegetation.
On Friday, May 29, the public is invited to join Foster, who also directs the Museum of Moab, as he leads a tour of dinosaur footprint sites of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods – a range of 80 million years. Participants will view tracks left by carnivorous and herbivorous giants on what used to be lake shores, river sandbars and oases.
“Footprints are the neatest thing,” Foster said. “They preserve the activity of the animal when it was alive and shows the area they frequented, as opposed to bones which can end up (scattered) in any environment.”
“Tracks will never deceive you – they always show up where the animal was living.”
Participants will meet at 8:30 a.m. at the Museum of Moab, 118 E. Center St., before heading out together in a van provided by Canyonlands Field Institute. The tour will last for six or seven hours, before returning to the museum, where other tracks have been preserved.
The group will travel mostly in a big loop to the north side of U.S. Highway 191, around Arches National Park and then southwest of Moab. All of the dinosaur tracks are on protected U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service lands.
The environments where the tracks were left, have changed dramatically over time.
“It was a little different at every stop,” Foster said. “At times there were sand dunes, like the Sahara Desert; other times (there were) lakes, rivers and redwood forests. It was drastically different then today.”
Walking to the sites will be pretty straightforward, Foster said. Some of the tracks are just a few yards away from the vehicle pull-over areas. There’s one short, but relatively steep walk of about a half-mile, or less, he said.
The tour is limited to nine participants to allow for plenty of time for interaction, Foster said. Children must be 5, or older.
The tour is a new collaboration between the museum, the Museum of Western Colorado and Canyonlands Field Institute, an outdoor education-focused nonprofit organization.
“Young kids so often are fascinated with dinosaurs,” CFI sales and office manager Stacy Dezelsky said. “To take people on a tour where they can see the actual prints on the ground really captures the imagination.”
Foster has the “knowledge and expertise” to teach people of all ages, adults and kids alike, Dezelsky said.
Cost of the tour is $125. Lunch, water, snacks, handouts and transportation are included. Participants have a choice of ham, roast beef, turkey or veggie sandwiches.
Reservations can also be made at the Museum of Western Colorado by calling 970-242-0971, ext. 212, or by visiting the website www.wcmuseum.org and clicking on “dinosaur digs.”
Track tour will visit ancient footprints
When: Friday, May 29
Where: Meet at Museum of Moab, 118 E. Center St. at 8:30 a.m. Tour covers 70 to 80 miles around the Moab area
Cost: $125 per participant
www.moabmuseum.org; 435-259-7750, or 435-259-7985, or email cfimoab.org