Come to Dead Horse Point State Park for “Dino Days,” and you can learn from two expert paleontologists about the dinosaurs that once roamed the Moab area. Dino Days will take place in the park’s visitor center on Friday, July 21, and Thursday, Aug. 3.
While dinosaur tracks have not actually been discovered at Dead Horse Point, dinosaur fossils abound in the surrounding Kayenta formation, a geologic layer found in the park, according to park manager Megan Blackwelder.
On July 21, ReBecca Hunt-Foster, a paleontologist with the Bureau of Land Management’s Canyon Country District, will give a non-technical PowerPoint presentation at 7 p.m., showing a mixture of photographs of actual tracks and fossil bones, as well as artwork of what the animals may have looked like.
“There are a lot of dinosaur fossils that have only been found in the Moab area,” Hunt-Foster said. “They’ve never been found anywhere else.”
At the visitor center throughout the day, park rangers will offer children special dinosaur-themed activities with tables set up with information and park staff on hand to answer questions.
This first-ever Dino Days may be repeated if the interest is there, Blackwelder said.
“We’re always trying to do more dinosaur interpretation,” she added. “There are tons of fossils and tracks in the Moab area.”
While the park opens at 6 a.m., the visitor center doesn’t open until 8 a.m. Visitors are welcome to drop by for the special event anytime after that. Park entrance fees of $15 per vehicle apply. The admittance is good for three days.
On Aug. 3, Hunt-Foster’s husband and fellow paleontologist John Foster will give a presentation on Dystrophaeus, a long-necked sauropod and the oldest dinosaur skeleton remains ever found by scientists in North America.
Foster also directs the Museum of Moab, and is leading a paleontological excavation to continue the work of Dr. John Strong Newberry, who first discovered the dinosaur fossils in 1859.
“It was the first dinosaur ever found in Utah,” Hunt-Foster said.
The site where Newberry discovered the bones was lost until Moab paleontology enthusiasts Fran and Terby Barnes located the site in 1987, according to an article that Hunt-Foster wrote for “Sojourns Journal.” A new quarry was established at the site in 2014.
Original bones of the dinosaur are currently housed at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History. A cast is on display at the Museum of Moab.
Utah State Parks celebrate 60th anniversary
Stay tuned for another special event at the park later this year. This is the 60th anniversary year of the Utah State Park system. The first four parks were created in 1957; Dead Horse Point was founded in 1959.
“So we’re trying to do more this year and get more people to the park,” Blackwelder said.
A special anniversary event was held in February and another will be held in November.
State park hosts new interpretive event
“We’re always trying to do more dinosaur interpretation … There are tons of fossils and tracks in the Moab area.”
Where: Dead Horse Point State Park Visitor Center
When: Friday, July 21, and Thursday, Aug. 3. Kids’ activities begin at 8 a.m.; guest speaker at 7 p.m.
For more information about Dino Days, go to: www.stateparks.utah.gov/parks/dead-horse/events.