A Little Time and a Keyboard: Walking with the Dinosaurs at Dinosaur Ridge

Friday, August 21, 2020

Walking with the Dinosaurs at Dinosaur Ridge

 Walking with the Dinosaurs at Dinosaur Ridge  Viewing Fossils in Morrison, Colorado

Walking with the Dinosaurs at Dinosaur Ridge  Viewing Fossils in Morrison, Colorado

Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Colorado surely makes the dreams of dinosaur-lovers come true. The remarkable landmark features opportunities to view dinosaur fossils right where they were discovered. Walking along the ridge and discovering dinosaur fossils in the field is quite a memorable experience! During our visit to Colorado, we appreciated walking a little with the dinosaurs.

Viewing dinosaur footprints while walking along Dinosaur Ridge gave us an opportunity to walk a little with the dinosaurs.
Viewing dinosaur footprints while walking along Dinosaur Ridge gave us an opportunity to walk a little with the dinosaurs.

Touring Dinosaur Ridge:

Before our adventure to Dinosaur Ridge, I scoured our tour options. Due to COVID-19, we were not quite ready to go on a tour although Dinosaur Ridge does have socially distant and safe options. I did learn that Dinosaur Ridge has an audio tour, so I downloaded the app for a small fee. While you can walk the trail on your own and it is free to do, I appreciated the details I learned from the audio tour throughout our adventure. While I paid a small fee, I know that the fee went to maintaining such a wonderful treasure for future visitors.

Flaky shale represents remnants of an ancient sea.
Flaky shale represents remnants of an ancient sea.

Stepping Back in Time:

While visitors are most likely exploring to view fossil reminders of  beloved dinosaurs, Dinosaur Ridge presents an incredible array of evidence of regional geologic history. The flaking shale pictured above exemplifies a remnant of an ancient sea that once covered all of Colorado. Called the Western Interior Cretaceous Seaway, the saltwater sea covered the middle of North America. Global water was at its highest during this period because ice caps did not yet exist at the poles. Although interpretive signs help understand the geologic record of the area, the audio tour really added fascinating explanations and context as well as pointed out more fossil remnants. We were truly fascinated to learn this additional information.

A variety of dinosaurs left their mark in mud at Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Colorado.
A variety of dinosaurs left their mark in the mud.

We wound our way to the large dinosaur track site. The original tracks were revealed during road work during the 1930's. Unfortunately, the original tracks eroded or were vandalized. You will notice some spots during your visit where there are circle holes. These are areas where fossils may have been vandalized. The currently displayed tracks were discovered in the 1950's or 1960's as mudstone weathered away. As you can see, a number of different dinosaurs made their presence known! This site garners particular significance as a spot where over 37 individual animals left over 300 tracks. The large tracks are those of the Hadrosaur otherwise known as the duck-billed dinosaur!

The Denver Basin stretches in front of us from Dinosaur Ridge
The Denver Basin stretches in front of us from Dinosaur Ridge

Views All Around:

Soon after delighting in dinosaur footprints, we viewed the Denver Basin folding out in front of us. Faulting, uplifting, shifting and sinking contributed to the formation of the Denver Basin. Tremendous geological forces affected the area during the building of the Rocky Mountains creating a variety of geologic formations.

Powerful geologic forces created a remarkable landscape.
Powerful geologic forces created a remarkable landscape

Evidence of these geological forces can be seen throughout. While walking to our next fossil spot, we witnessed evidence of upwarping, faulting and volcanic forces. The resulting landscape is certainly striking!

More Reminders of Dinosaurs!

Our visit to Dinosaur Ridge also treated us with other evidence of dinosaurs including bones and bulges left by dinosaurs sinking in the mud. One of my favorite findings happened to be a track left by a carnivorous theropod -- most likely an Allosaurus! 

Fossilized theropod track at Dinosaur Ridge
Fossilized theropod track.

Dinosaur Ridge is in red rock country, so you will see red rocks from the trail. You will be near Red Rocks Amphitheatre, so add a visit to your trip. 

Stunning view from the Red Rocks Overlook
Stunning view from the Red Rocks Overlook!

Our visit to Dinosaur Ridge delighted this dinosaur-loving family! We did not explore the visitor center on this visit but would love to check it out in the future. We learned a lot during our dinosaur hike and even enjoyed a bit of the feel of being in the field!


Things to Know About Dinosaur Ridge:

  • You will be hiking in an exposed area, so be prepared for the weather. We visited on a very hot day. We were glad that we arrived early and had plenty of water.
  • The fossils of Dinosaur Ridge are protected. So NO COLLECTING is permitted.
  • Viewing the dinosaur footprints is quite popular! We had a bit of a short wait. 
  • At this time, visitors are asked to follow COVID-19 precautions including maintaining distance at the Dinosaur Track Site and not touching rocks or fossils.
  • On the trail, bikes are directed to remain on one side and walkers on the other.
  • You can hike the trail and view spots for free. However, I found the audio tour very informative.
  • There is a Visitor Center with exhibits which has a small fee. There is also a play area there for non-COVID times.
  • The tour is sort of in one direction, so when you get to the end you will need to walk back to your car.

Exploring dinosaur fossils and geologic formations at Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Colorado near Denver with views of Denver Basin and Red Rocks





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