Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry
As if the fact that dinosaurs once roamed Utah wasn’t cool enough, now you can get up close and personal with the prehistoric past at the Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry. The 600-foot by 150-foot excavation site reveals a history lesson of Jurassic proportions—literally—with 150-million year-old dinosaur bones unearthed by the Burpee Museum of Natural History as recently as last summer. It wasn’t until excavations began in 2008 that anyone realized the magnitude of dinosaur bones waiting to be uncovered, but this preserved river bed of the Morrison Formation has revealed the fossilized remains of several types of dinosaurs, as well as keys to the paleo-ecology that supported these mega-size creatures. Read more below about how you can dig for dinosaurs!
The Burpee Museum and the BLM have coordinated digs at the Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry each summer since 2008. Located just ten miles northwest of Hanksville, the quarry’s famous discoveries include a T. Rex nicknamed Jane, a juvenile Triceratops known as Homer and, in 2011, a fairly complete Diplodocus nicknamed Jimmy. The largely intact skeletons indicate that the dinosaurs are being dug up where they died, rather than floating downstream.
Thousands of pounds of bones have been excavated from Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry, including a collection of nearly 70 bones that made up a 20-foot long neck. Digs have yielded bones from at least four long-necked sauropods—the largest animals to ever roam the earth—including the Brachiosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, and Apatosaurus (formerly known as Brontosaurus). A Stegosaurus, a plant-eater like the sauropods, was also unearthed here, along with an Allosaurus (Utah’s state fossil—yep, we have one), a powerful, meat-eating predator believed to stand 15-feet tall. It’s no surprise that National Geographic has called this huge bone bed a top new dinosaur site.
It’s also no surprise that dinosaur hunters have found their way to the remote quarry, and a few years ago the site was vandalized and bones were stolen. So to satisfy public curiosity the quarry has offered free public tours each summer, and will again in June 2013.
The hour-long tours are led by paleontologists and educators from the Burpee Museum and can accommodate up to 25 people (first come, first served). Weather permitting, the tours are available at 90-minute intervals between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time (at least 30 minutes) for the 8-mile drive along the rough surface road from the main highway. A high-clearance 4WD vehicle is recommended to reach the quarry, especially after it rains. The tours take place outside on rocky, uneven terrain so dress accordingly. There are no facilities at the site. Visit the BLM at 380 South 100 West in Hanksville or call (435) 542-3461 for details.
Want to dig in the sand, too? Join the Burpee Museum’s next Jurassic Journey in June 2013 for the expedition of a lifetime. Whether you’re a paleontologist or just curious about the prehistoric past, you can help uncover some of the largest dino bones ever collected by the Burpee Museum, while learning fundamentals like prospecting, excavating, and plastering. Join the dig or come for a tour, but don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of this history-making discovery. Read more here…