DINO LAND TRAVELS PHOTO DATABASE
200 million years ago the eventual continents of North America and Europe were separating, beginning the long trek which would lead them to their present-day positions. This separation caused a large gap between the two landmasses, which was filled by what would later become the Atlantic Ocean. Along the line of this break, and along the shores of this new ocean, formed a giant rift valley. Frequent powerful earthquakes dropped the level of this valley over time, and during the next million years or so this valley was filled with sediment brought in from surrounding rivers. The result were huge, massive mudflats which covered most of the area. Several species of dinosaurs and reptiles traveled along these mudflats, leaving perfectly preserved footprints.
Today this area is known as New England, and these mudflats have long since vanished. But, the mud from these plains is still present-in the form of stone. This stone has long been a highly valuable commercial building material in New England, and it has been quarried for centuries. But, it was only during the beginning of the 1800's that the first traces of petrified dinosaur footprints in this stone were documented. Since that time literally millions of prints have been discovered all over New England. One of these footprint sites is Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, Connecticut.
The saga of Dinosaur State Park began on August 23, 1966, when engineers building a new Connecticut State Highway Commission building first struck rock. Knowing that dinosaur prints were common in the area, one intelligent steam shovel operator checked the rock for tracks, and sure enough, hundreds of three-toed fossilized dinosaur tracks were covering the rock! News of these prints quickly leaked to the public, and local rockhounds and collectors flocked to the site with rock hammers and saws in hope that they could find that perfect souvenir. The Highway Commission countered these rockhounds by ordering a halting of the project, fencing in the site, and hiring armed guards to protect the prehistoric treasure. Paleontologists from around the New England area, including Dr. John Ostrom of Yale University, were called to record and verify the site. These paleontologists recommended a preservation of the site, and their proposal was backed by the local newspaper, the Hartford Courant. Therefore, a mere three weeks after the discovery of the site, Connecticut Governor John Dempsey signed a bill designating the site a state park. Two years later, in 1968, the park was officially opened to visitors.
Today thousands of tourists flock to Dinosaur State Park each year to view its amazing array of dinosaur footprints. Most of these prints, nearly 600 of them on display just as they were found in 1966, represent the genus Eubrontes. These Eubrontes prints were likely produced by a medium-sized carnivorous theropod dinosaur, possibly Dilophosaurus. This idea is echoed in Dinosaur State Park by the exhibition of a life-sized Dilophosaurus model, the first such ever commissioned in the world. Other tracks are also found at Dinosaur State Park, albeit much more seldomly than Eubrontes, such as the small three-toed Grallator and the crocodile-like Otozoum. In addition to viewing these tracks and the Dilophosaurus model, tourists can also marvel at beautiful murals depicting Triassic and Jurassic life, watch dinosaur movies, and even make a cast of a Eubrontes footprint.
In August of 2000 I was able to visit Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, Connecticut. Below are some of the best photos I took at the site.
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