On March 25, 1996 Holyoke, Massachusetts landowner Gary Gaulin made an amazing discovery. While attempting to dig a catfish pond in his backyard, Gaulin happened up rock. This was not unexpected, as Holyoke is a rock-laden town, and Gaulin knew that bedrock laid just beneath the surface of his yard, anyway. But, it was what was on the rock that startled, suprised, and amazed him.

Gaulin was a self-devoted amateur paleontologist, and as any amateur paleontologist in the Connecticut Valley area knew, the region was full of dinosaur footprints. So, like any scientist would, Gaulin made sure to carefully examine the rock he had exposed for any traces of prints. And, sure enough, these prints were there!

Trackways of Grallator and Anchisauripus were found under the very first rock layer. Under this layer there were still more layers. In fact, Gaulin believes that the layers may extend more than a mile into the surface! Just how were these vast and deep layers of rock left in New England anyhow? During the beginning of the Jurassic Period, about 200 years ago, the area that would later become North America was separating from what would later become Europe. Along the break of this separation formed a vast fault, and this fault line produced a continuous series of earthquakes. In turn, these quakes dropped the level of the land several thousand feet, creating a giant rift valley. This valley was filled with sediment from surrouding rivers, and over time vast, large mudflats were formed. Dinosaurs, phytosaurs, and other animals walked on these flats, and left thousands of exceptionally well-preserved footprints. Today, these footprints are quarried all over the Holyoke area, including large areas of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

While researching information for a trip to the New England area, I came across Gary's webpage. I sent him an e-mail to inquire about his tracks, and he quickly invited me over to view the site. On August 5, 2000 my family and I pulled into his driveway and viewed what may well be the only dinosaur tracksite confined to someone's backyard. Yet, despite is small size (about 25 by 80 feet), this site is being studied by scientists from across the United States, and may provide additional clues into the debates on Grallator social behavior, and how Anchisauripus fit into the early Jurassic New England ecosystem.

Below are some photos I took at the site, including those of individual tracks, the site itself, and my family with Gary Gaulin.





Panorama of Entire Site

Cross Section of Track Layers

Gary Gaulin and Steve Brusatte at the Site


© 1997 brusatte@theramp.net

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