Where to learn about and see dinosaurs in Utah

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(ABC4) – Utah carries a rich history of dinosaur fossil discovery and excavation. According to the Utah Geological Survey, more than 115 different species have been discovered, with some prehistoric creatures dated as more than 200 million years old, throughout the state’s landscape.  

The Beehive State’s fascination with dinosaurs is reflected in the official state fossil; the Allosaurus, which lived in the area around 150 million years ago. Other fossils have been dubbed with the state’s name, including the Utahraptor and the Utahceratops. 

Whether you prefer herbivores over carnivores or the Brachiosaurus over the Stegosaurus, Utah is filled with great places to experience dinosaurs in either actual fossil form or in dramatic statuesque re-creations. 

Natural History Museum of Utah – Rio Tinto Center

Located right along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, the Natural History Museum of Utah Rio Tinto Center has a striking, copper-plated exterior. The inside might be even better.

The Center’s “Past Worlds” permanent exhibit has several incredible re-creations of tyrannosaurs, raptors, and ancient ecosystems. The wall adorned with the world’s largest display of horned dinosaur skulls is especially cool. Be advised, because the museum is a part of the University of Utah the school’s extended health and safety measures are in effect. Tickets need to be reserved in advance as well. 

St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm 

Those who find themselves down in southern Utah should stop by and experience what some have called “the best Jurassic dinosaur site in Utah,” according to the site’s website.

Built around the discovery of dinosaur footprints with 17 different animal tracks, the museum also boasts five life-sized models of a Dilophosaurus, a Megapnosaurus, a Dimorphodon, a Scutellosaurus, and a Protosuchus. The tracks at Johnson Farm provide a great look at how dinosaurs moved and interacted with their world and give a reference to how large or small these creatures were. 

Odgen’s Eccles Dinosaur Park 

The Dinosaur Park in Ogden boasts more than one hundred different dinosaur sculptures. Not only are the ancient creatures brought to life in dramatic posing, providing a snapshot of what their life on earth may have been like, but the accompanying sound effects for each dinosaur also take the immersion to another level.

The Park also has indoor fossil re-creations and interactive digging exhibits. In the Christmas season, the dinosaurs are dressed in Santa hats and surrounded by trees, bows, and lights. It’s pretty cute (can dinosaurs be cute?). 

Dinosaur National Monument 

Situated in the eastern part of Utah, Dinosaur National Monument is a dinosaur lover’s playground. The Quarry Visitor Center in Jensen is the entrance to an exhibit hall that contains a world-famous wall that holds nearly 1,500 dinosaur bones.

Allosaurs, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, and Stegosaurus are among the different species found in the space, run by the National Park Service. If dinos aren’t your thing, the park also has thousand-year-old petroglyphs and pictographs, in addition to plenty of hiking and camping locations. 

Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry

Fans of the Utah state fossil, the Allosaurus, will find 46 individual specimens of the meat-eating T-Rex lookalike at the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry. The visitor center’s website claims that the site contains the densest concentrations of Jurassic-aged dinosaurs ever unearthed, with at least 74 individual dinosaurs found.

Interestingly, most of the dinosaurs found at the quarry, located 33 miles south of Price, are carnivores. How did they all get along? Was this a large pack of Allosaurus in the area? These mysteries haven’t been completely solved, but the site provides many clues and theories. 

Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point 

Walking through the simulated ancient ecosystems among the 60 complete re-created dinosaur skeletons at the museum at Thanksgiving Point is an experience not soon forgotten. The venue is also a great place to take in a quick educational movie at the Mammoth Screen Theatre. Right now, the screen is showing flicks like “Sea Monsters 3D,” “Dinosaurs of Antarctica,” and “Superpower Dogs 3D.”

The hands-on exhibits are on hold for now, but when they return, they’ll be a can’t-miss as guests can mold a cast of a fossil to take home or prep a fish fossil, just like a paleontologist would. 

Learning about dinosaurs can be a delight for folks of all ages. The above locations are just a sample of the great places to experience what life on earth was like millions of years ago. Be sure to check the health and safety guidelines and expectations of each dinosaur museum before visiting. 

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