Prehistoric Splendor: 125-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Tracks Open to Public

August 22, 2014

Imagine your foot getting stuck in the mud. As you lift the shoe out of the muck, you hear a suction noise until finally your foot comes free, leaving behind an imprint of your foot in the place you last stood. Now imagine that mud hardening over millions of years, leaving your footprint for future generations to discover.

That’s exactly what one lucky hiker came across in 2009, and what the public will soon be able to view — with one catch: The 200-plus footprints belong to dinosaurs. The site, located in Moab, Utah, just west of Arches National Park, could soon become a must-see destination for any dino-lover. 

“We don’t usually get this much diversity at one track site preserved,” ReBecca Hunt-Foster, a Bureau of Land Management paleontologist, told The prints suggest duck-billed hadrosaurs and ankylosaurs with bony-plated backs, as well as sauropods similar to the Apatosaurus (“only younger,” Hunt-Foster said) and dromaeosaurs — a first for North America. There were crocodiles and birds, too.

“We’re able to see a lot of details about what the tracks look like,” she said. “Some of them you can see the pads on the feet, some of them you can see the toes. Some of them you can see where the dinosaur slipped in the mud. It’s a pretty cool site.”

Until recently, the BLM didn’t disclose the site’s location, not because the agency wanted to keep it secret, but rather because federal law mandates such action until the BLM decides a site should be open to the public. “Since the site is so spectacular and [the tracks] are visually easy to understand, we thought it would be a great site to turn into an interpretative trail,” Hunt-Foster said.

Researchers have been working there since 2010; excavation started in 2013. Recently, volunteers swept the area to get it ready for 3-D photographing by the BLM followed by its public debut.

Moab as a whole is ripe with remains of prehistoric times. (It’s the place where a thief stole a dinosaur footprint back in February.) Hunt-Foster says having so much history there is just luck of the draw. “The conditions where these animals were living were very good conditions for preserving fossils and preserving tracks. We just kind of lucked out, geologically.”

Featured Blogs

Atlantic's First Invest of the 2015, 90L, Organizing Over the Bahamas

By Dr. Jeff Masters
May 6, 2015

The first Atlantic Ocean "Invest" of 2015 has arrived, as the National Hurricane Center (NHC) designated the area of disturbed weather over the Northwest Bahamas as Invest 90L on Wednesday morning.

The Great California Storm of April 19-23, 1880

By Christopher C. Burt
April 11, 2015

Could a single big late–season storm have a significant impact on the California drought? A 'Hail Mary' storm event? Normally by this time of the year (April 10th) California would have already received at least 90% of its rainy-season precipitation total and any additional rain or snowfall would have little impact so far as the current drought is concerned. However, back in late April 1880, one of the most intense storms ever to pound the state occurred. Here are the details.

Please check out the new homepage and tell us what you think!

By Shaun Tanner
April 2, 2015

The development team here at Weather Underground has been hard at work producing a new homepage! Please take a look at the sneak peek and tell us what you think!

Meteorological images of the year - 2014

By Stu Ostro
December 30, 2014

My 9th annual edition.

2013-14 - An Interesting Winter From A to Z

By Tom Niziol
May 15, 2014

It was a very interesting winter across a good part of the nation from the Rockies through the Plains to the Northeast. Let's break down the most significant winter storms on a month by month basis.

What the 5th IPCC Assessment Doesn't Include

By Angela Fritz
September 27, 2013

Melting permafrost has the potential to release an additional 1.5 trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and could increase our global average temperature by 1.5°F in addition to our day-to-day human emissions. However, this effect is not included in the IPCC report issued Friday morning, which means the estimates of how Earth's climate will change are likely on the conservative side.