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The Dinosaurs of Moab

Paleontologists have found a treasure trove of dinosaur remains in the rock formations of the Moab area. The record of dinosaurs and other ancient animals in the Moab area is one of the best in the country!


A visualization of the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite, 112 million years ago.
Art courtesy of Brian Engh - dontmesswithdinosaurs.com

Rocks deposited during the Mesozoic Era are well exposed in the Moab area. That period of time spans approximately 252 million years to 66 million years ago. The Mesozoic Era has three divisions: Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous. Dinosaurs appear in our area toward the end of the Triassic. Southeastern Utah has a prolific fossil record of bones, and especially tracks, that has been exposed in the sedimentary record of Mesozoic age all around Moab. Dinosaurs, including birds, are reptiles belonging to the Archosauria (“ruling reptiles”). Pterosaurs (“winged lizards”) and crocodilians are also included in the Archosauria.


Allosaurus (Mill Canyon Area)
Courtesy John Foster (Jurassic West: The Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World) & Thomas Adams

The first dinosaur discovery in Utah happened in 1859 (coincidentally, this was fifty years to the day prior to the discovery of the first bones found at the site later known as Dinosaur National Monument). Captain John N. Macomb led the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers Expedition to explore southeastern Utah. In a canyon south of modern day Moab, scientist Dr. John S. Newberry found parts of a front leg embedded in hard Jurassic sandstone. Later, paleontologist E.D. Cope named the specimen Dystrophaeus viaemalae, the geologically oldest sauropod dinosaur in North America. The location of this sauropod dinosaur was lost for decades but was relocated in 1987 by local naturalist Fran Barnes after a 12-year search. As of 2014-5, crews from the Museum of Moab and the Natural History Museum of Utah have been working at the site to extract more bones (and there are a lot of them!).


Stegosaurus (West of Arches National Park)
Courtesy John Foster (Jurassic West: The Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World) & Thomas Adams

Many dinosaurs have been found around Moab, including: a small carnivorous dinosaur from the Triassic north of town; a large Camarasaurus from the Jurassic, found south of town and on display at the Museum of Moab; a gigantic Brontosaurus also from the Jurassic, found just a few miles north of Moab and on display at the Museum of Paleontology at Brigham Young University; Cretaceous dinosaurs from just north of town such as Utahraptor (life-size model at Moab Giants) and Gastonia (cast skeleton on display at the Museum of Moab).

Moab's Numerous Dinosaur Trails

There are numerous tracksites in the Moab area, such as the Mill Canyon Tracksite shown here, where you can get a glimpse of an era when huge creatures roamed the earth. This tracksite is a short walk with interpretive panels along the trail and boardwalk. Each panel describes unique dinosaur tracks that can be seen at this site, including eight different types of dinosaurs, along with a crocodile resting trace. (See below for location information.)

Dinosaur tracks are also very abundant around Moab. Tracks of dinosaurs of Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous age occur all around the area at sites including the Dinosaur Stomping Grounds, Mill Canyon, Poison Spider, Copper Ridge, Willow Springs, and Hell’s Revenge tracksites, to name just a few. There are also many tracks of non-dinosaurs. Interestingly, track evidence of ancient crocodiles is found at tracksites north of Arches National Park, in a uranium mine near the La Sal Mountains, and at the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite. Pterosaur track fossils are common in the region and are highlighted in the museum at Moab Giants. Finally, tracks of proto-mammals occur at many sites in the Navajo Sandstone in our area, in deposits that represent ancient sand dunes.


Brontosaurus (Mill Canyon Area)
Courtesy John Foster (Jurassic West: The Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World) & Thomas Adams

The record of dinosaurs and other ancient animals in the Moab area is, as you will see, one of the best in the country.

By John Foster
Museum of Moab Director

Dinosaur Sites Near Moab


Bull Canyon Overlook Dinosaur Tracksite

Description:
The Bull Canyon Overlook site is northeast of Moab. It features the tracks of at least one theropod (meat eating dinosaur). Stride length measurements at the site indicate one or more dinosaurs moving at different speeds, this makes Bull Canyon Overlook unique. These tracks are located in the late Jurassic Entrada Sandstone. The United State Forest Service (USFS) is in the process of placing interpretive signs in the area, and parking is less than 100 yards from the site.

How to get there:
From Moab, go north on US Hwy 191 for 2.5 miles to the intersection of UT-128 (River Road). Turn right and head east 15.5 miles. At the La Sal Loop Road intersection (turn to Castle Valley) turn right and continue 10.7 miles. Continue on this road (FR207), do not follow the La Sal Loop Road signs when they turn right (southwest). Continue 5.4 miles passing the signs for Fisher Mesa. Approximately ½ mile beyond the Fisher Mesa turn park in the lot on the left (northeast) just before the road turns to dirt.

GPS Coordinates for Trailhead:
38.615833 -109.223333


Copper Ridge Dinosaur Tracksite

Description:
The Copper Ridge site, north of Moab, features the tracks of a sauropod (long-necked dinosaur) and the theropod (meat eating dinosaur). The many different kinds and sizes of dinosaur tracks make Copper Ridge unique. The preservation of the tracks is fantastic, and this site is well worth a visit. There are tracks made by a sauropod (probably a Camarasaurus, Apatosaurus, or Diplodicus), as well as Allosaurus and small mammal tracks, all dating back to the Jurassic period. The BLM has placed interpretive signs in the area, and parking is less than 100 yards from the site.

How to get there:
From Moab, go north on US Hwy 191 for 23 miles. Turn right ¾ miles past milepost 148. Cross the railroad tracks and follow signs south on the dirt road. It is 2 miles to the tracks from the highway. If coming from the north, (I-70), turn left ¼ miles past milepost 149 and continue south on the dirt road.

NOTE: The dirt road is suitable for passenger cars driven carefullyAVOID this road when wet!

Trailhead GPS Coordinates:
38.830078 -109.76335


Dinosaur Stomping Grounds

Description:
A gradual up-hill 1.7 mile hike is required (3.4 miles round trip). The pedestrian trail parallels a mountain bike trail then branches off, follow rock cairns to the Jurassic age tracksite. There is a net elevation gain of 459 feet.

How to get there:
From Moab, go north on US 191 for 23 miles. Turn right 3/4 mile past milepost 148. Cross the railroad tracks and follow the main road for 1 mile. Take the right fork (left fork goes to the Copper Ridge Dinosaur Tracksite) and continue for just over half a mile to the North Klondike Mountain Biking Trailhead parking area. Trail departs from here. A high clearance vehicle is recommended.

Trailhead GPS Coordinates:
38.819711, -109.756814


Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite

Description:
The Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite is a short walk with interpretive panels along the trail and boardwalk. Each panel describes unique dinosaur tracks that can be seen at this site, including 8 different types of dinosaurs, along with a crocodile resting trace.

How to get there:
15 miles north of Moab on US 191.  Turn left on the dirt road marked “Mill Canyon.”  Follow signs for the next 0.8 miles to the parking lot for the trail, located to the right in the rock lined parking area.

Trailhead GPS Coordinates:
38.720714 -109.733994


Mill Canyon Dinosaur Bone Trail

Description:
Get a glimpse of an era when huge creatures roamed the earth. Dinosaur bone still encased in rock may be viewed in Mill Canyon by following a short nature trail near the Monitor and Merrimac trails. This is a short self-guided interpretive trail. There are signs along the way. A free pamphlet for this trail is available at the Moab BLM office, the Moab information Center or by clicking here.

How to get there:
Drive 15 miles north of Moab on Hwy 191, turn left onto a dirt road marked Mill Canyon. This road is just north of milepost 141. Cross railroad tracks. Proceed 0.6 miles on this dirt toad to a “Y” intersection. Keep left for 0.5 more miles to reach the intersection to the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Bone Trail. The trailhead will be 0.6 miles farther. The dirt road crosses a short sandy wash.

Trailhead GPS Coordinates:
38.712275 -109.739742


Poison Spider Dinosaur Tracksite

Description:
Two rock slabs with footprints of meat-eating dinosaurs are visible from the pull-out on Hwy 279 or the parking lot of the Poison Spider trailhead. One slab is at the base of the cliffs, a second slab is halfway down the slope, just above the cliff that drops down to the road. The lower slab contains the tracks of at least 10 different meat-eating dinosaurs, ranging in size from 17 inches to 5 feet at the hips. All of the animals appear to have been walking at speeds of 3 miles per hour.

How to get there:
From the center of Moab, travel north on Hwy 191 for 5.9 miles and turn left on Hwy 279. Continue 6 miles to the Poison Spider trailhead. Parking lot is up on the top of the hill.

Trailhead GPS Coordinates
38.532712, -109.608879


Willow Springs Dinosaur Tracksite

Description:
The Willow Springs site features the tracks of theropods and ornithopods (three-toed dinosaur) and those from sauropods (long-necked dinosaur). The numerous tracks at this site were made about 165 million years ago by dinosaurs waling in the tide-lands of an inland sea that lay to the east of this area. The tracks are preserved in the hard sandstone of the Entrada Formation. Theses tracks have been exposed for numerous years, and the tracks are beginning to erode. The sauropod tracks may appear as only potholes to the general viewer, with the three-toed tracks being easier to see. The BLM has placed interpretive signs in the area.

How to get there:
From Moab, go north on Hwy 191 for 12 miles. If coming from I-70, go south on Hwy 191 for 18.7 miles. The tracksite is 3.4 miles off of Hwy 191, on the Willow Springs Road. A wide loose sand wash will have to be crossed.

  • Turn right onto the Willow Springs Road, off US Highway 191.
  • 1.4 miles - take the left fork to Willow Springs.
  • 1.7 miles - stay right on the main road and continue straight towards the Klonzo Trails area.
  • 2.9 miles - stay right.
  • 3.4 miles - arrive at tracksite

Trailhead GPS Coordinates:
38.700925, -109.640959

NOTE: The dirt road is suitable for passenger cars driven carefullyAVOID this road when wet!

Museum of Moab Dinosaur Exhibits

Dan O'Laurie Museum of MoabPaleontologists have found a rich trove of dinosaur remains in the rock formations of the Moab area. Long before the land was dry and arid in its present state, dinosaurs roamed the region, which was then covered, in turn, by forests and lakes, then sand dunes and oases, then rivers and floodplains, and then swamps, shallow seas, and giant lakes. 

On display in the Museum of Moab is an exciting collection of items:

  • A full cast skeleton of Gastonia, one of the armored dinosaurs that lived in this area during the Early Cretaceous
  • The real pelvis and tail of a Camarasaurus, a 40-foot-long plant eater that lived in what is now the Moab area during the Late Jurassic
  • Track imprints of dinosaurs
  • Petrified sections of conifer trees and cycads from the Late Triassic and Late Jurassic
  • The cast hind leg of a Utahraptor, a carnivorous dinosaur first found near Arches National Park in the Cedar Mountain Formation.

The Gastonia burgei Ankylosaur found at the Dalton Wells Quarry north of Moab is part of the Museum of Moab's Display of the Mesozoic Era. A large set of Murals depicts the nearly 200 million years of the Mesozoic era and what Moab may have looked like during the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. With new dinosaurs continually being found in Southeastern Utah the Museum of Moab keeps its displays updated to tell the fascinating story of ancient life in our area.

Visitors can step back in time in the Virginia Fossey room, devoted to the Mesozoic Era, the age of dinosaurs. It depicts the climate conditions and the existing geography at the time of the dinosaurs. Beautifully illustrated panels take visitors through the Mesozoic Era. On display is a partial section of vertebrae bones from a sauropod (Camarasaurus) found on private land south of Moab in the Morrison Formation of the Jurassic Period.

Stephen Spielberg’s movie, “Jurassic Park”, had to enlarge the "Velociraptor"'s for dramatic effect. Spielberg should have used theUtahraptor, discovered north of Moab, which was the terrifying size he depicts in the film. At the museum you can see a replica of leg of a Utahraptor found in the Cedar Mountain Formation of the Cretaceous period. The leg alone is over 4 feet tall feet tall!

Museum of Moab
118 E Center Street
Moab, UT 84532
GPS: 38.573198, -109.548337
(435) 259–7985
moabmuseum.org

Paleosafari Moab Giants

Moab Giants Dinosaur Park is the first of its kind world-wide! Not only is it set among some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery in Moab, it is also a unique experience of the ages. You will journey back through time with a 3D cinema introducing you into the prehistoric world. There you get to make your own tracks alongside state-of the art life-size dinosaurs! You get to roam the extraordinary landscape they called home, as evidenced by the huge concentration of fossilized tracks found all around the area. The Tracks Museum is full of entertainment with interactive learning touch screens, games to play, and visually stunning exhibits that not only fascinate, but educate. It’s the ultimate place to discover the past with the modern conveniences and cutting edge technology that feel like the future.

The perfect balance of adventure and science, Moab Giants has been the realization of a dream for both our dinosaur park enthusiasts, as well as our world renowned scientists. They have special expertise in the field of fossil footprints and a deep knowledge of the paleontology of the region. Moab Giants has been actively engaged for many years in research, public education and exhibits and they are dedicated to being an educational and scientific resource for visitors from the local community, region, nation and the world, but not without some extreme fun along the way! It is Moab Giant's mission to explore the beauty, adventure and scientific mysteries of the Moab area and share them with the world.”

Attractions

Plan to experience Moab Giants in its entirety by visiting all the attractions we have to offer. There is something for everyone to enjoy. Our exhibits include both indoor and outdoor experiences. Explore the park on your own and at your own pace, or participate in a more in-depth guided tour. Either way you will want to be sure you don’t miss a thing.

  • The Museum - The indoor exhibits use interactive, cutting edge technology to highlight stories about fossil footprints and their impact on dinosaur science and geology. These exhibits also include insights into the history and prehistory of the Moab area, and windows into Moab Giant's research labs, show-casing research activity in the community and region. They also have some hands on exhibits that let you experiment for yourself how tracks are made and fossilized.
  • The 3D Theater - Experience the magic of the creation and early history of our Earth through 3D cinema. Visitors get the full effect of prehistoric life in 3D before being introduced into the open landscape where things really come to life.
  • The Trail - Here you will travel in time along a half-mile-long trail with more than 130, state-of-the-art, full size reconstructions of dinosaurs and the tracks they made in the area. Children and adults alike can walk with the dinosaurs and enjoy a Mesozoic adventure blended with a relaxed outing into the desert landscape with its beautiful backdrop of dinosaur-bearing rock formations.
  • The 5D Paleoaquarium - After your walk through the desert with the dinosaurs on land you will have the unique opportunity to cool off in the paleoaquarium. Enjoy the ambiance as you stroll past eight different 3D screens giving you a realistic view into ancient life under the sea. Your time in the aquarium will end in the 5D room with an all-encompassing experience you are sure not to forget!
  • The Playground and “Dig it Out” Areas -The kids will love this hands on dinosaur-themed playground for guests only. The playground includes rock climbing, web equipment, swings, slides and more! Climb inside T-Rex’s enormous mouth full of teeth and try your hand at paleontology and discovery by exploring their camp uncovering the dinosaur bones beneath the sand!
  • The Cafe - Plan to drop in to the Moab Giants Cafe for breakfast, lunch and tasty treats! The unique menu provides local favorites as well as dishes from around the world and are unlike any other in Moab. Everyone is sure to find something to satisfy their appetite. The menu is full of delicious food with names to contribute to your prehistoric adventure! It is sure to not disappoint!
  • The Gift Shop - Stop by the gift shop on your way out for a Moab Giants branded souvenir. Enjoy a large selection of gifts including dinosaur toys and models of all kinds, fashionable custom designed apparel for all ages, and everything in between.

Paleosafari Moab Giants
Intersection of Highways 191 and 313,
11 miles north of downtown Moab.
GPS: 38.671768, -109.686812
( 435) 355-0288
moabgiants.com

Moab Information Center

Moab Information Center

Once you arrive in Moab, your first stop should be the Moab Information Center. Conveniently located at the corner of Main and Center Street in Moab, the MIC offers information on road conditions, trails and recreational opportunities throughout southeastern Utah. Allow some time for the interpretive displays and large gift shop.

Info Center GPS Address & Coordinates:
Navigation System
25 E Center St, Moab, UT 84532
  Latitude/Longitude
38.572990, -109.550020

Jurassic Walks and Talk

Join a BLM paleontologist and explore the world of dinosaurs. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Moab Field Office is launching its summer series of “Jurassic Walks and Talks.” Every weekend through Labor Day, a BLM paleontologist will lead free tours of dinosaur fossil and tracksites in the Moab area. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings, join the Moab BLM at the Moab Information Center in downtown Moab, for hands on activities for kids and talks by a dinosaur expert. These events are all free and everyone is invited. Maps and schedules are available at the MIC, which is located at 25 East Center Street. You can also download the current schedule at go.usa.gov/xNdsY.

Family Dinosaur Field Trips

With so many dinosaur resources in one place, Moab is the perfect place to design your own Family Dinosaur Field Trip!

Start your Dinosaur Field Trip in downtown Moab, at the Museum of Moab. Check out a full cast skeleton of Gastonia, one of the armored dinosaurs that lived in this area during the Early Cretaceous. The museum also features numerous dinosaur displays, including a cast of the leg of the terrifying Utahraptor.

Continue your journey at Paleosafari Moab Giants, where you can journey back through time with a 3D cinema introducing you to the prehistoric world of dinosaurs. You can also make your own tracks on a half mile hiking trail populated with state-of the art life-size dinosaurs! The Tracks Museum features interactive learning touch screens, games to play, and visually stunning exhibits that not only fascinate, but educate.

After learning about the dinosaur species that once walked these lands, continue north of Moab to one or more of the Moab Dinosaur Sites described on this page. A variety of hiking trails will take you to some of the best preserved dinosaur tracks and bones in the country.

Did You Know?

First Utah Dinosaur Discovery
The first dinosaur discovery in Utah happened in 1859 (coincidentally, this was fifty years to the day prior to the discovery of the first bones found at the site later known as Dinosaur National Monument).

Moab Dinosaur Discoveries
Many dinosaurs have been found around Moab, including a small carnivorous dinosaur from the Triassic, a large Camarasaurus from the Jurassic, a gigantic Brontosaurus also from the Jurassic, and Cretaceous dinosaurs such as Utahraptor and Gastonia.

Museum of Moab

The Museum of Moab features a full cast skeleton of Gastonia, one of the armored dinosaurs that lived in this area during the Early Cretaceous. Also, as of 2014-5, crews from the Museum of Moab and the Natural History Museum of Utah have been working at the site of a Dystrophaeus viaemalae, the geologically oldest sauropod dinosaur in North America.
Read more...

Moab Giants Museum & Dinosaur Park
The Moab Giants features a half-mile-long trail with more than 130, state-of-the-art, full size reconstructions of dinosaurs and the tracks they made in the area.
Read more...

Preservation

Localities like these are rare and need to be preserved for generations to come. Please be cautious and considerate when observing these dinosaur bones and tracks. Do not walk on the actual fossils. Collecting vertebrate fossils from Public Lands is illegal and violators will be prosecuted. Any disturbing, casting, rubbing or pouring anything into the fossils, including tracks, is expressly forbidden under federal regulations [43 CFR 8365.1-59a0 910].

Help the BLM preserve these paleontological resources for future generations by treating them with respect and reporting looting or vandalism to a Bureau of Land Management ranger or other local authority.

Contacts:

BLM Utah - Moab Field Office
82 East Dogwood
Moab; UT 84532
(435) 259-2100

US Forest Service - Moab Office
755 N Main St
Moab, UT 84532
(435) 259-7155

Essential Equipment Checklist

Drinking water
This is a high desert environment. During the hot months bring one gallon per person, per day.

Food
Eating at intervals provides an opportunity to rest and also provides the energy needed to complete the trail.

Good Footwear
Lightweight hikers or running shoes with rubbery soles are adequate for most hikes.

Sun Protection
Sun hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses

Day pack

Route map or trail guide

First-aid kit

Insect repellent

Cool season hikes:

  • Long pants
  • Sweater or coat
  • Gloves
  • Hat

Utah Friends of Paleontology

Utah Friends of Paleontology is a statewide non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to preserving Utah's fossil resources through public education and volunteer support of sponsoring institutions.

Moab Dinosaur Coloring Book

Click here to download a free copy of our Dinosaur Coloring Book featuring several of the dinosaurs that once roamed the Moab area.

Additional Information

For additional information on Canyon Country Paleontology, and many of the the hikes presented on this page, click here.

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