For dinosaur enthusiasts, Western Colorado is the perfect place to visit. If you want to see dinosaur digs up close — or even participate in them yourself — this region has everything you need.
One reason that Western Colorado is such a paradise for dino enthusiasts is that it’s located in the “Dinosaur Diamond” — home to some of the most significant dinosaur fossil discoveries in the world.
This region has known fascinating life forms for a long time, with the first evidence of ancient life here dating back to about 500 million years ago. In fact, it’s such a dinosaur-rich region that Colorado even has its own state fossil, the Stegosaurus.
Luckily, opportunities abound to experience these fossils up close and personal. Let’s explore what dinosaur dig sites are in Western Colorado and what kind of activities you can take part in here.
Dinosaur Dig Sites near Grand Junction
Colorado is home to a rich array of dig sites, many of which are accessible to the public and some of which are still in use. Here are some of the best dinosaur experiences:
Yes, you read that right — there really is a town called Dinosaur, CO, and it’s appropriately named. It’s located only about two miles from the Dinosaur National Monument, a natural landmark where more than 1,500 fossils can be seen in the cliff face.
Visitors can wander around the Quarry Exhibit Hall and marvel at these almost unfathomably ancient relics of a time long gone.
The Morrison Formation
The Morrison Formation is a rock formation dating back to the Late Jurassic period, which ended around 145 million years ago. This formation spans the western U.S., and part of it is located inside the aforementioned Dinosaur National Monument.
Here, amateur archeologists can find fossils from a huge range of different dinosaur species, including (but certainly not limited to) Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Allosaurus.
Florissant Fossil Beds
The Florissant Fossil Beds are some of the most diverse fossil sites in the world. Here you can find enormous petrified stumps of redwood trees as well as minuscule fossils of insects, fish, and more.
One interesting aspect of this site is that it’s still in operation. There’s a full-time paleontologist on staff and excavations still take place from time to time. Knowing that there are still undiscovered wonders here makes the visit even more special.
Garden Park Fossil Area
Six miles north of Canon City, Colorado, you can find the Garden Park Fossil Area. This site is rich in fossilized material and home to many dinosaur quarries, some of which are over 100 years old.
The first dino dig here took place in 1877, and since then a range of discoveries have been made. These include the first complete skeleton of an Allosaurus, some of the most complete Stegosaurus skeletons, and the first known remains of many dinosaurs like Camarasaurus, Ceratosaurus, and Diplodocus.
Fossils Found In Grand Junction
The Grand Junction area is home to an amazingly rich array of fossils. If you’re lucky, you could join the list of people who have uncovered significant remains in this part of the world.
Past discoveries made in Grand Junction include:
- Dinosaur bones found in Morrison Formation clays, 700 meters above Big Dominguez Canyon on Star Mesa
- Dinosaur bones found along the Colorado River, close to the Utah border
- Bones from the Squamata-Glyptosaurinae (an extinct subfamily of large lizards from the Jurassic period)
- 7 dinosaur tracks, on display in the Museums of Western Colorado
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg — you could even contribute to the list of future discoveries.
Where to Dig for Fossils in Colorado
Digging for fossils can be a fun and exciting activity for the whole family, and there’s even a chance you might make an important discovery. There are many opportunities to do this in Colorado — let’s look at a few of them.
Dino Digs is hosted by the Museum of Western Colorado’s Paleontology Division. This activity takes place in Fruita, Colorado, just 12 miles from Grand Junction. This is a great opportunity to get involved in real paleontology field work alongside professionals.
They’ll provide you with training and tools so you can get started with your own dig. There’s exciting potential here — fossils of both the giant Apatosaurus and the flesh-eating Allosaurus are common in the quarry.
There are three main dig options available:
- Half-Day Dig
- A half-day dig is perfect for beginners of all ages, making it a great family activity. It runs from morning until midday and is the perfect option for young kids with a passion for dinosaurs.
- One Day Dig
- The one-day dig offers a full-day experience, allowing participants to get their hands dirty searching for bones. This is a better option for fossil aficionados who want to learn more in a hands-on way.
- Advanced Experiences
- For true dinosaur fanatics, Dino Digs offers custom experiences with a range of options. You can decide what suits you best based on your skill level and location. This is the perfect option if you’re looking for a challenge and have a serious interest in the world of dinosaurs.
Dinosaur Ridge is located in Morrison, Colorado, and offers two digging areas for kids. It’s not quite the real thing, but it’s a fun and engaging way for kids to learn the basics of digging for fossils. And, they get to keep one of the fossils they find!
Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience
The Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience in Canon City, Colorado, allows kids to take part in a simulated dig at a replica site. Children can sift through the gravel and uncover the replicated remains of a T-Rex to brush up on their paleontology skills.
Explore Colorado’s Dinosaur Fossils in Grand Junction
Western Colorado and Grand Junction, in particular, are some of the best destinations in the world for dinosaur lovers. The Dinosaur Diamond is home to some of the most significant paleontological discoveries in history and is packed with activities for the whole family to experience the excitement of a dinosaur dig first-hand.
Learn more about dinosaur-related activities available in the area.
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