A Dinosaur Highway Through Morrison, Colorado
We were unable to examine the dig sites due to poor weather but we did unearth a wonderful, little place just south of downtown Morrison. The Morrison Natural History Museum is a tiny facility that houses some tremendous exhibits. Most of the artifacts are displayed out in the open and, remarkably, the staff encourages touching of the fossils and casts. It's very exciting for curious children to explore such an inviting, educational environment. Our son, Lukas, was allowed to handle a friendly bull snake and at the Paleontology Lab he was astonished to be given permission to put on goggles and assist in the preparation of real-life, dinosaur fossils.
Fossils from the Morrison Formation teach us that during the Jurassic, the environment here was so hot and dry that grasses and flowering plants did not exist. Conifers were the dominant flora along with ginko, cycads and tree ferns. It appears that a wide variety of the largest animals to ever walk the earth dominated the area. Long-necked sauropods like the Apatosaurus, Barosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Camarasaurus and Diplodocus gorged themselves on tree leaves. Mysteriously, these homogeneous giants somehow managed to co-exist within the same ecological niche. Experts believe the separate species must have implemented very different feeding strategies in order for them all to be so successful.
Fast-forward 50 million years and Morrison was an ocean beach that supported more familiar creatures like insects, frogs, salamanders, lizards, crayfish, turtles and even crocodiles. Towards the end of the Cretaceous, the seas retreated and the Rocky Mountains began to rise. Iconic dinosaurs like Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus ruled the Colorado landscape, which was covered by broadleaf trees and palms. Their reign was short-lived, though, because the catastrophic K-T asteroid devastated the region, obliterating all the large animals and most of the plants. We're planning to return this summer to further investigate the outdoor excavations and learn more about our foothills' ancient history.
|A tiny museum with tremendous exhibits
|T-Rex was first discovered in Golden, Colorado
|The Stegosaurus holotype resides in Morrison, Colorado
|Iconic Triceratops was first discovered near Denver
|Stegosaurus is the Colorado state dinosaur