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Beacon Senior News

Where the dinosaurs roamed

Jun 06, 2019 12:49PM ● By Diana Barnett

Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? I sure do, and so do my grandkids. Since my grandson Liam lives and breathes dinosaurs, we decided to take a day trip to Moab to learn about our area’s early reptiles.

On the drive over, I had a flashback to our first trip to Vernal, Utah, with our kids more than 30 years ago. I remembered their excitement as they walked through the wooded museum trail, looking up at the towering dinosaur statues and a wooly mammoth on the path. The T-Rex was by far their favorite. In every family photo in the months that followed, two kids posed with their fingers shaped like dinosaur claws.

EXPLORE THE DINOSAUR DIAMOND

Moab, Utah, is located smack dab in the middle of the Dinosaur Diamond—Vernal to the north, Fruita to the east, Price to the west, and Blanding to the south. Moab has several trails for hiking and viewing dinosaur tracks. Two of my favorites are the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail, a 1.8-mile hike that’s great for hikers of all skill levels, and Potash Petroglyphs trail, where you can also view petroglyphs from your car.

Museum of Moab also features an extensive rock and mineral display with massive dinosaur bones.

Liam’s favorite attraction was Moab Giants, a dinosaur museum unlike any other, just a few miles north of Moab. This prehistoric compound also features life-sized dinosaurs, which look quite comfortable in the land they once called home.

A TRIP THROUGH TIME

The half-mile trail at Moab Giants’ Dinosaur Park is mostly level, which makes for an easy walk whether you’re 6 or 60. Plaques at each display inform visitors about the creatures’ habits, footprint, time period and other interesting facts. Many dinosaurs are portrayed in families or hunting groups with Arches National Park and the La Sal Mountains in the backdrop.

“Look, it’s a Utahraptor!” Liam announced, as we rounded the trail. “You can tell by its head, its tail and its sharp claws!”

I didn’t remember that one from the first time around. Evidently, this recently recovered raptor is a larger version of his cousin, Velociraptor, made famous by “Jurassic Park.”

The trail winds past smaller creatures like the silesaurus, oviraptors and pterosaurs, and then opens up to creatures like the diplodocus, which can measure up to 80 feet from nose to tail tip.

We could hardly wait to get up close and personal with the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Once we reached the end, there he was—all 44 feet of him. We looked like munchkins posing by his 30-plus inch feet.

BRINGING THE PAST TO LIFE

Of course, not all ancient creatures walked on land. Our next stop was the 5D Paleo Aquarium, which provided a walking tour for observing creatures ranging from sea turtles to Megalodons, prehistoric sharks thought to measure up to three times as long as a Great White.

The park’s interactive Tracks Museum uses cutting-edge technology to bring the past to life with touch-screen terminals and educational games that facilitate learning. We peeked into labs where scientists are conducting a range of research projects. Visitors can also create their own fossilized tracks to better understand how they were originally made and preserved in stone.

The park also includes a playground, gift shop and café; a 3D theater, which introduces early history of the universe; excavation sites; and a paleo camp, where visitors can step into the life of a paleontologist, seeing how they camp and what they use.

So what are you waiting for? This two-hour trek from Grand Junction, and three-hour trip from Montrose makes it easy to make your own tracks with your grandkids alongside life-sized dinosaurs. What a great way to enjoy a common interest with grandchildren and share quality time together!

MOAB DINO JOURNEY HIGHLIGHTS

Moab Giants Dinosaur Park 112 West SR-313, Moab, UT 435-355-0288 www.moabgiants.com

Museum of Moab (closed for remodel; re-opening in Fall 2019) 118 E. Center St., Moab, UT 435-259-7985 www.moabmuseum.org

Potash Petroglyphs & Dinosaur Tracks www.climb-utah.com/Moab/potash.htm

Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail www.alltrails.com/trail/us/utah/mill-canyon-dinosaur-trail