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National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior

2014 Mesozoic Partner Highlight


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The famous trackway at Dinosaur State Park contains more than 2,000 tracks, likely made by a theropod dinosaur similar to Dilophosaurus. Dinosaur State Park image.

Dinosaur State Park (Connecticut)

Step into the Early Jurassic

Article by Meg Enkler (Environmental Education Coordinator), Dinosaur State Park).

Connecticut's Dinosaur State Park preserves in place an ancient lakeshore environment from the early Jurassic period. Discovered by accident in 1966, when a bulldozer operator was digging through layers of gray sandstone to excavate a basement for a state building, this site was designated a National Natural Landmark only 2 years later in 1968. Dinosaur State Park is located in central Connecticut one mile east of interstate I-91 in Rocky Hill.

Today the park sits on 60 acres and features a variety of activities for visitors of all ages. There are 2.5 miles of nature trails, a unique outdoor track casting area (seasonal), a picnic area, native flower gardens, a mining activity (seasonal) and an Arboretum of Evolution that includes species of plants with origins in the Mesozoic Era. The iconic geodesic dome that serves as the Park's museum was built around a trackway of 600 theropod footprints. The dome also houses an auditorium, a gift shop and a newly renovated Discovery Room. The Discovery Room is filled with specimens that visitors can touch and handle and has a special focus on Connecticut geology with an extensive Connecticut mineral and rock collection and an interactive geologic map as highlights of the room.

More than 2,000 Eubrontes tracks are preserved at Dinosaur State Park. Eubrontes giganteus is the state fossil of Connecticut. Dinosaur State Park photo.

There are over 2,000 three-toed footprints preserved at the park. Almost all are of the species Eubrontes giganteus. The name means "true thunder" and is the Connecticut state fossil. No skeletal remains were found at the park, only footprints. The tracks are between 10-16" long and 10-12" wide. Based on the shape and size of the prints, along with the age of the sandstone that they are preserved in, it is thought that they were made by a dinosaur similar to Arizona's Dilophosaurus. Ten years after the original discovery 1,500 of the prints (those that were not protected by the dome) were reburied to protect them from the elements. Should funding become available for a larger structure, they could be re-excavated and put on display once again.

The Park offers a variety of programs for school groups from grades 1 to the college level. Interpretive programs for the general public are offered on weekends, school vacations and daily (Tuesday–Sunday) during the summer. The Park has a very active Friends group that runs the gift shop and sponsors special programs throughout the year. The largest is Dinosaur State Park Day, held every August to celebrate the discovery of the tracks. It is a festival of discovery that includes music, live animal programs, crafts, games and more. Visitation at the park runs between 45,000 and 50,000 people annually.

The park is open year round Tuesday–Sunday from 9:00 to 4:30 p.m. For more information visit the website at www.ct.gov/deep/dinosaurstatepark.

2014 Mesozoic Ecosystem Partner feature articles:

| January: Fossils of the 2014 National Fossil Day Artwork | February: Petrified Forest National Park | March: Garden Park Paleontology Society | April: Big Bend National Park | May: Fossil Cycad National Monument | June: Alaskan National Parks | July: Dinosaur State Park |

Last updated: June 30, 2014