Geology of the New York City Region

46. Dinosaur State Park

The impressive dinosaur trackways preserved on great sandstone slabs at Dinosaur State Park at Rocky Hill, Connecticut are the highlight of this Registered National Landmark. The trackways were uncovered during excavations for the construction of a building at the site. Wisely, they realized the scientific value of their discovery, and abandoned the construction in order to preserved the trackways. Although trackways are known from throughout the Connecticut River Basin, these were spectacular. One of the massive slabs is the show piece for a museum built over it (Figure 107). Other impressive slabs nearby were partially prepared and re-buried for a time in the future when funding might become available to build additional protective structures.

Fossil dinosaur footprints,  Dinosaur State Park, New Jersey
Figure 107. Dinosaur footprints on a massive sandstone slab preserved in the museum at Dinosaur State Park, Connecticut.

Dinosaur State Park is in Rocky Hill on West Street at Exit 23 on I-91. The Interpretive Center museum built to secure and protect the trackways is open on Tuesday through Sunday from 8-4:30, and charges a very nominal fee. (Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years; but call first!.) The museum contains numerous exceptional fossils and related displays, and offers a variety of interpretive programs. The grounds of the park has hiking trails and a picnic area. Although it is unlawful to dig for tracks, it is possible to get permission to make plaster casts of certain dinosaur footprints. (Bring about 10 pounds of plaster, a small jar of cooking oil, a large disposable cooking tray, a bucket, and towels to clean up when finished!).

Early settlers in the region frequently found tracks in the sandstone red beds along the Connecticut River and its tributaries. Initially they thought they were tracks left by an extinct race of giant chickens (and in a way, they were right!). Through time, understanding of the nature of dinosaurs has evolved. Although there are a variety of different dinosaurs tracks found at Rocky Hill, no bones have been found here. The dominant type of track, called Eubrontes, is of moderately large, but unknown carnivorous therapod, similar to Dilophosaurs, a dinosaur known from the Early Jurassic of Arizona and China. The slab in the museum has about 500 tracks preserved on a massive sandstone slab that, during the Jurassic, was mudflats adjacent to, or at the bottom of a shallow lake bed.

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Last modified: 3/11/2019