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Diggin' For Dinosaurs - Join The Dig

Updated on March 30, 2010

The Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana, sponsors a two-day introductory course for groups of no more than eight children and adults. It includes excavation on active sites, preparation, and prospecting for new fossils of hadrosaurs and tyrannosaurs. Instructors can discuss the egg-laying habits of dinosaurs while juggling rock hammers. Eight-hour days start with a 15-minute lecture, and then participants are off to dig for the morning and prospect after lunch. The museum also offers a five-day introductory family course and an advanced course for alumni of the introductory class.
The Dinamation International Society, in Fruita, Colorado, operates a five-day Family Dino Camp at Mygatt-Moore Quarry that is fun for both parents and kids. Nearly 150 million years old, the quarry has yielded two kinds of dinosaur eggs and more than eight dinosaur species. They include the chunky Mymoorapelta, North America's oldest ankylosaur, and a variety of sauropods.

The Family Dino Camp has a separate-but-equal itinerary that satisfies kids and parents alike. Both age groups dig under shade screens, but while adults excavate real fossils, juniors dig in a neighboring pit for fossil casts to take home. Everyone goes to the lab, but after a brief orientation, kids view a dinosaur film, create dioramas, and sculpt dinosaurs, while parents learn about fossil preparation and other procedures.

Joint activities include picnic lunches and making rubbings of dinosaur tracks and casts of teeth and claws. Field trips go to Split Rock Dinosaur Area, Colorado National Monument, Douglas Pass, and Fruita's Dinosaur Discovery Museum.

The Dinosaur Valley Museum, in Grand Junction, Colorado, sponsors a six-day expedition-style dig at Dalton Wells Quarry, near Moab, Utah. This 1,300-foot-long bone bed sits on a 30-foot-wide mesa 200 feet above the valley floor, with dramatic views of the La Sal Mountains and countless sandstone arches and columnlike hoodoos. Situated at the base of the Cedar Mountain Formation, the quarry samples a rare slice of early Cretaceous life, dominated by sauropods. Also excavated here are three kinds of ornithischians, a large fin-backed iguanodontid, a small armadillo-like nodosaur, several bipedal theropods, and other specimens yet to be named.

After an 8 a.m. breakfast, teams jump into their Jeeps and spiral up a dirt trail to the mesa. Here they spend the day working in silty mudstone with shovels, dental picks, air-driven chipping hammers, and other tools. They stop only briefly to make their own lunches. The workday ends at 5 p.m., but the long summer days allow for after-dinner activities, such as a scenic drive, rockhounding, or hunting for dinosaur footprints and ancient mollusks known as ammonites. Though children are permitted, this is a no-nonsense adventure.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta, offers a thoroughly authentic, adults-only field experience in Dinosaur Provincial Park, home to some 200 bone beds containing more than 30 different species and untold thousands of individual bones. About eight large dinosaurs, including duckbilled, horned, and armored species, dominate the collection. The sickle-footed Trosdon has also been unearthed here, as has one of the world's two complete skeletons of Parasaurolophus.

Continued in: Diggin' For Dinosaurs - Dig We Must

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