Although dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago, they remain alive in people's imaginations — particularly children's.
And Utah has plenty of venues that showcase the bones and other evidence of dinosaurs' existence.
“Utah is such a popular place for dinosaurs because we have so many sites from all of the various ages and we’re discovering new stuff all of the time, and that’s exciting,” said Rick Hunter, a staff paleontologist at the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi.
The dinosaur venues in Utah vary in size, but all are geared toward families, particularly younger children, and they help visitors appreciate the incredible size and unique features of these prehistoric creatures.
Following is a list of places where people can see dinosaurs in Utah. Note: This list is not all-inclusive.
Walking outside in the George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park isn’t like going through a museum where dinosaur skeletons are the main exhibit. Visitors to this park can walk the grounds and see life-size replicas of dinosaurs as they may have looked when they roamed the earth millions of years ago.
Dinosaur Park features a "collection of creatures from prehistoric crawlers, to predators, to marine animals and even flying reptiles," according to the Dinosaur Park website. "More than 100 dinosaur sculptures fill the park. These realistic, full-sized sculptures are based on actual fossil skeletons and are brought to life by robotics, artistic details and a state-of-the-art sound system."
The sculptures include dinosaurs that were once indigenous to Utah, including Triceratops, Utahraptor, Parasaurolophus and Ceratosaurus. In addition to the dinosaur sculptures, Dinosaur Park also has an education center, a museum and facilities for special events, such as birthday parties. The park also offers Dino Day Camps and Adventures in Art.
The George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park is located in Ogden and is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., through Sept. 1, after which it closes at 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and does not open on Sundays. Admission is $7 for adults (18-61), $6 for seniors (62 and older) and students (13-17) and $5 for children (2-12). Infants (1 and under) are free.
Featured in the May issue of “National Geographic,” the Natural History Museum of Utah is unique because of the many newly discovered dinosaur species that are stored there.
“We have a super-active research program that’s going out and finding these new fossils,” said Randall Irmis, curator of paleontology at the museum. “We are tasked with taking care of those (fossils) for the long term and then putting (them) on display so people can come and see how awesome the dinosaurs are.”
The newest dinosaur on display, Lythronax argestes, was discovered in Utah and is an older relative of Tyrannosaurus rex. The museum has the only complete skeleton of Lythronax argestes in the world.
The Natural History Museum of Utah focuses on Utah’s ancient past and is built on the shoreline of the ancient Lake Bonneville.
“We’re the state natural history museum, so we really want to focus on what’s special about the state of Utah, whether that is dinosaurs or the Great Salt Lake or other cool things about the biology, geology, paleontology and anthropology of the state," Irmis said. "We’re a public institution, so we want to be the starting point for people to check out the state, and then hopefully they’re encouraged to go out and explore Utah once they come here and they want to actually go out and see some of these places."
The Natural History Museum of Utah is located on the University of Utah campus and is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Wednesdays, when it closes at 9 p.m. Admission is $11 for adults (25 and older), $9 for seniors and youths (13-24), $8 for children (3-12) and free for children 2 and under. University of Utah students and faculty are also free with valid I.D.
The Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point has one of the largest collections of mounted dinosaur skeletons in the world. These dinosaurs include Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, two long-necked dinosaurs that take up almost an entire room, and many more.
The museum has taken a hands-on approach, allowing adults and children to learn while also having fun.
“(The erosion table) is the most popular thing in the entire museum (because) you get to play in sand and water," Hunter said. "Everybody loves that. It doesn’t matter how old you are. You’ll see just as many dads in there as you do kids. And it’s play, but it’s learning at the same time. It’s learning the principles of erosion and (how) dinosaurs get buried or get exposed. That’s how we find fossils."
The museum takes people on a trip back through time, with every step they take representing millions of years of the earth’s past. Among the many different exhibits, guests will see ancient fish and other sea creatures that lived before the dinosaurs, move on to the age of the dinosaurs and pass underneath the skeleton of a Brachiosaurus, then walk next to two T. rexes fighting over a kill. As they continue, guests will come face-to-face with the jaws of a Megalodon, a 70-foot shark that swam in the seas 15 million years ago, before encountering a scene of early humans hunting a woolly mammoth.
The Museum of Ancient Life is located in Lehi and is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and children (3-12). Children under 2 are free.
The BYU Museum of Paleontology, located just west of LaVell Edwards Stadium, has an extensive collection of late Jurassic and early Cretaceous period dinosaur bones, including a 150 million-year-old Allosaurus egg. The museum also contains skeletons of Allosaurus, Camptosaurus and other dinosaurs as well as a 9-foot-long Triceratops skull.
Another exhibit pays tribute to James Jensen, a world-renowned paleontologist who died in 1998 and discovered many of the dinosaur bones now located in the museum.
“(Jensen) pretty much started this program from the ground up,” said Rodney Scheetz, curator of the museum. “He gave Utah and BYU a lot of press because of the things he was discovering. Essentially he was one of the biggest dinosaur collectors during the ’70s and ’80s, (and) even today we’re still prepping out stuff that he collected.”
The museum is small and mainly used for education and research, but children and adults will likely enjoy seeing the skeletons as well as the paleontological lab, a skull of a Tyrannosaurus rex, claws of a Utahraptor and many more exhibits
The BYU Museum of Paleontology is located in Provo and is open Monday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free but donations are appreciated.
The Utah Field House of Natural History is located in the heart of Vernal. Among its many highlights is the Dinosaur Garden, which contains full-size replicas of Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, Stegosaurus and 14 other prehistoric animals.
The museum is also a federally recognized facility where many paleontological specimens are stored.
“We specialize in fossils and rocks from northeastern Utah, generally within 100 miles of Vernal, (which) makes us unique in that we do not try to cover the entire state of Utah,” said Steve Sroka, park manager at the Field House.
The Field House is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed Sundays between October and March. Admission is $6 for adults (12 and over) and $3 for seniors (62 and over) and children (6-11). Children under 6 are free.
In 1909, Earl Douglas was walking around Eastern Utah looking for fossils. And he found them. Hundreds of them. For years, he sent dinosaur bones back to the Eastern United States, where museums put them on display. When museums no longer requested dinosaur bones, Douglas had an interesting thought.
“Earl Douglas had this idea that seeing bones in place was something that was really interesting and scientifically valuable and this incredible sight that he wanted to share with people," said Sonya Popelka, a park ranger at Dinosaur National Monument. "That idea of excavating just enough of the rock to expose the bones was a better museum exhibit than anyone else could come up with."
Because of Douglas’ vision, visitors to the Quarry Exhibit Hall today can see dinosaur bones in the exact spot where they were fossilized millions of years ago. And while Dinosaur National Monument is actually 211,000 acres of land with many different outdoor activities, there is one major reason why people go.
“The main draw to Dinosaur National Monument and the exhibits that we have are the bones themselves,” Popelka said. “There’s a section of the wall that is open (for people) to touch the bones. So you can put your hand on a 149 million-year-old femur that used to support a huge sauropod.”
In addition, Dinosaur National Monument has many activities and exhibits for family members of all ages.
The Dinosaur National Monument Carnegie Exhibit Hall and visitors center is located a few miles north of Jensen, Utah. To get to the Exhibit Hall, guests must first stop at the visitors center, where they can take a shuttle the rest of the way. The Exhibit Hall’s summer hours (until Sept. 7) are every day from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., after which the hours remain the same but the shuttles only operate on Saturdays and Sundays. There is a $10 fee per vehicle to enter the road that takes guests to the visitors center.
The area around Price, Utah, is well known for its abundance of ancient relics. These relics include dinosaur and other prehistoric animal bones and Native American artifacts. The USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum showcases both.
“Our museum contains archaeology and paleontology where most museums specialize in one or the other,” said Christine Trease, director of public relations at the USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum. “Nearly all of the things you see in our museum were found in a relatively close proximity to the museum.”
The facility is using technology to give visitors a more in-depth experience. QR codes throughout the museum link to newsletters, brochures and other online outlets and allow visitors to learn more about the exhibits.
Among those exhibits are a Utahraptor displayed in the front lobby, a Columbian mammoth and the Pilling Figurines, which “have been hailed as some of the most pristine and ornate Fremont figurines in existence,” Trease said.
The USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum is located in Price and is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults (13 and older), $5 for seniors (65 and older) and $3 for children (2-12). Children under 2 are free. In addition, a family pass can be purchased for $17.
The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry contains over 12,000 bones from at least 75 different dinosaurs, according to its website. The Quarry itself is also a great mystery to paleontologists because it is still unknown how so many dinosaurs came to rest in that one spot.
“Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry contains the densest concentration of Jurassic-aged dinosaur bones ever found (and) has helped paleontologists learn a great deal about the Jurassic period,” according to the quarry’s website.
The quarry contains two buildings, one of which is open to visitors, along with hiking trails.
The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry is located about 32 miles south of Price and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. After Labor Day, the quarry is only open Thursday through Saturday. The quarry closes in October for the winter. Admission is $5 for adults (16 and older). Children under 16 are free.
The Dinosaur Museum in Blanding contains dinosaur skeletons, eggs and footprints. The museum also has state-of-the-art graphics and sculptures, according to the museum’s website.
“In the museum you will see exhibits that show dinosaurs from the different countries and how they were distributed throughout the globe. You will also view the latest in dinosaur skin research, which shows startling new aspects to some familiar dinosaurs,” according to the museum’s website.
The museum also has two special exhibits. “Feathered Dinosaurs” contains re-creations of Deinonychus, a raptor that hunted in packs and is believed to have had feathers, and a 14-foot Therizinosaurus with a 20-foot wingspan. The second exhibit showcases dinosaurs in the movies and features original posters and memorabilia from dinosaur movies that have been made throughout the years.
The Dinosaur Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Oct. 15. Admission is $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for seniors and $2 for children.
The Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm museum was built right over a dinosaur track site that paleontologists are still working on.
“We have the richest and best-preserved collection of Early Jurassic tracks in western North America," said Rusty Salmon, director of the site. "These include skin impression, sitting meat-eating dinosaur trace and the world's largest collection of dinosaur swim tracks."
In addition to the tracks, the site also has plant and fish fossils as well as rare dinosaur bones. The museum also has a special display — currently “Lord of the Wings: The Pterosaurs” — that highlights unique aspects of paleontology.
“All of our exhibits (are) for all members of families," Salmon said. "Adjacent to the museum is an area being developed as a Dino Park where hands-on activities include a track box, a dinosaur track-making area, a sand pile with buried tracks to be discovered, as well as a dig box with dinosaur replica bones to uncover. Real fossil bone segments are scattered throughout the park for close inspection."Comment on this story
The Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm is located in St. George and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., including all summer holidays. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children (4-11). Children under 4 are free. There is also a special discount for groups larger than 10.
Ben Tullis is a Deseret News intern and a freelance writer and copy editor. He graduated from Utah Valley University in April 2014 with a bachelor's degree in English. He lives in Pleasant Grove with his wife and 2-year-old son.