May 14, 1995

Are You Into Dinosaurs? Then You’ll Dig This

Larry W. Earl Correspondent
 

Looking for something really down-to-earth for this summer’s vacation? Something you can get your hands on?

Try a Dino Dig. With no previous experience, your family can dig up prehistoric bones at a dinosaur fossil bed. Under the supervision of museum staff, you can learn the how, what, where and why of digging for dinosaur fossils. You come away from a dig knowing that your efforts helped ongoing research.

Seventy-two million years ago, the Inland Northwest landscape was a Jurassic Park. Although dinosaurs became extinct about 63 million years ago, they are still telling their story today at various dig sites in Alberta and Montana.

Here are two locations where you can actively participate in a supervised dig. The prices for Canadian programs have been converted to approximate U.S. dollars.

Jurassic Park, here we come!

Alberta

Dinosaur Provincial Park’s Field Station (403-362-4451) is a two-hour drive southeast of Drumheller, near the town of Brooks. The park is the location of one of the world’s most significant dinosaur fossil beds. More than 70 different species of animals have been found. Visitor facilities include an information center with exhibits, nature trails with dinosaur fossil displays, self-guided Badlands Interpretive Trail, bus tour to a restricted reserve and supervised hike to a bone bed.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology (403-823-7707) in Drumheller is devoted to the study of ancient life. Galleries, displays, murals, computer games, tours and films are used to communicate a story about the changing life-forms that have evolved over millions of years on earth. The dinosaur gallery contains 35 complete dinosaur skeletons, the largest collection of assembled dinosaurs under one roof in the world. Admission for a family is about $10.

Field Experience ‘95 lets visitors work alongside the museum’s palaeontologists. The field work takes place at the Dinosaur Provincial Park. On-site training and tools are provided. Participants must be age 18 and older. The program costs about $450 for one week. Accommodations and meals are included in the price. The popular program is offered from June 5 through September 3. Advance reservations are required.

The Day Digs program takes place in a dinosaur quarry near the museum. You’ll learn how to map a quarry, unearth fossils and identify dinosaur bones. The program runs from May 20 through September 4. The cost for adults (age 16 and over) is about $57; youths (ages 10-15) about $35. Lunch, snack and transportation is provided. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends.

The Dig Watch program is a two-hour guided tour to a site where a real dinosaur excavation is in progress. The tour is offered from May 20 to September 4. Adult tickets are about $7. Youth (ages 7-17) tickets are about $5. Transportation is included. Reserve in advance or on arrival at the museum.

Information

For reservations for the three offered programs: Bookings Officer, Royal Tyrrell Museum, (403) 823-7707.

On accommodations, points of interest and attractions in the Drumheller area: Tourist Information Center, (403) 823-1331 or Big Country Tourist Association, (403) 823-5885.

Montana

The eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains about 90 miles south of Glacier National Park are a repository of dinosaur history. In 1978, paleontologist Jack Horner discovered the remains of dinosaur nesting colonies. It was the first dinosaur egg discovery in the Western Hemisphere.

His important fossil finds included dinosaur eggs, embryos, nests of several species and a massive bone bed. More than 300 specimens from the nests of the duck-billed Maisaura dinosaur have been unearthed.

The public is invited to visit the dinosaur excavation sites either by guided tour or through courses sponsored by the Museum of the Rockies, located in Bozeman. The museum has a cooperative agreement with The Nature Conservancy, which owns and protects the various dig sites and their surrounding areas.

Three programs are available for 1995 to match your background, interests, objectives and time.

A Brief Experience in Paleontology, June 27, 28, 29 and 30. These one-day sessions include instruction in fossil identification, exploring for fossils, a tour of paleontological sites and lunch. Adult (age 15+) price is $95. Children (10-15) are $75.

Introductory Field Paleontology, July 1-7, July 8-14, and July 29-Aug. 4. These week-long programs give experience in small tool and hard rock excavation, prospecting for dinosaur fossils and gathering geologic data. Adults only, $990.

Advanced Field Paleontology, August 7-17. This two-week program is for those with previous field work experience. Adults only, $1,450.

The Old Trail Museum (406-466-5332) in Choteau also offers public tours of the excavation sites. The museum has a dinosaur exhibit to help visitors understand the significance of Horner’s nest discovery.

Information

For reservations for Museum of the Rockies Paleontology Field Programs: MOR reservation office, (406) 994-6618.

For information on accommodations and other points of interest and attractions in the Choteau area: Choteau Chamber of Commerce, (406) 460-5316 or (800) 823-3866.

For a free visitor’s guide to the north-central region of Montana: Russell Country, (406) 761-5036 or (800) 527-5348.

Recommended reading

“Digging Dinosaurs” by John R. Horner and James Gorman (Harper & Row).


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