|Dinosaur State Park
|Connecticut State Park|
The park's geodesic dome
|Elevation||187 ft (57 m) |
|Area||80 acres (32 ha) |
|Management||Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection|
|Website: Dinosaur State Park|
Dinosaur State Park and Arboretum is a state-owned natural history preserve occupying 80 acres (32 ha) in the town of Rocky Hill, Connecticut. The state park protects one of the largest dinosaur track sites in North America. Its Jurassic-era sandstone-embedded fossil tracks date from about 200 million years ago. The facility is managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The Rocky Hill dinosaur tracks were uncovered in 1966, adding to the extensive legacy of fossil discoveries made in the Connecticut Valley since the 19th century. A bulldozer operator noticed the tracks while excavating the site for a new state office building. The site opened as Dinosaur State Park in 1968, the same year its 7-acre (2.8 ha) dinosaur trackway was memorialized as a Registered National Landmark.
The park's 55,000-square-foot (5,100 m2) geodesic dome (see picture at right) encloses some 500 tracks while another 1,500 remain buried for preservation. The tracks are from the early Jurassic period and were made over 200 million years ago on what must have been a sandy shore of a lake, by a carnivorous dinosaur similar to Dilophosaurus. The tracks bear the name Eubrontes, the term for fossilized footprints invented by geologist Edward Hitchcock. The tracks range from 10 to 16 inches (410 mm) in length and are spaced 3.5 to 4.5 feet (1.4 m) apart.
In addition to the tracks, the dome houses life-sized dioramas of plants and creatures, including Dilophosaurus, that depict the Triassic and Jurassic periods; interactive displays; a reconstruction of a geologic foundation; and an exhibit depicting highlights of the unearthing of the tracks in 1966. A discovery room houses lizards, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and dinosaur-related arts and crafts. Rock slabs with other Connecticut Valley fossil tracks, including large four-toed Otozoum tracks with visible skin impressions, can also be seen.
The arboretum's 2 miles (3.2 km) of trails pass through some 250 species and cultivars of conifers, plus collections of arborvitae, chamaecyparis, ginkgo, juniper, katsura, pine, sequoia, and magnolia. Rarer species in the collection include the evergreen southern magnolia and monkey puzzle. The addition of woody plants from Cretaceous angiosperm families has been part of the arboretum's attempt to grow as many representatives of Mesozoic-era plant families as the site's New England climate will allow.
The park offers educational films, guided trail walks, and lectures. Warm-month activities include footprint track casting and mining for gems and fossils. In August, Dinosaur State Park Day offers games, arts and crafts activities, and live music. There is a stone path that leads to the domed museum with a timeline showing the evolution of earth from its creation to today. From May-October visitors can see an outdoor exhibit teaching how paleontologists ply their trade. There are 60 miles of hiking trails in the park.