Monday, April 30, 2012

Dinosaur Footprints, MA

Welcome to Dinosaur Footprints
190 million years ago, dinosaurs roamed our backyards. Despite their apparent commonness in this region of the world, I had never seen any evidence of dinosaurs outside of reconstructed skeletons and fossilized eggs kept safe beneath the arching hallways of various museums. When I read that a little site (aptly) called "Dinosaur Footprints" contained hundreds of fossilized dino footprints and resided just off Rt. 5, I figured it would be a fun little stop on our way back from hiking Mt. Tom (see previous post), since we would be driving past it anyway.

Touching the past
A little pull-off on the side of the road accommodated a few cars, and a sign welcomed us to the site and warned of the 10 ft elevation change which we figured we could handle. A short pathway sloped down to the riverbank next to the sedate Connecticut River, and we quickly came upon the large flat slabs of sandstone that contained the footprints. They were discovered in the 1920s during the construction of Rt 5, which was probably a nice surprise and a good distraction from highway-building for the workmen.

We quickly found the largest 3-toed impressions, which were created by two-legged carnivorous dinosaurs called Eubrontes giganteus, which could reach 15 feet in height and had a 6-foot stride, and were also possible ancestors of Tyrannosaurus rex! We had fun comparing our respective hand and foot spans to the impressions, but unfortunately did not do too well at identifying any of the other purported fish, plants and stromatolites that were supposedly also present in fossilized form. 

I believe that these were some of the earliest dinosaur footprints ever to be discovered, and were also responsible for birthing the theory that dinosaurs were not all solitary but often traveled in groups, as 28 distinct trackways were identified by Professor John Ostom of Yale in the 1970s.

It was a pleasant little stop and nice to see dinosaur evidence in its natural habitat. It was fairly quiet - we did see just one other dad-and-son combo checking out the footprints, and it was nice to (over)hear from the exclamations that kids today are as excited about dinosaurs as always!

This site does not allow plaster casts of the footprints, but I hear there is another park in CT that does, so we may unearth our inner kids someday to cast some tracks and paint them!

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