A couple of days ago, I made a fairly major change to our trip plans, deciding we should leave Yellowstone a day early to make our way to Thermopolis. Initially, I was attracted by the idea of swimming in hot springs, but then I realized Thermopolis has a bigger draw. A much bigger draw.
Wyoming Dinosaur Center's Dig for a Day program allows Matt and I to go on an actual dinosaur dig. And dig. For dinosaurs. It is kind of expensive, but my god, this is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
From the brochure we were sent when we booked:
Dig For Dinosaurs!
Join us for a Real Jurassic Adventure
High in the ancient rolling mountains above the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming, at the northern end of the Wind River Canyon, the bones of dinosaurs have lain buried in layers of rock for millions of years. It was not until 1993 that fossil hunters discovered that the bones weathering out of the mountainsides were actually fossilized dinosaur bones. Since that first discovery, over 40 sites have been found in a thick mudstone layer known as the Morrison Formation, dating from the Jurassic period (208-145 million years ago). This area, now named the Warm Springs Ranch dig sites, is actively worked by The Wyoming Dinosaur Center.
Dig with us!
If you’re looking for a “real-life adventure,” join us on the dig site hunting for dinosaur bones. Our Dig-for-a-Day program appeals to all ages, from young children to active senior citizens. Participants dig in the bone bed, where leg bones, tailbones, ribs and claws have been found. Individuals (ages 18 and over) and families are welcome. A parent or legal guardian must accompany small children and young people under age 18.
You should be in good physical health. The hill can be strenuous. Our climate is dry; the dig sites are about 4,500 feet above sea level; and it is easy to feel the effects of the sun at that altitude. Not to worry though – your are not alone. Our staff will be on-hand to answer questions and to help at all times.
What we have unearthed so far
Wyoming Dinosaur Center workers have removed more than 10,000 bones from the excavation sites. Most fossils are from long-necked sauropods (camarasaur, diplodocus, camptosaur, apatosaur). The ranch dig sites include a ‘bone bed,’ formed by an ancient stream that washed bones together in the channel of the river and then buried them in the silt. Another site, currently being expanded, appears to be a feeding site for the meat-eating Allosaur.
If you find a dinosaur bone…
If you find fossils, they will remain at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. They are your contribution to science. Your name, the bone and location will be recorded in our bone registry for all to see! The information and fossils you gather will be used to help our scientific studies. Of course we cannot guarantee you will find a fossil, but even if you do not, you have helped scientists learn more about the site itself.
What to expect
A brief orientation begins at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center at 8 am on the day of the dig. We will introduce you to local geology and paleontology as well as digging techniques and data collection procedures. Transportation to the site leaves about 8:30 a.m. A sack lunch is provided at the dig site.
If you find a dinosaur fossil, technicians will show you how to preserve it while you are working and how to document your find.
Equipment is checked in about 4:20 p.m. The van leaves the dig sites for the Center at 4:30 p.m. You will be back at the museum before 5 p.m. (However, the van leaves the dig site every hour, so you may leave any time during the day if you wish.)
If you arrive the evening before your dig, stop by the museum. We’ll be glad to visit with you about the dig, and you can tour the museum and see technicians at work on bones from the dig sites.