Paleontology

Long before fishermen, cowboys and even bison walked across Wyoming, the state was the stomping ground of countless dinosaurs. With an official state dinosaur — the triceratops — as well as a state fossil, Wyoming is thought to have one of the richest fossil records in the nation. Become awestruck by gargantuan dinosaur bones, mammal fossils and fossil footprints. Study fossils of extinct marine animals and learn about the time when a vast ocean covered Wyoming. Watch paleontologists unearth and examine delicate dinosaur bones — or even dig one up yourself.

Begin your tour of Wyoming’s prehistoric past in
Thermopolis with a trip to the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. See 20 phenomenal full-size skeletons, learn from 200 interpretive exhibits and watch lab technicians prepare recently discovered fossils. The center operates several active dig sites in the scenic hills nearby, where children and adults can play paleontologist for a day by helping dig for bones. You can also get your hands dirty in the Glenrock Paleontological Museum laboratory.

You’ll find several other prehistoric relics as you wander around Wyoming. Visit the Green River Formation at
Fossil Butte National Monument to see a massive collection of fossilized fish as well as fossils of a 13-foot crocodile and the world’s oldest-known bat.  Walk the Cotton Creek Dinosaur Trail in Alcova to view fossils in their natural settings. Compare your shoes to the footprints of Jurassic-era giants outside Shell at the Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite. Or, if you really want to be among the ancients, visit Medicine Bow’s Fossil Cabin Museum, an unusual structure made out of more than 5,000 dinosaur bones.