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What Is Dinosaur State Park?

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  • Written By: Jack Magnus
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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Dinosaur State Park is a state park in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, several miles south of Hartford. It is notable for its large and unusual display of dinosaur tracks — dating from the Jurassic era — that were found in a slab of gray sandstone during the construction of a new state building in 1966. The tracks are preserved and on display in a geodesic dome.

This set of fossil tracks has been identified as Eubrontes, named by geologist Edward Hitchcock, who first studied the fossil trackways of the Connecticut Valley. They were made by a species of carnivorous dinosaur similar to Dilophosaurus. Fossil tracks are given names separate from the identity of the dinosaurs that made them. Eubrontes is the official fossil of Connecticut.

The dome at Dinosaur State Park covers part of the sandstone trackway, which is estimated to be approximately 200 million years old. There are approximately 2,000 tracks on this trackway: 500 tracks are on display in the dome and another 1,500 have been reburied to preserve them. The tracks are from 10 to 16 inches (25.4 to 40.6 cm) long and are from 3.5 to 4.5 feet (106.7 to 137.2 cm) apart. One of the activities available at certain times of the year is track casting, during which visitors are allowed to make plaster imprints of designated fossil tracks.

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The park also has an extensive network of trails and an arboretum containing many trees and plants whose families were in existence during the time of the dinosaurs. This collection at Dinosaur State Park includes approximately 200 types of conifers, as well as ginkgos, ferns and other representative species. There are maps available that show the locations of the various plantings.

Other activities in the park include an extensive collection of films that are shown on weekends in the auditorium. Gem and mineral sluicing is available during the summer season, with guides available to instruct visitors in the processing and identification of any finds. There also are guided trail walks and instructional programs for school groups. The bookstore offers a selection of dinosaur and fossil-related books, mementos and gifts. Any proceeds support The Friends of Dinosaur Park and Arboretum, a group active in promoting and supporting the park.

Dinosaur State Park is open year-round, with the exception of holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2011, there was no fee charged to visit the grounds and the park bookstore, but entrance to the domed trackway display was subject to a fee for adults and children over the age of 5 years. Before traveling to the park, it is recommended that current hours and fees be confirmed by contacting the park or Connecticut's parks department.

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