Walk Dinosaur Ridge for an eye-opening experience

Avenue Flashes

Column by John Akal
Posted 3/30/22

Last night I stopped by a take-out restaurant to grab a bite to eat, and while I was waiting there I had a couple in their early 20s standing close to me.

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Walk Dinosaur Ridge for an eye-opening experience

Avenue Flashes

Posted

Last night I stopped by a take-out restaurant to grab a bite to eat, and while I was waiting there I had a couple in their early 20s standing close to me. The young lady remarked to her boyfriend that she didn’t want to stand next to the rest of the group that she came in with, probably her parents and their friends. What she actually said was, “I don’t want to wait over there with all those old people.” I looked over at them and they were all about 15 years younger than I am. Old people? Holy cow! What does that make me?

Then to cap it off, another group of people in their 30s came in and one of them started telling the cashier how she remembered their old location, which was actually just on the other side of the current parking lot, and hadn’t been there for years and seen their new building. She was going on about it like it was ancient history, but they only made the move in 2016. I remember stopping there for ice cream with my parents when it opened in 1967. Now I’m really feeling old, like some kind of dinosaur. 

Ok, well nothing makes you feel younger than checking out stuff about the real dinosaurs that lived around here millions of years ago. All of a sudden being over sixty sounds like you’re just an infant.

That’s right, Golden is real dinosaur country. Once upon a time those mountains were flat, the vegetation looked like a jungle, the whole place was full of water and creatures almost as big as your house roamed around where your front porch currently sits. Kind of weird to think about, huh? They have dug up some interesting things around here and discovered quite a bit of evidence that’s still embedded in the rocks in the area.

One place where a lot of that evidence popped up is Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison. This is where they found loads of dinosaur footprints and fossils. It’s now a National Natural Landmark with a really nice visitor’s educational center and that was uncovered during the construction of West Alameda Parkway in 1937. They cut through the Dakota Hogback when someone noticed something and said “What the heck are these things?” OK, I’m just imagining they said that. What would you have said?

It’s a paved trail with more than 15 different fossil and geologic sites, each marked with interpretive signage. It contains over 300 dinosaur and ancient crocodile tracks as well as being where the very first Stegosaurus fossil was discovered. It’s ranked by noted paleontologists as the #1 dinosaur track site in America. OK, thinking about giant ancient crocodiles makes encountering a mountain lion seem safe.

Now, you can just go check this out by yourself, it takes about two hours to really walk the trail and see everything. It’s only open to pedestrians and bicycles now, the original road is closed to motor traffic. But, I’m going to tell you that’s not the best way to get the most out of a visit there because this place’s history is a lot more complex than you might imagine.

If you really want to get the full eye opening experience you should go there when they have one of their guided tours. These are conducted by noted geologists from around the area that are also familiar with all of the flora and fauna of the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods. They know how to interpret and explain everything on the trail as well as when and how it all got there. This goes way beyond just reading the signs. I went on one of these several years ago and was totally blown away by all the information they had. Forget the movies, we are living in the real Jurassic Park right here.

Now that Spring is here and the weather is warming up you might want to plan on checking out one of these tours. They happen at 9:30 a.m. on Saturdays once or twice a month with the next ones being on April 2 and 16. The cost is $15 and this is designed for people over 16 years old. You can find out more information as well as register for a tour at their website, www.dinoridge.org. It’s not the Fountain of Youth, but it sure puts things in a different perspective, doesn’t it? Ah, I feel young again!

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