Showing posts with label dinosaurs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dinosaurs. Show all posts

June 02, 2019

An Earth-Shattering Kaboom at Trinidad Lake State Park

Right here is when (most of) the dinosaurs died.


Things you learn. Not being a paleontologist or a geologist, I did not know that that the K-Pg boundary — Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary — is visible at a southern Colorado state park. (It used to be the K-T boundary [Creataceous-Tertiary], but the kool kidz have changed the name, and if you don't keep up, you're just so 1990s.)

In a  recent New Yorker article, "The Day the Dinosaurs Died," Doug Preston writes,
Today, the layer of debris, ash, and soot deposited by the asteroid strike is preserved in the Earth’s sediment as a stripe of black about the thickness of a notebook. This is called the KT boundary, because it marks the dividing line between the Cretaceous period and the Tertiary period. (The Tertiary has been redefined as the Paleogene, but the term “KT” persists.) Mysteries abound above and below the KT layer. In the late Cretaceous, widespread volcanoes spewed vast quantities of gas and dust into the atmosphere, and the air contained far higher levels of carbon dioxide than the air that we breathe now. The climate was tropical, and the planet was perhaps entirely free of ice. 
You stand there, and you look at it, and you think, "Right there. Death and chaos like we cannot imagine."
His X-Acto knife unearthed the edge of a fossilized fin. Another paddlefish came to light; it later proved to be nearly six feet long. DePalma probed the sediment around it, to gauge its position and how best to extract it. As more of it was exposed, we could clearly see that the fish’s two-foot-long snout had broken when it was forced—probably by the flood’s surge—against the branches of a submerged araucaria tree. He noted that every fish he’d found in the site had died with its mouth open, which may indicate that the fish had been gasping as they suffocated in the sediment-laden water.

Here is another view of the layer from sciencebuzz.org.
This site is on the Long's Canyon Trail at Trinidad Lake State Park. It is just a quarter mile or so from the trailhead. 

December 12, 2018

An Unexpected Slot Canyon, Trail Art, and a Threat


It's better in the winter — this is early December
I was over in Fremont County, south of Cañon City, in an area where I used to wander some twenty years ago. Back then, a hike meant following deer trails, arroyos, or an occasional two-track road.

Now there is a trail network. That's a good thing, mostly.

Stumps + rusty iron = trail art
Winter is the time to be out in this country. The sun is bright, there is only a little ice in the shady spots, and the "piñon gnats" of summer — those little bugs that fly into your eyes, nose, and ears — are absent. So are rattlesnakes.

Layers of shale.
 I found this little slot canyon that I had not known about.
Tint the photo pink and say that you were in Utah.
Other people knew about it though, as their old graffiti attested.
1901 ??
I learned that some people believe there are dinosaur tracks in the canyon. I have seen tracks in places like the famous trackway out in the Purgatory Canyon. To me, the various dimples in the rocks looked more the result of erosion.
I don't think these are tracks from a prehistoric beach.
But there is always something. These trails are on BLM land, and a Canadian mining firm, Zephyr Minerals Ltd., wants to core drill part of the area and maybe mine it — or sell it to some outfit that would. So instead of year-around recreational area, there would be a big hole in the ground, maybe a cyanide-leaching pad or some crap like that.

There is a potential for polluting Grape Creek, which brings down the DeWeese-Dye Ditch & Reservoir Company's water from the Wet Mountain Valley to serve hundred of shareholders large and small on the south edge of Cañon City.

So another battle to be fought.

October 19, 2018

That Steampunk T-Rex named Sue

It was big news in paleontology circles in the 1990s when private fossil hunters in western South Dakota unearthed an outstanding Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton that was given the name of Sue, after  discoverer Sue Hendrikson.

A lengthy custody battle ensued (hah), with an FBI raid and a state-private-tribal-federal kerfuffle, since the site where Sue was found was managed by the Department of the Interior in trust for the Sioux nation. Ultimately, the private fossil hunters lost, and the skeleton was auctioned by Sotheby's and bought by the Field Museum in Chicago for $7.6 million.

"Sue" by John Lopez.
So Sue is in Chicago and now quite famous, but in Faith, South Dakota, the little town nearest the site, she is also created in a very fine and sort of steampunk-ish sculpture by South Dakota sculptor John Lopez (here is his studio website with other examples).
Built to last. Note the heavy drive chain.



June 21, 2015

Walking with Dinosaurs at the Summer Solstice

Led by a white Forest Service pickup, the "auto tour" forms up.

What I think of when I hear "auto tour."
There is something old-fashioned about the phrase “auto tour”— as in Picketwire Canyonlands Guided Auto Tour — which suggests maybe a 1920 Studebaker Big Six “touring car” with the top down. Goggles and dusters absolutely required.

We were instead in M’s faithful 1997 Jeep Wrangler, and I was shifting in and out of 4wd low range all day long, mostly when descending steep, rocky, glorified wagon roads into the Puragatory Canyon.*

Seventeen vehicles full of people who had paid $15 apiece for adults started out; fifteen made it into the canyon. Flat tires were like a spreading virus — blame the sharp shale up top or the sharp rocks anyplace?

Friends in Pueblo set this up—we were supposed to have gone in May, when it would not have been over 100° F as it was on Saturday, but all tours were canceled due to wet weather. We still had to skirt a few mud bogs, but most of the roads were dusty. Very dusty. And there was little shade, and if there was, the piñon gnats were waiting.

The centerpiece of the tour is the famous dinosaur trackway, which preserves more than "1300 prints in 100 separate trackways  [along] a quarter-mile expanse of bedrock," to quote the brochure. And there are more waiting to be uncovered.

Credit for the discovery goes to a 1936 schoolgirl in the downstream hamlet of Higbee; some paleontologists made quick visits shortly after that — and then scientific interest languished until the 1980s when they were "re-discovered."

Scaled-down dinos play out the tracks' drama
Now there is signage, and a pilgimage to "the dinosaur tracks" has become One of the Things You Do in Colorado.

In the photo, our Forest Service interpreter-guide-wagonmaster has set down  Allosaurus and Apatosaurus models — placing them in the tracks made by real things in the muddy shore of a Jurassic lake.  At this spot, the carnivorus Allosaurus has stepped directly on the tracks of an apparent family group of large and small Apatosaurus browsers. The presumption is that it was stalking them.

Some smaller dinosaurs, Ornitholestes, also left their tracks. They too walked on their hind legs and weighed maybe 25–35 pounds.

As Anthony Fredericks wrote in Walking with Dinosaurs: Rediscovering Colorado's Prehistoric Beasts, "You don't have to be a dinosaur fanatic to enjoy this venture."

In fact, the different stops are like an experiment in temporal dislocation. While it is 150 million years ago at the trackway, at another stop, it is a few hundred years or a couple of millennia ago. At yet another, a 19th-century family cemetery holds the graves of New Mexican settlers who farmed from the 1860s to the early 1900s, while up the canyon, time has stopped in the 1970s, when the Army condemned thousands of acres to create the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. All of this in eight hours of dusty roads!
A juvenile hominin follows adults across the trackway by the Purgatory River. No Allosaurus is chasing him!
Kevin, our guide, held off on the "get out of Purgatory" jokes until it was time to do just that, for which I thank him.

*In Spanish, El rio de las animas perdidas in purgantorio (River of the lost souls in Purgatory); in fur-trapper French, Purgatoire; and in cowboyese, Picketwire. Named for members of a 17th(?) or 18th(?)-century Spanish expedition wiped out by Indians, an expedition that no one seems to be able to date or accurately describe. Nowadays often just called The Purg. But the name is old. M. is dismayed that the Forest Service has given its official blessing to "Picketwire" in its maps and signage on the Comanche National Grasslands.

May 02, 2013

Cañon City Dinosaur Area Expands

Dal DeWeese — land developer, big game hunter, buddy of Teddy Roosevelt — helps to excavate a Diplodocus longus skeleton in Garden Park Fossil Area in 1902. I never heard that DeWeese was that big on dinos, so maybe this was a staged photo — look at how he is dressed. (Photo from BLM.)
People at the Bureau of Land Management office in Cañon City are happy about an official decision to expand the National Natural Landmark status of the famous fossil beds on BLM land north of town, the Garden Park Fossil Area.
The internationally renowned area boasts rich deposits of late Jurassic-period fossils. In the 1880s, fifteen species of dinosaurs, nine of which were new to the field of paleontology, were recovered from the area, making it one of the oldest and richest fossil sites in the country.
More history and old photos are linked here.  Go visit now, before the weather gets too hot.

April 16, 2013

What Happened to Triceratops?

The author of My Beloved Brontosaurus talks about the changing view of dinosaurs, which leaves people wondering what they were really like.

One type re-evaluated is Triceratops, early specimens of which were found in Frémont County, Colorado.
Some journalists came to the mistaken conclusion that paleontologists were about to eliminate Triceratops, one of the most beloved dinosaurs of all time! Dinosaur fans were outraged at the news, voicing their discontent in Internet comment threads and on Facebook. (My favorite protest was a mock-up of a T-shirt featuring three Triceratops howling at Pluto, the recently demoted dwarf planet.) Eventually, word went out that Triceratops was safe, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the public reaction as I searched fruitlessly for more dinosaurs in Wyoming. The Triceratops debacle perfectly highlighted the tension between the pop culture dinosaurs we love and the science that is spurring the evolution of dinosaurian visions.

November 11, 2012

Blog Stew — Don't be an Ingredient

• Forget zombies — what load for Quetzalcoatalus? Jackson Landers, the "Locovore Hunter," has an answer.

Sportsman's Guide, a source for discounted (sometimes with good reason) outdoor gear and "Cold War dividend" militaria, mostly European, has returned to American ownership.

• Will Colorado's (known) lone wolverine, M56, get any federal help? He has covered immense amounts of territory, that's for sure.

July 30, 2011

Velociraptor with Feathers and Other Updated Dinosaurs

One of the most famous Stegasaurus fossils was found near Cañon City, Colorado, a little more than a century ago, and the "most complete" skeleton was found there in 1992.

But a lot has changed in our understanding of dinosaurs over the intervening years, as this "top ten" post makes clear.

Some people, however, believe that dinosaurs were created by (drumroll) Satan. The Lone Star Parson has the details. What does that say about all the little boys who love dinosaurs?

Me, I do believe that there was a separate Creator for the insects—not anti-human or even anti-mammal, just profoundly alien.