Utah has only held statehood in the U.S. for just over 100 years. But the land that encompasses this western territory holds evidence of prehistoric life stretching back hundreds of millions of years. Paleontologists from around the world have long come here to uncover the dinosaurs of Utah. Close to 300 unique species of dinosaur have been unearthed in Utah and there are plenty of places throughout the state where anyone can witness these discovers.
Almost all of the universities in the state have museums on campus to showcase their fossil finds including Weber State University’s Museum of Natural Science, Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum and Brigham Young University’s Museum of Paleontology.
The University of Utah’s campus, located in Salt Lake City, is home to the recently constructed Natural History Museum of Utah. Opened in 2011, one of the museum’s most popular exhibits is its display of fossils, which includes everything from singular bones to entire reconstructed skeletons. Visitors can also see working paleontologists in action since NHMU is also an active research facility.
Besides the exhibits, the building itself is considered an attraction. Located on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, bordering the Salt Lake Valley, the architectural design of the copper clad 163,000-square-foot centre integrates effortlessly with its natural surroundings and stunning backdrop.
A 30-minute car ride from Salt Lake City, located in Lehi, is the Museum of Ancient Life. Here dino enthusiasts can stalk the Carboniferous Forest and roam around one of the largest displays of mounted dinosaurs, 60 complete skeletons and plenty of child-friendly interactive displays. The museum is part of a larger family entertainment centre called Thanksgiving Point, which also includes a farm, gardens, and the Museum of Natural Curiosity, which features five different exhibition sites.
In the expanses of Eastern Utah are the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park and Dinosaur National Monument. A departure from the traditional museum exhibits, these destinations in Vernal offer visitors the chance to explore up close prehistoric life right at the very sites they were discovered.
Central Utah provides a unique opportunity to visit a working dinosaur quarry. Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry “”located near Price, Utah “” has been described as a prolific fossil bed. Over 12,000 bones have been unearthed here and even a dinosaur egg has been discovered on site. Visitors are welcome to drop by the facilities of this working quarry but Cleveland-Lloyd is closed from October to March, so plan your trip accordingly. Utah, with its rich natural history, is a must-stop destination for anyone looking to discover the dinosaurs of Utah.
Header image: Allosaurus – state fossil of Utah © NHMU/Stuart Ruckman.
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Written by Billy Yang