World’s Largest Continuous Dinosaur Trackway Now Belongs To The US Public

World’s Largest Continuous Dinosaur Trackway Now Belongs To The US Public

The largest continuous dinosaur trackway in the world has been bought by the US Forest Service, putting this magnificent monument into the hands of the public and protecting the site from mining. 

Located in Ouray County, Colorado, the West Gold Hill Dinosaur Track site features 134 consecutive dinosaur footprints that extend for nearly 97 meters (318 feet). The fossilized prints were stomped into the ground around 150 million years ago by a single sauropod, the clade of dinosaurs with notoriously lanky necks and four thick, pillar-like legs. 

Fossilized dinosaur trackways of this size are incredibly rare as they’re only created if conditions are just right. They are often found along muddy shorelines, although the West Gold Hill Dinosaur Track is found amongst the rugged mountain topography at an elevation of 2,835 meters (9,300 feet).

The site is extra-remarkable as the tracks show the dinosaur sharply turning around in a 270-degree turn, behavior which is rarely seen in the fossil record. 

Last week, the US Forest Service announced they had purchased approximately 27 acres in Ouray County, a portion of which includes the rare trackway. 

The three land parcels were purchased from the Charles Real Estate Trust, which bought the land in 1945 with the hopes of prospecting for gold. The Charles family would often spend their summer vacations at the site, unaware that the pothole-like features on their property were prehistoric dinosaur tracks. This only became apparent in 2021 when scientists studied the site.

In 2022, the Charles family approached the US Forest Service to see whether the agency had any interest in acquiring the land. The deal has now gone ahead, with the US Forest Service buying the land for $135,000, according to the Denver Post.

Along with keeping the door open to further research, the purchase ensures that the public will maintain access to the site. The Forest Service plans on placing educational signs at the site and will set up a new webpage to relay information about the significance of the site and the natural history of the area.

“Acquisition of these new parcels, with the unique dinosaur trackway, highlights our dedication to conservation,” Jim Pitts, Acting Forest Supervisor for the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, said in a statement.

“By preserving these fossilized imprints, we are not only safeguarding a valuable scientific resource but also creating an incredible opportunity for the public to connect with the distant past, inspiring curiosity, education and stewardship,” added Pitts. 

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