Places to find dinosaurs: Utah, Colorado, Texas, Maryland. You read that right – Maryland, too! While maybe less famous than some of the spots where dinosaurs are found in the United States, there are plenty of places for prehistoric finds in the mid-Atlantic. Dinosaurs roamed the area that would become the state for millions of years, from the Late Triassic (228 million years ago) to the Late Cretaceous (70 million years ago). From the central to the eastern part of the state, here are 5 places to find dinosaur and other prehistoric fossils.
Around Laurel, Maryland, the ground is rich with iron ore, which was mined to iron for manufacturing in the 1800s and 1900s. In 1858, African American miners were the first to discover dinosaur fossils in Laurel. Today, Dinosaur Park continues to preserve the land where dinosaur fossils can be found and protect the fossils they find. The park is open from dawn until dusk, and while you can visit the fossil bed, you are not allowed to take any fossils outside of the park. The best time to visit is from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month during open houses, when paleontologists and experts are on hand to answer questions, and you might even be allowed to help with a dig!
If you’re ready to find your own fossils for keeps, check out Clavert Cliffs State Park. The cliffs themselves extend 24 miles (38.5 km) along the Chesapeake Bay, but the beach at the park is much smaller. Here, you’ll find ancient sharks’ teeth and lots of other fossils from 10 to 20 million years ago. Do some research before you go, because sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly what you’re looking at. The park has a small feel to get in, and you have to walk about two miles to the beach itself. Once you’re on the beach, there are digging tools and sieves to borrow. Farther north along the coast, there are also a couple of other places to go fossil hunting like the Flag Ponds Nature Park and the Makota Beach Cabins.
Just south of the Calvert Cliffs fossil finds is the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland. This is definitely a great place to stop if you are interested in the natural history and fossils in the area. A large exhibit explains the history of the cliffs and the first finds that were made there, plus the pre-history of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay. You can see a giant model of a Megaladon’s skeleton, paleontologists cracking open rocks and cleaning fossils, plus modern-day ancestors of prehistoric creatures like sting rays and horseshoe crabs.
While space is definitely the focus of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, there’s also a special, recently discovered dino-connection. While dropping off his wife at work in 2012, dinosaur researcher Ray Stanford saw what he thought was a dinosaur track. When he started looking more closely, he was blown away. A slab with many different tracks from both dinosaurs and mammals showed life as it was millions of years ago. The slab is on display at the Goddard office building, not the Visitor Center; call +1 301-286-8981 for more information on visiting.
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