Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Copper Ridge Dinosaur Tracks

The Copper Ridge Dinosaur Tracks are located east off of Highway 191, ¾ mile north of Mile Post 148, 23 miles north of Moab in southeast Utah. There isn’t a sign along the highway, but there are BLM signs saying Dinosaur Tracks-2 miles as soon as you make the turn. There is a parking area and the trail leads uphill 500 feet to the rocky small site.

The tracks preserved here are described as being from five meat eaters and one large plant eating sauropod. The tracks cross a 150 million year old river sandbar. The geologic layer is the Salt Wash member of the Morrison Formation.

The interpretive information at the site says that making plaster casts of the tracks is illegal, but sweeping the sediment off the tracks is allowed, as is pouring some water in the depressions to make them more visible for photographs. I found a brochure for the site on line but didn't find it along the trail. The brochure is helpful as it shows a map of the tracks. Looking around without a map, it is confusing what are tracks and what are natural depressions.

Some of the tracks have been surrounded with circles of stones, pointing them out. I added a liter of water to the first one. This line of four tracks, each with three toes and more than a foot long is from one of the large meat eating theropod species.

I noticed some very large depressions, but they weren’t pointed out with stone circles. The online brochure says that these are the sauropod tracks, and the huge animal was making a turn to the right. The rear feet were larger than the front feet. It looked like the depressions are about a foot deep.

Mixed in with the very large depressions are some smaller ones with more stone circle markers. These are hard to tell from natural depressions, but are thought to be from smaller meat eaters. The Copper Ridge site is in the same vicinity as the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail, where some fossils are visible. The other visible dinosaur track in the Moab area is at the trail head of the Poison Spider Trail along Potash Road.

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