Uncover history in the Mountain West by searching for dinosaur fossils and investigating how and why they got there. Excavate these active dig sites or see how expert paleontologists map history in the ground. 

Science has many forms of study, from technology and robotics to health sciences and medicine. One way to uncover history through science is through geology and paleontology. Studying fossils and rocks is an important part of mapping the Earth’s history back to the age of the dinosaurs. Though these centers won’t have the terrifying experiences of Jurassic Park, students can discover a fun and safe way of traveling back in time. 

Dinosaur Quarry visitor center

Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center (Credit)

Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry – Elmo, Utah

Dedicated as a National Natural Landmark in 1966, this active excavation site is an impressive opportunity for students to witness the process and result of unearthing dinosaur fossils. Boasting the most concentrated area for dinosaur bones from the Jurassic period, here kids can walk around the historic area and visit the quarry building with introductions to the geology and field paleontology of the area. Guided hikes through this massive deposit of dinosaur remains are also offered through the guest center. The mystery surrounding this dense collection of carnivorous dinosaurs such as Allosaurus-fragilis persists even today with many unconfirmed theories that students can research. Travel back millions of years to uncover the science behind this dinosaur quarry in Utah.

Wyoming Dinosaur Center prepping fossils

Wyoming Dinosaur Center prepping fossils (Credit)

Wyoming Dinosaur Center – Thermopolis, Wyoming

Listed as one of the coolest places for kids in 2019 by TIME-magazine, this center offers several programs for students to become paleontologists for a day. “Dig for a Day” is a chance to actually discover dinosaur bones along with the 10,000 fossils already uncovered at the site. A full day of digging with experts at a nearby site with a provided lunch is followed by a tour of the museum. “Shovel Ready” is a shortened version of the “Dig for a Day” program, with a morning or afternoon visit to an active fossil site. The Dinosaur Academy is a 5-day course designed for high school students to learn field exploration, excavation and lab techniques. The Kids Dig is designed for ages 8-12 to spend a day to dig and prepare fossils for museums with cleaning or categorization along with a dino-mite souvenir. The “Paleo Prep” is an exclusive tour of the lab to see current projects and work on prepping your own fossil with connecting fossils and identifying them. Though these programs can be very expensive, most include transportation, souvenirs or lunch along with a unique opportunity for students to be involved in paleontology. 

Mammoth site Bone-bed

Mammoth site Bone-bed (Credit)

The Mammoth Site & Museum – Hot Springs, South Dakota

Touted as the only accredited museum in the Black Hills and the largest site for Columbian mammoths in the world, this indoor active dig site is a center for discovery in paleontology. Groups can embark on guided tours viewing Ice Age fossils in the actual sinkhole and the exhibition hall of uncovered skulls of mammoths, camels, wolves and giant short-faced bears. With hands-on exhibits, views of the working laboratory and classroom activities, students are engaged in real paleontology. The center is open year-round with a fully enclosed and climate-controlled excavation site that is universally accessible. Students can also participate in either of the summer programs as junior or advanced paleontologists excavating for fossils. Journey back to the Pleistocene Epoch with the creatures that were trapped in this sinkhole.