T.rex Tuesday On The Right Foot in Colorado

So I haven’t made much of a fuss about our big shift to Colorado, but now it’s time to, because it’s pretty darned exciting. For the foresable future, T.rex Road Trip World Headquarters has found a home in Cañon City, CO, right in the heart of fossil country. The fabled Garden Park fossil area - where some of the opening salvos of the vaunted Fossil Wars were fired - is just a few miles north of town. One of the premiere dinosaur trackways in North America is only a few hours away, and there are a number of top-flight museums within easy reach. But the most interesting artifact so far is right here in town. 

Cañon City used to be home to the Dinosaur Depot Museum, a collection of artifacts in a former fire station across the tracks from the railroad depot. When the museum was forced to close a few years ago, most of the collection found its way to the nearby The Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center. While I certainly intend to visit that in more detail at a later date, the specimen that caught my attention immediately was this cast of a purported Tyrannosaurus rex footprint.

T.rex footprint cast at the Royal Gorge Regional Musuem. Said to have been discovered in the ceiling of a mine shaft in nearby Chandler, CO. 

T.rex footprint cast at the Royal Gorge Regional Musuem. Said to have been discovered in the ceiling of a mine shaft in nearby Chandler, CO. 

I say purported because, while I have absolutely nothing to indicate that this isn’t authentic, I also can’t find anything (yet) to support it. And while all of the fossil finds from the bountiful quarries in the area are from the Jurassic-era Morrison formation, there are some exposed area of early Cretaceous Dakota Formation rock as well. It’s not that far south of me on Raton Pass that the KT extinction boundary is exposed. More importantly, the first verified T.rex footprint was discovered near Cimmaron, NM, about 120 miles south of town. A second and third print were also recently discovered in the same area.

Supporting materials with the casting state that the footprints were discovered in the late 1920s and early 1930s by workers at the Chandler Mine on the ceiling of the coal mineshaft. One of the footprints came to Cañon City, while others were sent to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. I didn’t see any signs of them when I visited the Musuem last year, but I didn’t have a whole lot of time either. The good news is, I have access to passes for that Museum through our local library. So the opportunity will certainly avail itself at some point.

As an aside, I am trying to find a copy of a paper that may shed some more light on this subject. The paper is entitled “Tracking Tyrannosaurus: Notes on Purported T.rex Tracks” by Martin Lockley, Paul R. Janie, and Mike Triebold. It was published in Ichnos, An International Journal for Plant and Animal Traces, in Volume 18, 2011, Issue 3. It’s available online, but for a prohibitive amount. An earlier paper from 1994 by Lockley and Adrian Hunt entitled “A Track of the giant theropod dinosaur Tyrannosaurus from close to the Cretaceous/Tertiary Boundary, Northern New Mexico” would also make some good reading if someone has a copy available.

I am just starting to get settled in here in Colorado, and already, the road calls to me. But for a little while, T.rex Road Trip’s jaunts will probably be relatively short. Fortunately, the area around me offers a bounty of things to do and fossils to see. Stay tuned!