Well, here we are again with another Saurian Saturday here at T.rex Road Trip. And of course, it's a road trip memory that actually takes us close to home, by way of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Most of the consideration regarding the dinosaur quarries near the TrRT World HQ in Canon City, CO goes to the competing Marsh-Felch and Cope-Lucas quarries that were pivotal in the famed Bone Wars of the late 1800s. But there are several other significant quarry sites in the Garden Park area as well. In the summer of 1954, a team from CMNH acted on a couple of tips to head from Grand Junction down toward Canon City. There, along the banks of Four Mile Creek, they discovered the first few bones of what would soon be realized as an exciting find: the first and still only adult Haplocanthus delfsi, now specimen number CMNH 10380.
Working under the supervision of graduate student Edwin Delfs, the team worked to excavate the skeleton from between two treacherous layers of sandstone. As they removed bones from the mudstone strata, they used heavy timbers to shore up the upper layer. Over the course of the summer, a good portion of the skeleton was removed, jacketed, and sent to CMNH for preparation. Unfortunately, the skull of the specimen wasn't recovered.
Delfs continued work excavating his find through 1957, fighting against flooding and the potential for collapse of this narrow quarry. He later employed a local rancher to bulldoze parts of the hillside above the dig side, then blasted away the sandstone to continue excavating. In the 1957 season, the team also uncovered the skeleton of a six foot long crocodile-like reptile, eventually named Eutretauranosuchus delfsi.
H. delfsi is a late Jurassic sauropod, dating from around 155-152 million years ago. It is relatively small among sauropods, with "Happy" measuring around 49 feet in length, with an estimated weight of around 12.8 metric tons. Three other specimens have been assigned to Haplocanthosaurus, with others possibly being related as well.
There are only two other sites where Haplocanthosaurus has been found - one near Snowmass, CO, and the other nearby in Wyoming. Its name, meaning Simple-Spined Lizard, references its distinctive spine layout, which is used to differentiate it from other similar sauropods. The skeleton was placed in display in 1963, but it wasn't scientifically described until 1988. At that point, it was noted that the specimen held several differences when compared to the fragmentary remains of the known Haplocanthosaurus priscus, which was named and described in 1903. As such, it was assigned the name H. delfsi in honor of its discoverer. The Cleveland-Delfs quarry has yielded bones from both species.
CMNH 10380 is one of the only mounted skeletons of Haplocanthosaurus to be displayed, and thus is a very rare find. The quarry site is only ten miles or so from my house, and I am looking forward to paying the location a visit when the opportunity arises.