What would you have called a giant lizard-like creature before Sir Richard Owen, an English biologist, comparative anatomist and paleontologist coined the term dinosaur in 1841?
“Every culture had names for these giant, powerful, wondrous lizards,” forbidden-history.com writes. “Explorers described them, historians wrote about them, Native Americans etched them into petroglyphs, and they have been romanticized in many cultures throughout the world.” The English word used to describe a dinosaur prior to Sir Owen’s time seems to have been, dragon.
St. George, Utah the city, and Saint George the medieval hero of dragon-slaying fame have something in common. Dragons.
Dragons… rather, dinosaurs roamed, hunted, and died in St. George, Utah around a large body of water dubbed Lake Dixie. They left behind one of the world’s most unique collections of three-dimensional carnivorous dinosaur tracks, dinosaur swim tracks, fossilized dinosaur bones, fish, small water animal shells, leaves, and plant seeds.
Thousands of lakeside tracks have been preserved in clay, and their mirror image cast in sandstone as it settled into the tracks. This combination provides the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm tracks and casts of dinosaur footprints in roughly the same manner used to cast footprints and tire tread prints today.
“The Dinosaur Discovery Site represents the remarkable discovery of an Early Jurassic lakeside environment and the thousands of tracks of primarily carnivorous dinosaurs that roamed the shoreline in search of food. The tracks are preserved in sandstone that has locked in both the details of the print and the actions of the printmaker.”
The Discovery Site is more than a museum. It is a working paleontology site. Volunteers clean and prepare fossil samples from St. George and from other southern Utah sites.
When you visit the site, you will have the chance to take the Lake Dixie Discovery Trail. An indoor boardwalk over the original track surface. You can see dinosaur tracks exactly as they were found at the Johnson farm when Dr. Sheldon Johnson originally discovered them in 2000. The Trail includes over 1200 tracks left behind by dinosaurs and other creatures as they roamed the edge of what was once Lake Dixie.
Other Early Jurassic fossils found at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm include tracks of arthropods, fish swim trails, and sedimentary structures that give insight into what life was like for these early St. George residents.
The Special Display area of the Site offers a look at different subjects changed periodically. The area gives the Site a chance to offer new displays and an interactive experience to get visitors thinking about what conditions and wildlife were like when dinosaurs lived here. “These temporary displays have included such topics as dinosaur eggs, historical inaccuracies in early paleontology, how dinosaurs get their names, as well as origami of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.”
Children are welcome at the Discovery Site and the children’s area allows them to work out their imagination and energy. They can make their own dinosaur pictures with stencils and rubbings, play with dinosaur toys, and put together dinosaur puzzles. The area library is stocked with dinosaur books. For any visitors with a pension for fun activities, the children’s area is not age restricted. Go ahead. Make a dino rubbing to take home.
Even if tracing and rubbings aren’t your style, you can still pick up a few replica dinosaur tracks, t-shirts and other souvenirs of your visit at the gift shop.
The Discovery Site extends outside through the Dino Park and the opportunity for visitors to make their own track discoveries by digging into the sand that covers them. Young people (and the young at heart) can use “dino feet” to make their own dinosaur footprints in the sand. There is even a sandbox on legs so you can uncover replica fossils at a convenient height for individuals in wheelchairs or if you would rather not get down and dig for tracks. Large blocks in the Dino Park give you the chance to see, study and touch fossilized bones and tracks imbedded in sandstone.
The walkways and ramps throughout the Site are wheelchair accessible, and service animals are allowed everywhere in the Site. You are welcome to sit in the lobby with your well-behaved dog of any size, but someone from your party must remain with them. You can carry small dogs while touring the Site.
The Dinosaur Discovery Site is open;
From March 1 – October 31
- Monday – Saturday 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
- Sundays – 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
- The Site is open for all summer holidays, including Memorial Day, July 4th, Pioneer Day (July 24th), and Labor Day.
From November 1 – February 28
- Mon – Sat 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
- Sundays – CLOSED
- Holidays: The Site is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Admission fees to the Dinosaur Discovery Site are; Adults, $6.00, children ages 4-11 $3.00, and children under 4 are admitted for free. The Site also has special group rates if you have ten or more in your party.
You can find the Dinosaur Discovery Site at 2180 East Riverside Drive in St. George, UT. Here is a link to the Site location on Google maps. For more information about the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm you can visit their website at dinosite.org , call them at 435-574-3466, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by: Jon Thompson