Dinosaur Hill

Dinosaur Hill near Fruita
A sign marks the hill where Elmer Riggs of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History dug up an Apatosaurus skeleton that has been on display at the museum since 1908. | Photo by Joel Sowers / flickr.com

Staff

At Dinosaur Hill near Fruita, paleontologist Elmer Riggs from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago discovered two-thirds of the skeleton of a 70-foot-long, 30-ton Apatosaurus in 1900.

Riggs returned with a scientific team in 1901 and removed most of the skeleton, which was placed on exhibit at the museum in 1908 and remains a featured attraction. The Apatosaurus, a plant eater from the Jurassic period, was first discovered in 1877 near Morrison.

Local paleontologists revisited the site in 1991 and 1992 and found tools left by the Riggs expedition and four Apatosaurus bones – three tail chevrons and a rib segment.

Before turning his attention to Dinosaur Hill in 1900, Riggs had discovered the first bones of a Brachiosaurus on what was later named Riggs Hill in his honor. The giant, plant-eater, named and described by Riggs in 1903, was thought for decades to be the largest dinosaur. Riggs also had collected a forelimb and shoulder blade of Camarasaurus near the Colorado National Monument in 1900.

Riggs brought a scientific expedition to the Grand Junction area after Stanton Bradbury, a Grand Junction dentist and amateur collector, reported that residents had been uncovering dinosaur bones in the shale and sandstone formations near the city since 1885.

A 1.5-mile round-trip trail takes visitors to the quarry where Riggs and his team dug 20 feet into the sandstone to remove the bones, which were floated across the Colorado River and loaded onto wagons for the trip to the railroad that would take them to Chicago. Allow 90 minutes.

Dinosaur Hill is 1 1/2 miles south of Fruita on Colorado 340. To reach the trailhead, go over the Colorado River, turn east on Kingsview Road, then take the first road to the right for 0.2 miles.

Details
Dinosaur Hill
South of Fruita
Website
Trail