The Wyoming Dinosaur Center and Dig Sites, located in historic Thermopolis, Wyoming, is a great family adventure. It is one of the very few dinosaur related museums in the entire world that has an actual excavation/dig site on the premises. The center was formed as a non-for-profit 501(c)3 organization after the first dinosaur specimen was found on Warm Springs Ranch in the early 1990s.
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It opened in 1995 as the brainchild of Burkhard Pohl, an amateur fossil enthusiast and collector. The dinosaur center is 16,000 square feet, which includes the museum where many of the specimens are displayed, the fossil lab, and anywhere between 100 and 200 separate dig sites (normally around 20 are active at any given time). Over 10,000 different dinosaur bones have been removed from the dig sites since the center was founded, with the majority being long necked sauropods (like the Camarasaurus, Camptosaurus, Apatosaurus, and Diplodocus).
Permanent Attractions and Exhibits
The center is chock full of a wide variety of unique attractions and exhibits, and guests should plan to spend the majority of the day on site. They are open in the winter from 10:00am to 5:00pm and in the summer from 8:00am to 6:00pm. Admission is required, but is discounted for children over the age of 3, veterans, and seniors. Discounted rates and special tours can be arranged for groups of more than 15. Admission to the dig site is separate but can be combined at a discounted fee as well.
Museum highlights -
Archaeopteryx specimen - Considered by many archaeologists to be the “missing link” genetically between dinosaurs and birds, the center has the “Thermopolis Specimen” on display (it is the only of its kind in North America). It is the most well-preserved skull as well as feet of any of the current 12 specimens that have been found of Archaeopteryx. The fact that this creature lacks a “reverse toe,” is often said to be proof of theropod ancestry. That fact that all of the specimens found also included impressions of feathers points strongly to its transitional position between dinosaurs of the late Jurassic period and birds today.
Mounted dinosaurs - The center features over 30 different mounted dinosaurs, including what is considered a “full” mount of a Supersaurus (“Jimbo”) that is 106 feet in length. Guests should also check out a 35-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex named “Stan” who is charging an unnamed Triceratops.
Pre-Mesozoic fossil displays - Considered an impressive display, the center has a huge amount of these types of fossils for guests to see, including a number of Devonian fish fossils.
Walk Thru Time exhibit - This outstanding exhibit allows guest to walk through and trace the very origin of what is considered “complex” life on Earth, from the single-celled protozoa to the arthropods, to the rise of dinosaurs.
Dig sites to keep an eye out for -
“SI” dig site - This is another extremely noteworthy fossil assembly as it shows a rare combination of both skeletal fossils and footprints located in the exact same context.
“FS” dig site - This active dig site contains a juvenile diplodocid fossil that has both articulated hands as well as feet.
“TYA” dig site - Features the remains of multiple different allosaur fossils.
“BS” dig site - This dig site has led to the discovery of several Camarasaurus fossils.
One of the most exciting educational opportunities for children out there, the centers offers “kid’s digs” that allow children to get literally hands on with digging for fossils! This experience is meant for children from ages 8 through 12 and is meant to not only foster enthusiasm and excitement for paleontology and science in general, but also to teach them to engage with their environment in new and different ways. Advanced registration is required, and a typical day starts with transportation to the dig site, includes a museum tour, a visit to the preparation lab, learning to mold and cast fossils, and ends at Hot Springs state park with a terrace walk and lunch. Space is limited to 40 children per day.
For children who want to spend more time at the center, they also offer a Dinosaur Academy five-day course, which is more in-depth through both education and hands on work. College credit may also be awarded depending on final grade and exam status. This is great for older children.
Wyoming Dinosaur Center and Dig Sites, 110 Carter Ranch Road, PO Box 868, Thermopolis, WY, 82443, Phone: 307-864-2997 or 800-455-DINO