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Red Gulch

Red Gulch Sign

The Out West 2003 participants traveled to Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite near Shell, WY on June 17, 2003.  Dr. Brent Breithaupt from the University of Wyoming at Laramie met us at the tracksite.  He described the site and explained how the site was discovered, and the use of technology as well as simple tools to locate and clear away debris from the tracksite.

The participants then traveled down the walkway to enter the section of the site called the Ballroom.  Within the Ballroom’s surface there are six hundred tracks.  Everyone was excited when they started discovering the tracks.  We used the whiskbroom to sweep away the fine sand that covers the tracks and marked the tracks with the colored chips indicating the direction the dinosaurs were traveling.  After finding and marking several different routes across the Ballroom floor, Dr. Breithaupt brought us together as a group and discussed the characteristics of the dinosaurs and the different sea-creatures found in the same area.  He questioned us and wanted us to come up with our own description of the dinosaurs that created the tracks.  After listening to our description, he brought out a map that showed all the dinosaur tracks in the ballroom.  He also showed us a drawing of the dinosaur that could have made the tracks.

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Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite is located four miles from Shell, WY and eight miles east of Greybull, WY.  Red Gulch is the largest tracksite in the state of Wyoming, and it is also one of few worldwide tracks from the Middle Jurassic Period (160 to 180 million years ago).  Before the tracks were discovered in 1997, scientists thought the Sundance Sea covered Bighorn Mountains and most of Wyoming.

Scientists believed sea-dwelling organisms were the only creatures living in that region.  In other words, there should not have been any dinosaur tracks there.  The dinosaur footprints were made near the shallow waters of the sea.  It is believed that the regions near the sea were large enough to support dinosaurs as well as other animals and plants.

Scientists believed the dinosaurs walked in mud that was beginning to harden.  The tracks were preserved when the mud hardened and was covered by many layers of wet mud, and then sand filled the tracks and preserved the footprints.  Many years after this period, erosion began to erode the layers of sediment away and exposed dinosaur tracks.

Erick Kvale, a research geologist, discovered these tracks in 1997.

After the discovery of these tracks, scientists from different universities and centers began to explore and investigate the site. These universities and centers formed the Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite Science Team.  The team works at the tracksite under a BLM Paleontology permit.

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Facts about Red Gulch

Red Gulch is the largest tracksite in Wyoming.

Tracksite is from the Middle Jurassic Period (160 - 180 million years ago).

Erik Kvale discovered the site in 1997.

The Ballroom contains 600 tracks.

Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite Dedication was on May 22, 2002.


Leah Arnold/Bearden Middle School

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