Where Dinosaurs Roamed

On This Page Navigation

stegosaurus statue under a starry night sky
Stegosaurus statue under a starry night sky. Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado and Utah.

NPS photo by Jake Holgerson.

Introduction

Not counting birds, dinosaur fossils have been found on all seven continents and many countries. Dinosaur species have been named from 51 countries and Antarctica. Thirty or more species have been named from 12 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mongolia, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The United States and China are the top two, with more than 320 apiece. Because they are both big countries with varied geology, they have two of the most complete rock records of the Mesozoic.

Almost all of the United States have produced at least one dinosaur fossil (the exceptions are the states along the along the Ohio River and around Lake Michigan, the northern portion of New England, Florida, and Hawaii), although most finds come from a rectangular area from Montana and North Dakota south to Arizona and Texas. Dinosaurs are rare in the eastern half of the country because this area was generally eroding instead of being a place of deposition when dinosaurs were around. Eastern dinosaurs come from the rift valleys of the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic, and coastal areas of the much higher seas of the Cretaceous. We can see this pattern in a map of National Park Service units with dinosaur fossils, which are concentrated in and around the Colorado Plateau (Four Corners states).

National Parks with Dinosaurs

Twenty-two parks have yielded dinosaur body fossils or trace fossils. Two additional parks have dinosaur tracks in locally sourced building stone, and dinosaur fossils are associated in some way with four other parks.

map of the U.S.with locations of park units that have dinosaur fossils

National Park Units

  1. Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, Alaska—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  2. Arches National Park, Utah—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  3. Big Bend National Park, Texas—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  4. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Montana and Wyoming—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  5. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  6. Canyonlands National Park, Utah—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  7. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  8. Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  9. Colorado National Monument, Colorado—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  10. Curecanti National Recreation Area, Colorado—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  11. Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  12. Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado and Utah—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  13. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona and Utah—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  14. Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska (possible record)—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  15. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  16. Oxon Run Parkway, District of Columbia

  17. Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  18. Pipe Spring National Monument, Arizona—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  19. Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Utah—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  20. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska (possible record)—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  21. Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  22. Zion National Park, Utah—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

Fossils in Building Stone

  1. Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  2. Valley Forge National Historical Park, Pennsylvania—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

Associated Resource(s)

  1. Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, ID, IL, IA, KS, MO, MT, NE, ND, OR, SD, and WA (A probable dinosaur bone was observed by Meriwether Lewis in MT in 1806.)—[Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  2. Navajo National Monument, Arizona (Segisaurus halli was found very near one of the units.)—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  3. Old Spanish National Historic Trail, AZ, CA, CO, NV, NM, and UT (The dinosaur now named Dystrophaeus viamalae was found within a quarter-mile of the trail in UT during an 1859 expedition.)—[Geodiversity Atlas] [Park Home] [npshistory.com]

  4. Springfield Armory National Historic Site, Massachusetts (The dinosaur now named Anchisaurus polyzelus was found during 1855 construction of armory facilities not included in the present historic site.)—[Park Home] [npshistory.com]

National Natural Landmarks and National Historic Landmarks with Dinosaurs

In addition to National Park Service units, the NPS also administers the National Natural Landmarks and National Historic Landmarks programs. These sites are not owned by the NPS, and some of them are not open to the public, but they also include a number of significant paleontological sites. Fourteen National Natural Landmarks have dinosaur fossils, and four National Historic Landmarks have a connection to dinosaur paleontology.

map of U.S. with location of landmarks

National Natural Landmarks

trail with steps leading up to vertical bluffs
Ghost Ranch National Natural Landmark, New Mexico.
  1. Bridger Fossil Area National Natural Landmark, Montana

  2. Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry National Natural Landmark and Jurassic National Monument, Utah

  3. Cloverly Formation Site National Natural Landmark, Montana

  4. Comb Ridge National Natural Landmark, Arizona

  5. Como Bluff National Natural Landmark, Wyoming

  6. Dinosaur Trackway National Natural Landmark, Connecticut

  7. Dinosaur Valley State Park National Natural Landmark, Texas

  8. Garden of the Gods National Natural Landmark, Colorado

  9. Garden Park Fossil Area National Natural Landmark, Colorado

  10. Ghost Ranch National Natural Landmark, New Mexico

  11. Hell Creek Fossil Area National Natural Landmark, Montana

  12. Morrison-Golden Fossil Areas National Natural Landmark, Colorado

  13. Valley of Fire National Natural Landmark, Nevada

  14. West Bijou Site National Natural Landmark, Colorado

National Historic Landmarks

  1. Edward Drinker Cope House National Historic Landmark, Pennsylvania

  2. Hadrosaurus Foulkii Leidy Site National Historic Landmark, New Jersey

  3. Othniel Charles Marsh House National Historic Landmark, Connecticut

  4. Quarry Visitor Center National Historic Landmark, Utah

Site Index and Credits

Age of Dinosaurs (2021)

Text by Justin Tweet (AGI). Contributors: Vincent Santucci (GRD), Adam Marsh (PEFO), ReBecca Hunt-Foster (DINO), Don Corrick (BIBE). Project Lead / Web Development, Jim Wood (GRD).

References

  • Tweet, J.S. and V.L. Santucci. 2018. An Inventory of Non-Avian Dinosaurs from National Park Service Areas. in Lucas, S.G. and Sullivan, R.M., (eds.), Fossil Record 6. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin 79: 703-730. https://irma.nps.gov/DataStore/Reference/Profile/2257153

  • Santucci, V.L., A. Marsh, W. Parker, D. Chure, and D. Corrick, 2018. “Age of Reptiles”: Uncovering the Mesozoic Fossil Record in three Intermountain national parks. IMR Crossroads. Spring 2018, p. 4-11. https://irma.nps.gov/DataStore/Reference/Profile/2253529

Last updated: July 8, 2022

Tools

  • Site Index