Utah State Park Visitors Keep Vandalizing 200 Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Footprints

Friday, 11 May 2018 - 8:03PM
Friday, 11 May 2018 - 8:03PM
Utah State Park Visitors Keep Vandalizing 200 Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Footprints
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There's nothing inherently unusual about tourists skipping rocks on a lake in a state park. The problem arises when these rocks happen to be chunks of fossilized dinosaur footprints.

This is a big problem that Red Fleet State Park in Utah is facing; the park is mostly well known for their "dinosaur trackway", which contains ancient footprints believed to have been left by members of the dilophosaurus species over 200 million years ago in the early Jurassic era.

While some of these footprints are distinct and very striking, others are tougher to notice, and many visitors don't notice them as they rip apart sandstone slabs for rocks they can throw. According to the official park website, tourists casually ripping up footprint impressions so they can skip rocks has become an ongoing problem.

The problem has ramped up over the past six months, and at least ten footprints have been defaced, with a high possibility that more unreported tracks have been lost as well.

In popular culture, the dilophosaurus is most well known for being a small dinosaur in Jurassic Park that could spit acid and developed a taste for Nedry (Wayne Knight, who played Newman on Seinfeld) midway through the story. In reality, the dilophosaurus is thought to be much larger than its movie counterpart - fossils put it at 23 feet (7 meters) long - and its acid-spitting ability and giant unfolding frills are completely fictional. 

These dinosaur footprints can be anywhere from 3 to 17 inches in diameter, making some much easier to point out than others. According to park manager Josh Hansen, who said the following in an official statement:

Opening quote
"Some of the tracks are very distinct to the layperson, but just as many are not. That is why it is important to not disturb any rocks at the dinosaur trackway."
Closing quote

So to anybody visiting Red Fleet State Park: do not touch the sandstone. You can skip rocks anytime you like, but we don't get dinosaur footprints back once they've been destroyed.
Science News