“Did they have dinosaurs in Massachusetts?”

From our favorite Four-Year-Old Norwood correspondent, Lil C, comes this question: “Did they have dinosaurs in Massachusetts?”

Lil C, you have no idea how many happy memories this question raises for me. The Seven-Year-Old and I have spent many afternoons hunting dinosaurs in Massachusetts.

And I don’t just mean all the times we went to the Boston Museum of Science or the Harvard Museum of Natural History, although those places are the easiest to get to this time of year.

I’m talking about the afternoons we spent with Daddyo hunting for fossils ourselves.

Mommyo and the then Three-Year-Old off to hunt for dinosaur footprints at the Dinosaur Footprint park in Holyoke, MA. (Photo: Michael Howell)

Mommyo and the then Three-Year-Old off to hunt for dinosaur tracks at the Dinosaur Footprints park in Holyoke, MA. (Photo: Michael Howell)

Massachusetts includes part of the Connecticut River Valley. Back in dinosaur time, about 190 million years ago, the Connecticut River Valley was a subtropical swamp. Lots of dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasties lived there. Among them were the Anchisaurus, an early prosauropod; the Podokesaurus, an early theropod; and Stegomosuchus (a prehistoric relative of the crocodile, not a dinosaur).

Although we never found any fossils from any of those guys, we did find lots of footprints.

Once the snow melts, ask your parents if they will take you out to see some dinosaur footprints. It’s a bit of a drive from where you are, but the Dinosaur Footprints park in Holyoke, Massachusetts, has a ton of well-preserved footprints for you to see. If you look carefully, you might even see fossils of ancient fish and plants embedded in the rock.

Found one! Three-Year-Old feet provided for scale. (Photo: Michael Howell)

Found one! Three-Year-Old feet provided for scale. (Photo: Michael Howell)

You can find even more fossil footprints at the Nash Dinosaur Track Site and Rock Shop in South Hadley, MA. (Be sure to have your parents call ahead, as it’s not always open.)

Unfortunately, scientists don’t know exactly which dinosaurs left the footprints in either location. They can only tell that some of the prints were left by sauropods (the blobby looking footprints) and others were left by therapods (the prints with the three-toed feet).

One last comment. Do you watch Dinosaur Train, Lil C?

If yes, you (or your parents) might be interested to learn that Dr. Scott Sampson from Dinosaur Train is going to be at The Harvard Museum of Natural History on March 28 to talk about his new book: How to Raise a Wild Child.

Happy fossil hunting!

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About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
This entry was posted in Can we do that sometime?, Nature, Out and About and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “Did they have dinosaurs in Massachusetts?”

  1. rayworth1973 says:

    The did and do in Las Vegas. I’m one!


  2. Pingback: Dinosaur Footprint Park Nakhon Phanom | Jon in Isaan, and everywhere else in Thailand!

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