KIDS CAN'T SEEM TO GET ENOUGH OF DINOSAURS, whether they're starring in a motion picture or standing tall as a museum centerpiece. Catering to these dinophiles, three museum programs in the Rockies are taking their in-house displays a step further with paleontologist-led digs, showing kids how to excavate fossilized dinosaurs in the field.
Museum of Western Colorado
Grand Junction, Colorado
Sweating in the high-desert sun, it's hard to imagine that 70 million years ago Rabbit Valley was likely a watering hole for the allosaurus, a bipedal carnivore. Paleontologists teach mapping and excavating techniques, and the three-day program also heads 50 miles north of the museum to the streaked shale of Douglas Pass, where a slew of bee, ant, mosquito, and plant fossils from the Eocene epoch, which ended about 35 million years ago, has been uncovered. Learn plaster-casting techniques at the museum's Dinosaur Journey exhibit in Fruita, about eight miles from Grand Junction. Cost: $99 for a one-day dig, with lunch; $695 for three days, including some meals.
CONTACT: 888-488-3466, www.wcmuseum.org
LODGING: Fruita's Comfort Inn (970-858-1333) overlooks Colorado National Monument
Wyoming Dinosaur Center
In hopes of finding another Morris the Camarasaurus, who was discovered here in 1993, children on the two-day Kids' Dig Program (for ages eight to 12) work alongside researchers in the red hills of the Wind River Canyon. Morris's 48-foot-long skeleton stands watch in the exhibit hall on this 8,000-acre working ranch, a few hours southeast of Yellowstone National Park. Sift through soil at a dig site, go on a dino-themed scavenger hunt, and tour ten more skeletons at the 12,000-square-foot exhibit. Cost: $75 for two days, including lunch.
CONTACT: 800-455-3466, www.bhbfonline.org
LODGING: In Hot Springs State Park, the Holiday Inn of the Waters (307-864-3131) has a mineral-heated pool
Pioneer Trails Regional Museum
Bowman, North Dakota
This museum's project is a 30-mile drive through prairie dog territory into an isolated stretch of badlands. Day-diggers hike in about a mile to assist researchers, hoping to strike the equivalent of dinosaur gold. Over the last couple of summers most of a 65-million-year-old Edmontosaurus skeleton was discovered here, minus the skull. Until that skull is found, scientists won't know exactly what kind of dinosaur they've dug up. Cost: $200 per family per day.
CONTACT: 701-523-3625, www.ptrm.org
LODGING: North Winds Lodge (888-684-9463) is at the edge of the badlands in Bowman
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