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Sauropod fossils found in Royal Gorge area of Colorado; grand reveal planned

fossils in royal gorge region.jpg
Posted at 10:24 AM, Jan 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-23 12:04:37-05

FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. — In late 2022, the tibia and fibula of a sauropod — a dinosaur with a very long neck and tail — were found in the Royal Gorge area of Colorado.

The Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center, located at 612 Royal Gorge Boulevard, will present the two new fossils at a reveal on Jan. 21 at 10 a.m. Afterward, Western Interior Paleontological Society volunteers will work every Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to prepare and preserve the fossils at the museum.

In late 2022, a person stumbled upon the fossils on public land in the Royal Gorge region, said Museum Director Lisa Studts. The person then called the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM, in coordination with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center, coordinated to get an excavation team to the site and to extract the fossils.

Studts said the excavation process has been completed and the museum is now preparing the fossils to be on display.

Volunteers are now prepping the fossils, which includes cutting into the plaster jacket cast currently surrounding the fossils and removing any soil left around them. Chemical adhesives will help secure any cracks or dislodged pieces.

Sauropods, which are herbivorous, are a dinosaur subgroup classified by their long necks and tails, large size, and thick four legs. They were the largest of any land animals on Earth.

The exact species of the dinosaur has not yet been determined yet. There are almost 60 different specifics of sauropods, according to the National History Museum.

The below photo is an example of a sauropod — this one was on display in 2014 at the Dubai Mall in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Mideast Emirates Dubai Dino
People visit the newly named DubaiDino, a fossilized skeleton of a 155-million-year-old long-necked, whip-tailed adult sauropod dinosaur, at the Dubai Mall in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, June 2, 2014. Authorities at the mall announced the dinosaur's name Monday after a contest. The dinosaur remains were discovered in a sleeping position in 2008 at the Dana Quarry in Wyoming and nearly 90 percent of the bones are original. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

The Royal Gorge region is popular for discovering prehistoric remains.

"Historically, the Royal Gorge region is known for some pretty significant fossil discoveries," Studts said. "Fossils were being excavated from this region as far back as the 1870s and some of the earliest ones excavated in this region are in museums throughout the country. We also have two National Nature Landmarks in Fremont County known for the amazing fossil discoveries, Indian Springs Trace Fossil Site and Garden Park Fossil Area. However, it is not very common to find fossils fully articulated like these two were found and in this good of condition."

She said the last major discovery in Royal Gorge region was in 1992 with a small stegosaurus, as known as Ms. Spike, which is now at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. 

Looking for more dinosaur action in Colorado?

You're in the right place. Colorado is one of the best places in the U.S. to find dinosaur fossils.

Construction crews even found fossils while building Coors Field — thus, we have Dinger, the Rockies' prehistoric mascot.

Here are a few places where you can see dinosaur fossils and footprints, plus some local dinosaur discoveries from the past few years.

While they no longer roam the earth, dinosaur tracks live on. Around Dinosaur Ridge in Jefferson County are — as you may guess — obvious evidence of these beasts. The ridge has been ranked by a panel of esteemed paleontologists as the No. 1 track site in all the United States. In an area of just a few hundred square feet, there are about 330 dinosaur tracks.

Located on the Comanche National Grassland south of La Junta, the Picket Wire Canyonlands primitive canyons are home to the largest dinosaur tracksite in North America.

The high desert area northwest of Grand Junction is home to the Mygatt-Moore Quarry where more than 4,000 dinosaur bones have been found since the 1980s. Also in northwest Colorado is Dinosaur Hill south of Fruita.

READ MORE: Where to see dinosaur fossils and more around Colorado

In August 2017, crews discovered the horns of a torosaurus, a close relative of the triceratops, and other dinosaur bones during construction of a police substation in Thornton. Students from Brantner Elementary School in Thornton had the honor of choosing the name: Tiny.

PHOTOS: Rare torosaurus fossil found in Thornton at construction site

In July 2019, a helicopter team helped to recover the bones of a 74 million-year-old duck-billed hadrosaur near Rangely in northwestern Colorado. The 1,000-pounds of fossils were removed from a quarry after being discovered in 2014 by a science instructor and her husband while they were out on a walk. When the dog stopped to rest, he was right beside a dinosaur's exposed leg bone.

Around that same time, paleontologists in Highlands Ranch discovered more fossils of a triceratops near the Wind Crest retirement community. They uncovered a partial rib and several other bones from a triceratops. The fossils were first found by a construction worker.

PHOTO GALLERY: Excavation site of Triceratops fossils in Highlands Ranch