Friday, June 10, 2022

Thermopolis, Wyoming

On the way from Casper to Thermopolis, Wyoming, we were fortunate to drive through the Wind River Canyon. The river and steep mountains on either side are beautiful, but it’s the scenic exposure of rocks, spanning most of Earth’s history (from 3 billion (Archean) to 220 million (Triassic) years), that makes the 30 mile canyon so unique. Helpful signs along the drive tell you what time period the rocks represent. 

While in Thermopolis, we visited the Legend Rock Petroglyphs site then hiked a few miles in the scenic Goosecreek Badlands. 

Saturday, we watched young rodeo competitors (ages 7-15) at the Thermopolis fairgrounds, and when it got too hot, we headed to Hot Springs state park.

We spent a full day at the Buffalo Bill Museum of the West, in Cody. It’s 5 amazing museums in one. We could have returned for another full day and still not experienced everything. 

Since we were in Dinosaur country, I (Robin) signed up for a day-long dinosaur dig. I discovered a few buried fossil fragments in the Morrison Formation (150my) that were cataloged, then I searched the Sundance Formation (165my) for fossilized sea creatures. It was a fun, educational, and very dirty day. 

The Wyoming Dinosaur Center, a museum and research facility, hosts daily digs in the summer and has a world-class display of dinosaurs. My favorite was the Archeaopteryx. There have only been 13 of these fossils discovered, and the one at this museum is a near-perfect specimen. Long thought to be a missing link, it’s a reptile, dinosaur, and a bird, from the Late Jurassic period (150my). The fossil is insured for millions of dollars, and sits behind bullet-proof glass.  

On our last full day, we took a trip to Ava’s Silver, a small rock shop in Thermopolis. Ava, a lifelong rock hound and the shop’s owner, told us all about the fossils, rocks, and minerals in the region. We also learned she and her husband Eddie discovered an important ceratopsid dinosaur in Montana. The fossil was formally named and described by a paleontologist in 1986, as Avaceratops lammersi. The dinosaur is named after Ava!

Tomorrow we’re off to Lyman, Wyoming, near the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. 

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