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In Our Back Yard: Museum of Ancient Life

In our April issue, we visited the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry soon to be called Jurassic National Monument. The quarry is a good example of dinosaur bones being removed from the dirt and rocks of the earth that surrounds them. That raises the question of where can we find one of the worlds largest collections of mounted dinosaurs in our back yard. The answer to that question is Thanksgiving Point Museum of Ancient Life. It is only about a 30-minute drive from south Utah County up I-15 to Thanksgiving Point. You will find over 50 standing dinosaurs, including some of the largest and tallest, plus over 100 flying reptiles.

Thanksgiving Point was founded in 1995 as a non-profit farm, garden, and museum complex. The Museum of Ancient Life first opened in 2000 after a group of Utah paleontologists brought the concept of a world-class dinosaur museum to the Thanksgiving Point Organization. One goal of the museum was to make the visitor feel immersed in the museum’s displays. The staff Paleontologist, Rick Hunter, has been involved in creating most of the displays for the past 20 years. It is a huge world class museum with one of the world’s largest collections of standing dinosaurs. In addition, he still does field work for the museum at a Wyoming site. He is also involved in lab tours and teaching events at the museum. It is a unique museum experience. The exhibits are arranged so visitors can walk amongst these ancient creatures to give you a feel for their size, large and small. The museum has 50 interactive exhibits to entertain and educate kids of all ages, including parents and grandparents.

An interactive exhibit at the Museum of Ancient Life. Photo: Ed Helmick

You are greeted in the lobby by life-size skeletons of an Othnielosaurus fleeing from a Torvosaurus. That is a classic display that catches your interest before you get to the Admission/Information Desk. The entrance fee is $20 for adults, $15 for children and seniors for an all day, come and go pass. For those needing mobility assistance, wheelchairs are available for $10. Your admission will give you look at the Working Paleontological Lab and then you will start your roaming exploration of chambers of ancient life including a Carboniferous Forest and a Cretaceous Ocean eventually leading you to the room of dinosaur skeletons you can walk among. There is plenty for the kids to do along the way, they can design a dinosaur, play with the erosion table, and dig in a dino quarry. The museum also has a large Imax 3-D movie theater for scheduled science education movies.

We have an amazing educational opportunity in our back yard.