Continuing our walk along the canyon floor we soon arrived at the Dinosaur tracksite location. Along the north riverbank we noticed a few three towed Allosaurus footprints and marveled to think that millions of years ago a dinosaur stepped on the same piece of ground. According to the ExploreSoutheastColorado website:
“150 millions years ago, this area was part of a large, shallow lake and was teaming with Brontosaurs and Allosaurs. As these massive beasts plodded along the muddy edge of this lake they left their footprints in the mud, which were eventually buried and turned to stone. Today, over 1,300 of these footprints, extending on a 1/4 mile plain, are exposed at the Picketwire Canyonlands dinosaur track site. Forty percent of the tracks were left by the Brontosaurs, a massive, four-footed plant eater. Parallel trackways indicate that several younger Brontosaurus were traveling as a group heading west along the shoreline, which is the first evidence of social behavior among younger brontosaurs from the Morrison Formation. The remaining sixty percent of the tracks were left by the Allosaurus, a two footed, ferocious, meat eating scavenger who possibly hunted in packs and left three toed footprints behind.”
The best tracks are located on the South riverbank so we quickly looked for the best place to cross the Purgatoire River. This early in the season the water was only about 16″ deep but icy cold. After making the crossing we sat there in awe of all the tracks. One can easily follow the paths of the Brontosaurs (Apatosaurus) and just imagine what it would have been like to seem them in real life. Unfortunately the majority of the tracks were covered in dirt and the harsh mid-day light did not lend itself to good photography. Regardless it was just so amazing to see such clear evidence of the dinosaur era and I can’t wait to go back again!
Leaving the dinosaur area we headed back towards the trailhead for a long walk in the mid-day sun and wind. On our way back we took plenty of breaks and managed to find even more petroglyphs that dotted the landscape. One area in particular, a massive boulder split down the middle, was just covered in countless shapes and designs. We eventually made it near the trailhead and looked up at the looming climb to the canyon rim above. Even though the rim is only about 300ft from the canyon floor, after traveling some 11miles it was tough nonetheless. Staggering up the canyon we finally made it to the trailhead and relaxed in the comfort of the jeep and AC.
After relaxing a bit we were back on the road heading towards La Junta. While driving through the tiny town we decided to grab lunch/dinner in Pueblo and head back to Boulder afterwards. Overall it was a quick 36 hours of amazing scenery, places, people, and history. This trip will easily go down as one of my favorites and I wish my friend the best of luck in Austin, Tx.
2-day/1-night Trip Total: 11hrs 12mins of driving 594miles, 12+ miles hiking.