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Dinosaur discoveries link prehistoric findings to local communities

A new museum in Eagle, Colorado captures local prehistoric findings and connects people to what lived there up to 230 million years ago.
Dinosaur discoveries link prehistoric findings to local communities
Posted at 2:50 PM, Jul 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-12 15:51:36-04

In the vast rolling hills of mountain country, there is so much history that can be missed by the naked eye. Experts say that when dinosaurs roamed these lands millions of years ago, mountains weren't here in Colorado. Instead, this land was beach.

"The history of the earth is measured in layers or rock. Here in Colorado, we see that rock on the side of the interstate," said Billy Doran, the executive director of The Museum at Dinosaur Junction.

This new museum in Eagle, Colorado captures local prehistoric findings and connects people to what once lived here as far back as 230 million years ago.

"It all kind of just came together, really, and as far as finding the fossils it's not like I found one or two bones, or a footprint or two, I've found hundreds of bones from many animals," Doran said.

SEE MORE: Undiscovered species of dinosaur surprises researchers

Doran wears many hats; self-made paleontologist and dinosaur hunter are just a few.

"I'm an actor, I'm a TV host, I was a photographer, I've washed dishes, I've cleaned drains, I've painted houses, I've done construction, all the while I've always been interested in the natural world," Doran said.

His interest led to educating young minds through a kids camp. He shows the children real fossils and footprints found within miles of this education center.

"To this day, whenever I have even just a little kid come in and you hear that screech of T-Rex, that just almost brings a tear to my eye," Doran said.

Travelers from all over would show up, asking about the dinosaur museum that did not yet exist.

"And then we had more showing up, and more showing up, and I thought well heck maybe we should just build a museum. And then on top of that, every time I would go out in the hills in this area I would find more stuff," Doran said.

Now the museum is fully open and on display, offering guests insight into the lesser-known history of Eagle County.

"For starters, we have all the fossils right down the street. So it's easy to just bring this stuff in here and say these lived right here because these are what we have found within a few miles of where we are standing," Doran said.

SEE MORE: Archaeologists discover 5,000-year-old tavern with food still in bowl

Volunteer Chase Williams says he greets visitors from all across the country.

"It's interesting watching people from out of state find such a connection to this place considering how many animals here are from Eagle county," Williams said.

Donations provided by people from coast to coast are allowing this rare place to exist.

"To date, I've found fossils from probably at least 10 different dinosaurs, from stuff about the size of a turkey, to 90,000 pound long-necks like the ones behind me here," Doran said. "On top of that, we've found fossils from crocodiles, from sharks, from turtles, spanning the entire time the dinosaurs were here, which was about 170 million years of time, which is mind blowing."

Small-town museums that have such an impressive history are hard to come by. But The Museum at Dinosaur Junction is an example of the impact they can really make.

"The reason I think these museums have to keep coming up is education, because if we don't learn from the past we can't implement things in the future," Williams said.

"So the one thing I'd hope is that people would walk away and just have a little more perspective," Doran added. "A little more humility, maybe, that we aren't end-all be-all."


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