Dinosaur tales
Experience | dinosaurs | fossils | history | winton | Central West | Queensland

Dinosaur tales

Australia's Jurassic Past

by Susie Baber  |  29 July 2022

For true dino enthusiasts Qld offers a comprehensive range of dinosaur destinations.

As well as Age of Dinosaurs and Lark Quarry Stampede near Winton you can follow the dinosaur trail to Kronosaurus Korner in Richmond and Flinders Discovery Centre in Hughenden.

We had planned to spend a day visiting the two attractions close to Winton but when we arrived at Age of Dinosaurs it became apparent we were not going to achieve all we had set out to do. Talking to the staff here we discovered that the 100km road out to Lark Quarry was all dirt and would be a two hour drive each way, and The Age of Dinosaurs was much bigger than we had anticipated. Very disappointed that we didn’t have time to explore it all we resigned ourselves to only seeing one of the dino attractions on our list, and as we were here, this would be it.

Age of Dinosaurs

More large dinosaur fossil material has been discovered in Winton Shire than any other area in Australia. Making Winton the perfect place to build The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History, home to the world’s largest collection of Australia’s largest dinosaur fossils. The museum sits 75m above the surrounding land on The Jump-Up, part of a mesa plateau that rests like an island in the desert.

This is no regular museum. Divided into several sections: The Collection Room, The Fossil Preparation Laboratory and Dinosaur Canyon, each section is a separate tour and you can buy tickets for any combination of the above. If you are planning a visit it would be a good idea to book in advance – even though we had made an early start and were the first ones through the door we couldn’t get into the time slots we would have liked, evidentially most travellers are more organised than we are. After a bit of negotiation we settle for just seeing two areas, the Lab where the fossils are prepared and Dinosaur Canyon. To see everything it is recommended that you allow three hours. (https://www.australianageofdinosaurs.com/page/20/australian-age-of-dinosaurs-plan-a-visit)

The Fossil Preparation Lab

The Lab is a short walk from the visitor centre with some stunning views of the surrounding savannah along the way. The tour was great, I had no idea what was involved in recovering and restoring these ancient bones. Being able to see up close the different stages of preparing the bones to be dug up, restoration, repairs and sorting all the finds. How they are cleaned and the giant dino puzzles are put together for study and display. Each discovery is named by the person who made the find – we saw Bob, Trixie and Butch just to name a few. Volunteers at benches were working hard cleaning up bones and happy to answer questions from the tourists, must drive them slightly mad – I am sure each group asks the same thing all day!

Dinosaur Canyon

Dinosaur canyon is a 2.5km shuttle bus ride from the visitor centre. Gathering at the bus pick up point at the allotted time we swatted flies while we waited for our shuttle and in due time climbed aboard for our ride across the plateau. Greeted at the other end by a guide who seemed to know her stuff we were educated about the history of dinosaurs in Australia and then given a tour of the March of the Titanosaurs exhibition.

These dinosaur tracks were first exposed in 2000 when a small creek changed its course following large-scale flooding in the Winton district, the presence of dinosaur tracks was not recognised by landowners at the time. Repeated rain and flood events have taken their toll on the fossilised tracks, many of them requiring major restoration. 

Excavation work was carried out by the Museum in 2018 when staff and volunteers worked over many months relocating the entire trackway to the Museum where they are now preserved in the purpose built exhibition building. Research and interpretation of these footprints has provided insight into the speeds, gaits and body sizes of the dinosaurs as well as their interaction and behaviour. The things the researchers can tell just from the direction some mud was squished is astonishing. We both found it hard to wrap our heads around looking at things that are 95 million years old.

The tracks extend over 50m and include three distinct dinosaur types: huge sauropods, small to medium–sized ornithopods and tiny theropods. Finding the footprints of small dinosaurs associated with those of large ones is unusual and these well-preserved fossils tell the story of a few days, 95 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed western Queensland.

Dinosaur Canyon also has a self-guided walk offering more spectacular views of the surrounding area. A raised walkway takes you on a journey amongst statues of various species giving a fabulous insight to the scale and interaction of different dinosaurs.

Although we didn’t get to do everything we had hoped too, we still thoroughly enjoyed exploring the world of dinosaurs and are inspired to come back and visit more of the dinosaur trail next time we visit outback Qld.

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