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The creatures in Dinosaur Park are so close to Interstate 40 that they appear to threaten passing traffic.  6-04.
Clickable Map.  Take exit 294 south from Interstate 10 to visit Dinosaur Park.  The Arizona Department of Transportation reported that the traffic on this section of I-40 averaged 21,129 vehicles per day in 2001.

Dinosaur Park opens.  The oddly colored and strangely shaped hills of northeastern Arizona are not all contained in the Petrified Forest National Park.  Many spill over into the surrounding countryside.  In 1999, the operators of Dinosaur Park took advantage of their piece of this terrain to populate the area with a collection of immobile prehistoric creatures cast by local artisans.  As of 2002, there were 14 concrete dinosaurs in the park with 12 more gestating in the minds of the park owners.

For a mere $5 admission fee (as of June 2004) motorists may drive through, as their pamphlet says, an area "recognized by the federal government as the best-preserved Triassic Region in the world."  For those that might not have been paying attention during the Triassic Period, that was what followed the Paleozoic Era and preceded the Jurassic Period.  It took place between 248 and 206 million years ago, and was marked by the very beginning of the age of the dinosaurs. 

Reign of the Dinosaurs.  Dinosaurs would reign from the end of the Triassic Period for the next 160 million years, through the Jurassic Period--remember Jurassic Park (1993)?--and even into the Cretaceous Period where some would make an evolutionary right turn enabling them to fly above the treetops, sit on power lines and become the main ingredient in Chicken McNuggets.  If prehistoric man had arrived on the scene a bit earlier, and if he had used a primitive spear to skewer a dinosaur, he would undoubtedly have reported that it tasted like chicken.

Dinosaurs found.  In 1981, paleontologists began digging up fossils of early dinosaurs in the adjacent Petrified Forest National Park.  In 1984 they uncovered the bones of a two-meter-long creature that they nicknamed "Gertie."  Gertie was called a mystery because it shared characteristics of both reptiles and dinosaurs.  Eventually, Gertie was classified as the dinosaur Chindesaurus bryansmalli.

Chindesaurus means "Chinde lizard." It is now said to be the first dinosaur to live in North America.  Gertie would have been a meat eater, and on the smallish side for dinosaurs.  She measured only about 6 feet long, was just over 3 feet tall, and weighed in at 66 pounds.

Concrete brings dinosaurs to life.  The Petrified Forest National Park made casts of Gertie's bones and put them on display at the Rainbow Forest Museum in the southern end of the park.  Dinosaur Park enlarged on the modest display in the neighboring national park.  They made larger-than-life concrete models and placed them around the roads in their park.  For some reason, the more impressive creatures have ended up close enough to Interstate 40 to be highly visible form the road.

T-rex is in the gift shop.  The dinosaurs around the park look much like Gertie and her contemporary, the similar though larger Herrerasaurus found in South America, and the larger still Allosaurus which came much later.  They do not look much like the dinosaurs we known and loved from the movies, such as the Tyrannosaurus rex.  For a one specimen taste of those creatures one must visit the gift shop where a life size, rubber skinned T-rex dominates the shop.

Gertie, the real dinosaur, probably resembled this creature which like the one in the first photo threatens traffic on Interstate 40.  Gertie would have been much smaller, standing not even as tall as this creature's knees.  6-04.
Traffic from Interstate 40 serve as a backdrop for this creature.  6-04.
A dinosaur sits on his own patio slab in field of petrified logs amid gray cone-shaped hills like those in the Blue Mesa section of the adjacent Petrified Forest National Park.  6-04.
A more traditional or perhaps more evolved dinosaur populates the gift shop.  6-04.
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