Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite

Greybull Riverwalk

Nature & Environmental Management Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine

Photograph of a nearly complete skeleton of horned dinosaur found in Wyoming.

Did you know that about 180 million years ago, the giant plateau we call Wyoming used to be the shoreline of the Sundance Sea—an ancient ocean that covered most of North America? At Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite, thousands of Middle Jurassic Period dinosaur and animal tracks created along the once-muddy shores of the Sundance Sea have been preserved in layer upon layer of sediment. Geologist and Greybull, Wyoming, native Erik Kvale first excavated these 40 acres of fossilized coastal life in 1997, adding this finding to Wyoming’s already rich history of paleontology, but the presence of fossils was by no means a discovery. [1] Indigenous peoples of the West, and later paleontologists, had long known of the fossil record buried in Wyoming’s dirt.

Following the uncovering of massive dinosaur fossil deposits around the Rocky Mountains in 1877, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska became hotspots for competitive and fanatical fossil hunters. [2] The prospects of scientific fame and fortune inspired an intense rivalry—known as the Bone Wars, a period of aggressive fossil hunting—between paleontologists Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope. From 1877 to 1892, Marsh and Cope led expeditions to rich fossil deposits with the goal of outdoing one another in the scientific field. [3] Between the two scientists, there were several instances of nefarious behavior, including one event in Como Bluff, Wyoming, where both camps threw rocks, fist fought and smashed bones of fossil specimen. [4]

Wyoming’s most significant discoveries during the Bone Wars were found in Como Bluffs and Niobrara County. Two Stegosaurus skeletons and a partial Brontosaurus skeleton were excavated along with hundreds of other fossils just south of Casper, in the rolling hills of Como Bluffs. A few hours northeast, in Niobrara County, a three-horned skull of a Triceratops and a complete Monoclonius skeleton were discovered. [5]

It is important to note that these exemplary fossils were not solely the discoveries of Marsh and Cope. Their expeditions inspired fossil hunters and scientists to flock to Wyoming and the surrounding states in pursuit of their own finds. Despite the ruthless actions that took place during the Bone Wars, this period resulted in the expansion of the field of American paleontology and increased public interest in dinosaurs. [6]

Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite, along with institutions like Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, allows visitors to interact with these fossilized specimens and learn more about Wyoming’s natural history. For more info on driving directions to the tracksite, please visit the website at


  • [1] “Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite,”,; “Paleontology: Wyoming’s Fossil Record,” Wyoming State Geological Survey,
  • [2] Roy L. Moodie, Ph.D., The Dinosaurs of Wyoming developed for the Wyoming Geological Survey (Cheyenne, WY: The Capitol Press, 1930),
  • [3] Anthony J. Martin, Introduction to the Study of Dinosaurs (Blackwell Publishing, 2006).
  • [4] Chamois Andersen, “Como Bluff, Bone Wars,” accessed August 2021,
  • [5] Moodie, The Dinosaurs of Wyoming.
  • [6] David Rains Wallace, The Bonehunter’s Revenge: Dinosaurs, Greed, and the Greatest Scientific Feud of the Gilded Age (Houghton Mifflin Books, 1999).

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