At Dinosaur Park in Laurel, Maryland, children can experience what it would be like to be a paleontologist and look for fossil fragments in the most important dinosaur collecting site east of the Mississippi. The site was an ironworks until the 1920s and then a brickyard until 2005. The park is good for all ages, from toddlers, who love to play in the dirt, to older children, who know something about dinosaurs.
The interpretive garden is open to the public daily from dawn to dusk. The hands-on open houses in a gated area take place the first and third Saturdays every month from 12 noon to 4 p.m. The interpretive garden is open to the public daily from dawn to dusk. It’s only worthwhile to visit during an open house. Note: The open house is only cancelled if there is snow on the ground.
As you enter the garden, you’ll be asked to sign the guest book. About every 15-20 minutes, depending on the crowd, an interpreter will give a short talk about the history of the park, what you might find, and how to identify it. During the talk, you can sit on large chunks of ironstone as samples of some of the finds are passed around. Then, the gates are unlocked. You cannot enter the fossil area, until you have listened to the spiel. If you have to wait, read the four informative signs about Maryland’s dinosaurs and prehistoric plants and the history of the park. The tiny garden features ginkgos, horsetails, ferns, and evergreensâ€”all plants that would have grown during the Cretaceous Period. During this period, Laurel, Maryland, apparently resembled a Louisiana swamp.
Once inside the gates, you’re free to surface collect on the hill of clay within the yellow taped in area. If you’re lucky, you may find tree fossils, fossil cones, clam and snail fossils, turtle shells, crocodile teeth, or dinosaur teeth, claws, or toes. Don’t expect to find anything big or showy. While we were there, one person found a crocodile jaw and it was considered quite the find. All finds have to remain within the park. If it’s especially noteworthy it will be sent to the Smithsonian. You, will, however, get credited with a label for a significant find. After an hour of searching, all we found were a couple of pieces of ironstone that the interpreter said we could keep. Interpreters were very helpful and attentive.
- There is no shade, so bring sunscreen in the summer.
- Dinosaur t-shirts and books about dinosaurs in the area are sold outside the garden for $10-$15. Proceeds benefit the Dinosaur Fund.
- Trivia Question: Did you know the Maryland state dinosaur is the Astrodon?
- In addition to the open houses, public educational programs are available for schools and other groups. Call the Park Ranger Office 301-627-7755 for information and reservations.
- The only bathroom available is a Jiffy John.
- You can picnic in the garden on the rocks. There are lots of restaurants a mile away on Route 1.
- There is ample street parking.