Outback Odyssey: Dinosaurs (Part 2)

Days 9 and 10 were devoted to the other two points in my dinosaur triangle – or as it’s officially called, Australia’s Dinosaur Trail. We stayed one night in both Richmond and Hughenden, which both had something unique to offer in terms of fossils and the hunt for them.

Richmond’s dinosaur centrepiece is Kronosaurus Korner. You can’t miss the monumental blue creature right in the centre of town.

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Richmond focal point

Inside is an excellent short movie detailing the prehistoric landscape of the area, explaining how 100 million years ago most of outback Queensland was an inland sea. That means fossils found in this area are all marine specimens. The museum includes plenty of fossils including fish soup (a mess of prehistoric fish bones), giant ammonites, a kronosaurus (of course) and the most complete specimen of a plesiosaur in the world (98% in tact, discovered when a farmer stubbed his toe on its jaw bone sticking out of a creek bank).

 

By the end, the tales of the farmers, amateur paleontologists and novice tourists that had unearthed amazing discoveries in the local area had us all hankering to get out at the fossil sites with our newly acquired pick axe and get discovering.

And that’s exactly what we did the next morning. First stop was fossil site 1, the partially cleared site about 12km out of town.

 

Almost immediately we discovered slabs of fish soup and molluscs. And it wasn’t long before we also found the local favourite, a belemnite (the bullet shaped backbone of ancient squid).

The kids’ attention was taken by making a slag heap fort with some newly made friends, and the adults continued to pore over rocks, rocks and more rocks. Both Connie and I uncovered fossilised poo (coprolites) and my mum held onto a wonderful example of what she thought was a vertebrae, only to be told later she was carrying around some much more recent scatalogical specimen.

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Our haul (see if you can identify the poo)

Having fossil fever bad, we were hoping to discover bigger and even better things at site 2, the natural area on the other side of the road. This site promises huge skeletons under the crust but, as we didn’t have shovels, it didn’t yield much for us and wasn’t really worth our time.

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Site 2 needs more serious tools

By lunch time we were filthy and sore but excited to have our specimens identified back at Kronosaurus Korner after refreshing ourselves at the cafe. Then it was on to Hughenden and yet more frenzied fossil finding.

The trifecta of dinosaur museums is complete with the Flinders Discovery Centre in Hughenden. At first sight, it appears the least impressive of the 3 prehistoric museums on the trail, but this one also had unique specimens including a Muttaburrasaurus and some very pretty fossils like polished dinosaur eggs and opalised belemnites from Coober Pedy.

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Muttaburrasaurus

This museum also recommended some gullies 16kms outside of town which were good belemnite hunting grounds. These are not marked areas and require a bit of scrambling to get to them but they yielded many fragments of those bullet shaped fossils.  Thomas unearthed a wonderful complete specimen, making the trip out worthwhile and rounding out a great prehistoric experience.

 

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