Dinosaur footprints, fossilized plants, and delicate ripple marks of a prehistoric pool are preserved in stone at this reservation near the west bank of the Connecticut River. Since at least 1860, ichnologists (those who study fossil tracks) have acclaimed the Connecticut River Valley for its abundance of paleontological specimens, especially dinosaur tracks.
Approximately 190 million years ago, during the late Triassic and early Jurassic Periods, the land that is today the Connecticut River Valley was a subtropical region filled with lakes and swamps. Two-legged, carnivorous dinosaurs crossed these lands leaving behind footprints in mudflats which were periodically wetted and dried.
Dried imprints were subsequentially covered with sand and, through a sequence of climatic and geological changes over the eons, the footprints were preserved in the earth until construction of the current Route 5 exposed them many years later. The largest of these dinosaurs likely stood 10-15 feet tall and measured more than 20 feet in length. They walking on their hind legs and used their tail for balance and upper limbs for grabbing food. They had double rows of teeth in huge mouths set in oversized heads.
Preserved in tilted sandstone beds along the west bank of the Connecticut River in Holyoke, MA are 134 separate dinosaur footprints. In the early 1970s, Yale University Ichnologist John Ostrom studied the tracks at Dinosaur Footprints and identified them as being from three distinct, though related, dinosaurs - the largest (11-13' long) footprints were from Eubrontes giganteus, the intermediate (6-8') from Anchisauripus sillimani, and the smallest (3-5') from Grallator cuneatus.
Ostrom determined that almost all of the 134 footprints were part of 28 distinct trackways, 20 of which tended towards a westerly direction. He writes in 1972, 'I was somewhat surprised to observe that nearly all the conspicuous trackways led in very nearly the same direction.' Ostrom concluded for the first time ever that some dinosaurs - Eubrontes, for example - were actually gregarious and tended to travel as a 'herd, pack, or flock.'
Dinosaur tracks similar to these at Dinosaur Footprints were first studied by Edward Hitchcock (1793-1864) who was one of the first dinosaur track scholars in the world and a professor at Amherst College. In the 1830s, he published his first work on dinosaur footprints and is generally credited with the theory that dinosaurs had their evolutionary origin in birds. Hitchcock is the namesake of the Hitchcock Environmental Center in Amherst.
A short boardwalk leads from the entrance to the location of the dinosaur footprints. Easy walking.
Open April 1 to November 30, daily, sunrise to sunset.
Allow a minimum of one-half hour.
Route 5, Holyoke, MA map
Phone: (413) 684-0148
Going north on Route I-91, take exit 17A (Route 141 east) towards Holyoke. Turn left onto Route 5 north and follow for 2.2 mi. Entrance on right. Going south on Route I-91, take exit 18 and follow Route 5 south towards Holyoke for 5.2 mi. Entrance on left. Park in small roadside pull-out (7 cars).
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