The Hanksville-Burpee Quarry is located near Hanksville, Utah in Wayne County. The quarry is within the Brushy Basin Member of the Morrison Formation, which is 145-150 million years old (Jurassic Period). Although the locality was known to locals and BLM Utah, it wasn’t until the crew from the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, Illinois started digging that anyone realized the magnitude of dinosaur material that was buried in the rocks.
Short History of Events:
In 2007, after the Burpee Museum had applied for a paleontology resource use permit to survey the area, Buzz Rakow of the Henry Mountain Field Station suggested the crew take a look at the area now known as the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry. After recognizing the potentiall of the locality, Mike Henderson (Curator of Earth Sciences) and Scott Williams (Collections and Exhibits Manager) decided to return in the following year to excavate. After only three weeks of excavation in the summer of 2008, the crew discovered numerous sauropods (long-necked dinosaurs), at least one carnivorous dinosaur, and a possible herbivorous Stegosaurus. The 2009 field season proved to be successful as well, with the removal of many jacketed bones and the discovery of more material. The education department of the Burpee Museum of Natural History also was on location to provide public tours explaining the science behind the quarry.
The material found at the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry was originally deposited in a sandy river channel that once flowed through the area. This ancient river channel contains not only dinosaur bones, but fresh water clams and petrified tree trunks. The assemblage of all of these fossils provides excellent clues into the paleoecology of the locality.
The sauropods found in the quarry include Apataosaurus (formerly known as Brontosaurus), Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus and Camarasaurus. These long-necked dinosaurs ate plants and were assumed to roam in herds. Sauropods are the largest animals to ever live on land.
Allosaurus, the state fossil of Utah, was also found in the quarry. A powerful predator during the Late Jurassic, Allosaurus possibly hunted in packs. Standing over 15 feet tall as an adult, this meat-eating dinosaur had a massive tail and three-fingered hands ending in six inch claws.
A possible Stegosaurus was also found in the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry. Stegosaurus was a large, plant-eating dinosaur with 17 bony plates along its back. These triangular plates could be up to 2.5 feet tall and long. Along with these plates, Stegosaurus had pairs of long, perpendicular spikes at the end of its tail.
Importance: Although this recently discovered quarry has not yielded any examples of new dinosaurs, it is important in that it contains not only dinosaur bones, but environmental clues about the past environment. The dinosaurs found here at the Hanskville-Burpee Quarry are similar to those found at Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry near Price, UT and Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal, UT. The BLM UT and Burpee Museum of Natural History plan to continue their efforts to educate the public about this site and hope to provide interpretive signs and trails for the public in the future.