Red Cliffs Dinosaur Track Site
When Dinosaurs Roamed
Preserved in the rocks of the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area is evidence that dinosaurs once roamed this area millions of years ago. Fossil footprints, or tracks, were first discovered in these sandstone cliffs in 1998, and are aiding scientists in their understanding of ancient life. When this track site was re-examined in 2012, paleontologists found 17 tracks and identified them as Grallator and Kayentapus. Eubrontes tracks can be seen near the end of the trail.
When dinosaurs left their footprints here 190 million years ago, the landscape of the southwest was in transition. Aridity was increasing; the large meandering rivers and shallow lakes that characterized an earlier geologic time were giving way to wind-blown seas of sand. The Red Cliffs Track Site occurs in the transition zone between the Kayenta Formation and Navajo Sandstone formed during the Jurassic Period. In this transition zone, river deposited siltstones, mudstones, and fine-grained sandstones typical of the Kayenta Formation are layered with crossed-bedded, windblown sandstone typical of Navajo Sandstone. The tracks here are in fine-grained sandstone and were probably left in the soft sediments of a stream or lake edge during a wetter climatic cycle.
Who's Toes are Those?
Although paleontologists cannot tell from tracks which specific type of dinosaur made them, tracks can be tied to a general group of dinosaurs based on shape and size. This allows for names or ichnotaxa to be given to the track forms themselves. The three different types of tracks found in Red Cliffs have been identified as Grallator, Eubrontes, and Kayentapus. Paleontologists suggest the Grallator and Eubrontes tracks have been made by Megapnosaurus and Dilophosaurus. The dinosaur linked to the Kayentapus track remains unknown.
Tracks are trace fossils that are not actual parts of animals or plants, but objects or signs left behind by them. Other trace fossils include coprolites (mineralized feces) , gastroliths (stomach stones), and skin or feather impressions. There are three different types of track impressions: true tracks, under-tracks, and natural casts. True tracks are the initial imprint made by the dinosaur. Under-tracks are the layers beneath the true track which carry a less detailed impression. Natural casts are the sediments that fill the true track.
Location of the Red Cliffs Dinosaur Track Site
Within the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, massive exposures of the Jurassic age Kayenta Formation and Navajo Sandstone that preserve scientifically important dinosaur tracks and trackways, bone beds, plant fossils, and silicified wood are conserved and protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.
Please help protect paleontological sites. It is illegal to dig, remove, or collect vertebrate fossils without a permit. Never make molds or castings or apply anything to fossils and trackways. You can help protect these irreplaceable sites by not walking or sitting on fossils or trackways. Thank you.
Access note: To enter the Red Cliffs Recreation Area, vehicle and trailer height and width is restricted to 11 feet 9 inches to pass through two narrow underpasses beneath the I-15 freeway. Plan your travel according.
Northbound from Saint George: From I-15 northbound, take exit 22 for UT-228 north toward Leeds, then turn right onto Old Highway 91. Continue for 2 miles, then turn right onto West Red Cliffs Campground Road.
Southbound from Cedar City: From I-15 southbound, take exit 23 toward UT-228/Leeds, then turn left onto Silver Reef Road. Continue for 480 feet, then turn right onto Main Street. After 1.5 miles, continue southbound on Old Highway 91 for 2 miles. Turn right onto West Red Cliffs Campground Road.
Day Use Fee: $5 per vehicle. Cash or check only. The America the Beautiful Passes are accepted here and allow free day-use.