The Bureau of Land Management hosted the first Dinosaur Day in Big Water, Utah, on Oct. 9.
Dozens of local children and adults, as well as visitors from afar, filled the outdoor area in front of the visitor center.
With its design based on an ammonite fossil, the Big Water visitor center looks like a sort of snail shell from the sky enclosing a patio and amphitheater.
On the ground, there were several activity stations on Saturday where participants could learn about some of the discoveries in southern Utah in general and near Big Water in particular.
As part of the event, aspiring paleontologists could “dig for a dinosaur,” make their own “fossil” and make dinosaur prints on the patio floor with sidewalk chalk. The children and adults enjoyed the learning activities.
Joshua Lively, curator of paleontology at the Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum, spoke to the audience in the outdoor amphitheater about the huge sea turtles from the Cretaceous Era that existed near Big Water. These enormous creatures had shells that were 6 feet in diameter, wider than many people are tall.
One of the fossils Lively brought to show was that of the edge of turtle's shell, complete with top and bottom bones. Other fossils included a soft-shelled turtle and a hadrosaurus skull and bones.
Alan Titus, paleontologist for the Bureau of Land Management and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, showed participants fossils of femurs, tibias and turtle shells. Titus’ favorite was the hadrosaurus skull. Titus has a dinosaur named for him, the Nasutoceratops titusi, a horned dinosaur.
According to the director of the visitor center, Nettie Klingler, this is the first Dinosaur Day held in Big Water, and she expects it to be a new annual event.
This year’s event was a partnership between the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and the Utah State University, allowing the public to see actual fossils found in the area.
Several volunteers from the Page and Big Water area helped with the event to set up tables and activities. Before coming to the Grand Staircase Visitor Center, Klingler worked at Grand Canyon National Park and would like to see more ranger programs in Big Water.
She said she would like to see the visitor center take a more active role in the community by providing a venue for other activities in addition to Dinosaur Day. She sees a real potential in the facility to make it even better than it already is.
Inside the visitor center, visitors can see exhibits about the dinosaurs of southern Utah, ask questions about area attractions and activities, and find books, maps, gifts and souvenirs in the bookstore.
For more information, contact the Big Water Visitor Center at 435-675-3200 and the Glen Canyon Conservancy at https://www.canyonconservancy.org/.