Dinosaur Park (Prince George's County, Maryland)
|Location||13200 block of Mid-Atlantic Boulevard, near Laurel, Maryland and Muirkirk, Maryland|
|Operated by||Prince George's County Department of Parks and Recreation|
|Open||Fenced area is open first and third Saturdays of each month.|
|Status||Garden area is open year round.|
Dinosaur Park is a park located in the 13200 block of Mid-Atlantic Boulevard, near Laurel and Muirkirk, Maryland, and operated by the Prince George's County Department of Parks and Recreation. The park features a fenced area where visitors can join paleontologists and volunteers in searching for early Cretaceous fossils. The park also has an interpretive garden with plants and information signs. The park is in the approximate location of discoveries of Astrodon teeth and bones as early as the 19th century.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the clays of the Muirkirk Deposit in Prince George's County, Maryland were mined for siderite, or iron ore. Iron furnaces located throughout the region melted down siderite to produce iron and steel used in construction and manufacturing. In 1858, African-American miners working in open pit mines were the first to discover dinosaur fossils in Maryland.
Among the first scientists to explore the Muirkirk Deposit was Maryland state geologist Phillip Thomas Tyson. He brought some of the strange bones discovered in the iron mines to a meeting of the Maryland Academy of Sciences in 1859, where his colleagues identified them as dinosaurs. Paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh was also interested in Maryland fossils. In the winter of 1887, he sent John Bell Hatcher to search the iron mines. Hatcher recovered hundreds of fossils, including the remains of ancient turtles and crocodiles. In the 1890s, Smithsonian Institution scientists Charles Gilmore and Arthur Bibbins also visited Prince George’s County, uncovering dinosaur teeth and other fossils that were added to the Smithsonian collection.
In December 1995, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission acquired 22 acres near Laurel, encompassing several Muirkirk Deposit exposure sites. The park protects these sites from development and unrestricted collecting, and provides an outdoor laboratory where the public can work alongside professional and amateur paleontologists to help uncover the past.
- "Dinosaur Park". Prince George's County Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved 2012-08-18.
- Bibbins, Arthur (October 1895). "Notes on the Paleontology of the Potomac Formation". In Clark, William Bullock. Johns Hopkins University Circulars XV. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University. pp. 18–19. Retrieved 2011-03-01.
- The Baltimore Sun article, "Dinosaur bone found in Laurel: Heavy rain exposed fossil at Dinosaur Park", 2011-09-21
- The Washington Times article, "Dinosaur fossil, found in Laurel, made plain by rain", 2011-09-21
- Discovery News video, "Dinosaur Park Open to All", 2010-02-17
- Washington Post article, "Laurel area rich in dinosaur fossils is dedicated as a park", 2009-10-27
- "Astrodon Rediscovered: America's First Sauropod" by Peter M. Kranz
- Maryland State Dinosaur