Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Visit to Holyoke's Dinosaur Footprints

Managed by the Trustees of Reservations in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, the Dinosaur Footprints park off Route 5 in Holyoke is a fun and interesting spot to explore for all ages. Preserved in layers of sandstone, fossilized plants, ripples in sand forever frozen, and the paths of dinosaurs on the move send imaginations reaching into the long ago time, when giants roamed the earth. And not just any earth, our part of the earth. Some of the dinosaurs that got their feet muddy tromping up the banks of the ancient lake bed of the Connecticut River Valley may have very well spent some time hanging out in your backyard, or where your grandmother's living room is right now.

Here are some photographs of the Dinosaur Footprints.

Parking is just a little pull-off on the east side of Route 5 in Holyoke, not far from the Easthampton town line. This handy and well-kept kiosk of facts greets visitors.

The area looked especially spiffy the other day. The Trustees are doing a fine job as stewards of this local treasure.

The open flat sandstone is visible straight ahead through the trees. The path heading to the right leads to the Connecticut River.

According to the Trustees of Reservations web site, there are "134 separate dinosaur footprints" here and "almost all of the 134 footprints were part of 28 distinct trackways, 20 of which tended towards a westerly direction."

A nickel placed on the stone to the right gives one an approximation of this footprint's size.

Some tracks are more distinguishable than others at the site, their depth and shape obvious clues that a giant lizard passed this way.

Ancient ripples undisturbed, shaped and worked smooth by the fingertips of waters long receded.

The Connecticut River lies just beyond these railroad tracks running north to south that border the eastern edge of the Dinosaur Footprints.

The river calls all who stand within view.

Layer upon layer of life and time - preserved and stacked reams of ancient histories captured in the silt of yesterdays.

Jutting out of the water, these sandstone ledges appear to push toward their landed brethren, eager to share the secrets they too assuredly conceal.

A book of days etched in stone pages and sung in the language of artifacts. This is where the dinosaurs walked.

And still, the river rolls by, forever smoothing the secrets that lie beneath her, concealed and magnificent.

For more information and directions to the dinosaur tracks, visit the Trustees of Reservations Dinosaur Footprints web page at: http://www.thetrustees.org/pages/298_dinosaur_footprints.cfm. For a list of more interesting and fun stuff to see and do in the area, check out EWM's page of, Things To Do In Western Massachusetts.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

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sojourner said...

I've driven by the dinosaur footprints many times and never stopped. You've convinced me to do so the next time I'm in the area. Thanks, Mark, for your continuous free education about the area.

VanDog said...

It is legal to cross the rail road tracks, when safe to do so, But illegal to walk along the tracks. The law is simply trying to avoid the dangers of tracks being used as foot paths. Many people have been killed that way.

Great post BTW.

Mark T. Alamed said...


Just giving potential visitors a heads-up.

According to the Trustees web site, which I read when I got home, (hence the tongue-in-cheek railroad track crossing comment):

"For visitor safety, Guilford Transportation, which owns the railroad corridor, does not permit crossing of railroad tracks. As such, there is no legal access to the Connecticut River."

Having grown up walking "the tracks" the ban seems kind of silly, but I certainly don't want anyone getting into trouble on my account.

Take care!


Kim said...

Great post! Nice to see an often times missed "attraction" getting the recognition it deserves! My father took me to see the tracks when I was little I remember them being outlined in chalk or maybe paint at that time. I took my nieces (who live in Ontario) to see the tracks two summers ago when they were staying with us. They loved it as much as I did when I was little… I was surprised however to see the tracks were not outlined… though many are very easy to see. We were lucky the day we went a crew doing maintenance was just getting ready to leave and they gave the girls a brief history of the site and pointed out some things to them I would never have noticed. On a side note I didn’t know it was illegal to cross the tracks and I took my nieces to the other side of the tracks to see the interesting rock formations along the river… I guess we were just lucky the maintenance crew had left!

Kent said...

In 1949 my parents used to own a little restaurant, The Gingerbread Cottage, which is at the site of the parking area and kiosk at the Dinosaur Footprints. At five years of age I used to give guided tours of the footprints for a dime. I also used to wade in the Connecticut River across the tracks quite often

Austin said...

I went to see the dinosaur tracks this morning, for the first time. Very interesting! I had driven by then for years and was aware of their existence, but a friend this morning asked me if I wanted to take a look, and I did. I did a search online after I got home and came upon this blog...

Anonymous said...

I too viewed the prints when I was a student at Elmwood Elementary School back in the 40s. Very interesting indeed.
Much later as an adult I learned that some of the prints were removed and placed in the front yard of the Skinner Mansion, "Wisteriahurst" (sp?). I believe they still can be seen there.
David T. Cousineau