Dinosaur tracks have made their final trek – to the Journey Museum, thanks to a loan from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology's Museum of Geology. And at more than 3 tons, the journey of this 7-square-foot, 14-inch thick limestone slab was no small feat.
The slab shows the tracks of at least two small theropod dinosaurs in the top layer of stone, and a second tiny track in an underlying layer with ripple marks preserved. Theropods are characteristically three-toed, carnivorous dinosaurs. These tracks date back to the Cretaceous period and may represent a shoreline of the Western Interior Seaway. More tracks and fossils may come to light as the slab is examined.
After leaving a ranch at the eastern edge of the Black Hills to move to Custer in the 1930s, the slab remained stationary for the next 60 years before moving to the Rapid City Regional Airport. When the airport underwent renovations several years ago, the dinosaur tracks found a new home at the Paleontology Research Laboratory on the School of Mines campus, where it remained until the Museum of Geology's recent loan to the Journey.
The dinosaur tracks, displayed in the Journey's lobby and open to the public free of charge, were sought as part of the museum's Interpretation and Continuity Committee's (ICC) effort to enhance the lobby experience while providing a tantalizing taste of the treasures the museum houses and interprets. The limestone slab will be flanked by two large television screens donated by Karl's TV and Appliance. The screens will be used to broadcast information about the Journey, its mission, its partners and its exhibits.
Planning began in the summer of 2012, with the Journey's efforts greatly aided by the ICC's outreach to community supporters. As part of their Mines museum studies classes, students Alexis Godeke and Alaina Fike researched and wrote the text labels for the exhibit, and cleaned and conserved the surface of the slab with members of the Paleontology Club at SDSM&T. Box Elder Job Corps welding instructor Paul Baran and his class constructed the fabrication slab frame, while the Corps' painting instructor Tim Raftery and class painted it. Greens Moving and Storage, who transported the slab to the airport 20 years ago, moved it again to the Journey, where D&W Crane and Rigging, Inc., lifted the slab onto the frame. After Hagen Glass removed the large glass door at the Stanford Adelstein Gallery, Baran's class moved the slab into the lobby and lowered it to the floor.
During the following months, a detailed description of the track's specimen will be undertaken. The public can view the dinosaur tracks free of charge in the lobby during the museum's winter hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. on Sundays. The Journey Museum is located at 222 New York St., Rapid City.
Co-chaired by Reid Riner and Karen Miller, the ICC, in cooperation with the board of directors, identifies the specific projects and emerging needs of the Journey Museum. The Museum of Geology at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is one of the four founding partners of the Journey, and is in charge of the geology hall and programs at the museum. Sally Shelton, associate director of the Museum of Geology, serves as curator for this area.