We drove to a spot I’ve been meaning to visit for years – “Dinosaur Footprints”, just outside of Holyoke on Route 5. I’d heard it was a great place to see fossilized dinosaur tracks and that there was a trail, so the kids and I were pretty excited.
However, the “hike” wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. The website I’d visited had described the trail as “easy walking” and suggested visitors allow thirty minutes for their trip. So that’s what we did. We parked, got out, and hit the trailhead, right behind a French couple who were fully kitted out for hiking – sunhats, water bottles, the works.
But here’s the thing. The walk took us all of two minutes. It was literally around the bend from the start point. We were so disappointed. (And I think the French couple was too).
Even so, the fossils were definitely worth the trip.
Signs posted along the trail say that the entire Connecticut River Valley was once a region of subtropical lakes and swamps. The 130+ footprints, fossilized plants, and ripple marks you can see at “Dinosaur Tracks” today were made in mud millions of years ago, covered with sediment, and then finally uncovered in 1920 when workers were building Route 5. Later studied by a Yale professor, the tracks were the first to document the idea that dinosaurs traveled in packs or herds.
We also learned that fossilized dinosaur footprints in the Connecticut River Valley were the “first known to science anywhere in the world.” Pretty amazing.
And, speaking of the Connecticut River, it’s just a stone’s throw from the tracks.
But, it’s also near a set of railroad tracks, and in Massachusetts, it’s illegal to cross railroad tracks anywhere other than at a designated crossing. There were plenty of signs posted on trees nearby to remind us of this law. The girls and I stood there reading them and dutifully obeyed. No river for us. (Meanwhile, as we read, a man, a woman, and a chihuahua calmly crossed the tracks in front of us and settled down on the riverbank for an afternoon of fishing.)
From the dining room table, trying to imagine what a subtropical Massachusetts would look like,