Posted: Oct 29, 2012 9:09 AM by Stan Parker - MTN News
Updated: Oct 29, 2012 11:37 AM
BRIDGER - We all know Montana is known for its natural splendor - the peaks, the prairies, the plants and the wildlife, but the secrets below the ground are sometimes just as enthralling as the beauty above.
"Probably most of the fossils in museums today come from public land, and so almost everything that we know about T-Rex and Allosaurus and so forth, has come from researchers studying on our public lands," Bureau of Land Management paleontologist Greg Ligget explained.
Montana has much to contribute to that legacy of piecing the past together. The chapters of Earth's history are pressed into layers of ancient rocks, bursting upwards to reveal her secrets near Bridger.
But it takes a trained eye like Ligget's to read the language of the rock, and he makes for an excellent tour guide.
"These Red Rocks, geologists call Red Dome. It was deposited about 240 million years ago. It's just really cool to be able to travel back in time 240 million years," he said.
When a geologist looks at a landscape like the one near Bridger, they read into the whole story that it's trying to tell them.
"The deposit of the ocean, the deposit of the material above it, the uplift, the erosion, [are responsible for] what we have what we see today," Ligget explained.
Read ahead tens of millions of years by traveling over a near hillside where you might just see a ridge, but Ligget sees more.
"I see the ocean. I see 200 million years ago, this very rich ocean, lush with lots of life," he explained. Than as this ocean is receding, we're going to get into the next age, the age of dinosaurs in the Morrison formation of the Jurassic, which is just over the hill."
The Morrison outcrops from Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, and all the way into New Mexico, and everywhere that it's exposed there are dinosaurs to be found.
Beneath this dirt near Bridger, over 2,000 bones have been harvested. Known as the Mother's Day site, it was originally worked by the Museum of the Rockies, before being turned over to the Cincinnati Museum.
"Every fossil has a story to tell. It is by putting these fossils together in an organized way that we learn about our past. There's definitely the thrill in the hunt. The thrill of discover. That drives all of us," Ligget concluded.