Canon City Stegosaurus Fossil Basis of New Display at Royal Gorge

Monday, May 14, 2018

COURTESY PHOTO This close-up photo of the spiked tail and back places of a stegosaurus hints at the immense size of the fossil to be unveiled May 19 at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience in Canon City.

A Stegosaurus skeleton believed to be the first of its kind in the world to be created from three-dimensional scanning and printing is set to be unveiled Saturday at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience, 44895 U.S. 50, eight miles west of here.

The Stegosaurus, modeled after the fossil unearthed in Garden Park Dinosaur Fossil Area just north of Canon City in 1936, will be the subject of a homecoming gala dubbed "Stego Mania." The event will run from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

The original stegosaurus fossil was found by Professor Fred Kessler, a local high school geology teacher who was accompanied by a group of his students. That 82-year-old find is on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and, in the spirit of sharing, the museum granted dinosaur cast builder Mike Triebold permission to create a three-dimensional digital scan of the bones.

Triebold, of Triebold Paleontology Inc., is "a world leader in dinosaur casts and has built the entire cast-skeleton collection at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience," said Zach Reynolds, museum director.

"The Stego Mania event will welcome the newest and most high-tech member of our cast-skeleton collection. This new display gives us a great excuse to welcome our friends to the museum for a day of fun-filled activities, games and giveaways," Reynolds said.

Kessler's stegosaurus is one of three stegos unearthed in the fossil area here. The stegosaurus was officially named the state fossil in 1982.

Ironically, Reynolds' maternal grandfather, Pete Allen, was a local high school teacher who worked with Kessler to excavate dinosaurs in the 1950s and 60s in Garden Park.

"All told, this project took two years to complete and represents one of the crown jewels in our collection," said Reynolds. "Once unveiled, the unique stegosaurus casting will reside on its own custom-built, permanent display on the southwestern corner of our main exhibit hall."

Stego Mania will include Diana Biggs, a museum adventure guide, presenting "Stego 101" for children ages 4 and up in the museum's Kids Interactive Area. Children also will be making stegosaurus-themed crafts on the patio.

Light refreshments will be served and food trucks will be selling heartier fare.

Reynolds said a fire that engulfed the museum's outdoor animatronic Tyrannasaurus rex was caused by an isolated electrical issue in late March. The unexpected fire drew a lot of attention to the museum.

"The T. rex quickly turned it into a roaring, 30-foot wall of flames. Video and photographs of the blaze was seen by tens of millions of people around the world on countless television news programs, in newspapers and on websites," Reynolds said.

The T-Rex at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience was destroyed by a fire that was ignited by an electrical issue in March. The museum plans to replace the animatronic. (Zach Reynolds / Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience)

"We have already ordered a replacement animatronic T. rex, and our nearby ropes course was thoroughly inspected and reopened a week after the fire. The now-iconic photograph should soon be gracing the cover of an upcoming rock 'n' roll album -- they just liked our image and licensed it -- plus we plan to make the image available on official gift shop merchandise in coming months."

The museum's summer hours starting May 24 will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday.