At the Tuba City Dinosaur Tracks, located remotely in the Arizona desert, it’s possible to view fossilized dinosaur tracks. Before stopping there recently on a long road trip, I had read mixed reviews (both concerning the validity of the tracks and the expertise of the local hosts of the site). After visiting, I’d have to guess that both good and bad are well-founded, because one’s experience can vary greatly.
Located near the Four Corners area within the Navajo Nation, the attraction is not flashy. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it an attraction. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, the single handmade sign directing you off Highway 160 isn’t likely to catch your attention. Out in the middle of the acrid desert, you drive down about 100 yards to a dusty parking lot, where a representative of the Navajo lands (remember, we’re on their property) will greet you and tour you through a series of fossilized prints from the Jurassic period.
Notice I said Navajo representative’, not guide’. The protectors of this resource are not experts, nor do they claim to be. Our representative, who told us he was a full blood Navajo who had lived his whole life just half a mile from the site, was enthusiastic, friendly toward the kids, but couldn’t answer even my ten-year-old’s questions regarding the dinosaur prints with any certainly. Of course, such unreliable information makes you wonder about the legitimacy of the attraction, but according to my research in garnering additional reviews, paleontologists stress that it’s the real deal: the tracks easily visible all over the immediate area date back 200 million years.
After that, however, all bets are off: one representative claimed tracks from dinosaurs in completely different periods, and ours boasted a T-Rex print (which my prior research had refuted). But apparently, that’s not always the case. Other people have reported far more positive experiences, having enjoyed tours from Navajo representatives who were very well-versed in their subject matter, and had taken the time to round out their knowledge with inquiries to the University of Arizona. It seems to be the luck of the draw.
Either way, it was worth the stop. Dinosaur prints are pretty cool, no matter how you slice it.
Date last visited: July 2009
Distance off the interstate: Just a few yards!
Hours and Admission Prices: Payment is by tip only. When we went, we decided (before arriving) to tip $5 per person, and considered this to be compensation not for expert opinion, but for the privilege of enjoying the Navajo lands. Open every day except most holidays. On slow days, they may close up shop early. Weekends are busiest.
Food Services: None. Navajo jewelry vendors are usually present, however.
Website: None. You can find more reviews on Google, however.
Directions: From Flagstaff: Take Highway 89 North, then turn right on 160 toward Tuba City. The location of the village of Moenkopi, and the Dinosaur Tracks site are about a mile on the left. This is 5 miles West of Tuba City, not East, on 160.