Visitors to Red Fleet State Park destroy valuable dinosaur tracks by chucking them into lake

At least 10 dinosaur tracks have been unwittingly chucked into a lake by visitors to a state park in Utah. Despite the signs put there by the authorities, the rock chucking went on


                            Visitors to Red Fleet State Park destroy valuable dinosaur tracks by chucking them into lake

Red Fleet State Park in Utah has issued a warning after it was discovered that tourists were throwing rocks with 200-million-year-old dinosaur tracks into a lake. Over the last six months, at least ten prehistoric tracks are believed to have been lost according to conservative estimates. 

“Some of the tracks are very distinct to the layperson but just as many are not," said park manager Josh Hansen. "That is why it is important to not disturb any rocks at the dinosaur trackway.”

Red Fleet attracts over 30,000 visitors every year who come to see the wonders of the park. Most of them are unaware that the rocks they are skipping into the 750-acre lake bear valuable fossil markings and that their actions constitute an act of vandalism.

A life-size dinosaur replica from Centennial Park, Australia.
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
A life-size dinosaur replica from Centennial Park, Australia.
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

"It's become quite a big problem," Hansen said. "They're just looking to throw rocks off the side. What they don't realize is these rocks they're picking up, they're covered in dinosaur tracks."

An Eohippus skeleton on auction. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
An Eohippus skeleton on auction. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

According to the Independent, a teenager was caught hurling slabs of sandstone into the on-site reservoir. When apprehended, he was found to be holding another slab bearing toe imprints from a dilophosaurus track. Park authorities have begun increasing the number of signs around the dinosaur tracks in an effort to try and prevent further incidents.

"Education can play a big part in stopping this kind of behavior," Utah State Parks said on its blog. "To help combat it, we are asking everyone to spread the word. Please, do not throw any rocks in the dinosaur track area at Red Fleet State Park. Help us keep the area preserved and beautiful for visitors both tomorrow and for generations to come."

Dippy the dinosaur from the National History Museum.
(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Dippy the dinosaur from the National History Museum.
(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

For now the park is also considering sending in divers to try and recover the lost tracks though many are feared to be lost forever as they would have either shattered on impact or dissolved in the water.

The park site is of significant importance since some 200 million years ago, dinosaurs were believed to have been present here in what is now northeastern Utah. The footprints they left behind are the basis for Red Fleet State Park about 10 miles outside Vernal. A trail runs past hundreds of the prehistoric raptor tracks stretching up a slickrock slope. And thousands of people come each year to see them.

This area, which is now a dry and dusty desert, was once a bog filled with mud and moss, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Paleontologists believe the dilophosaurus would ambush other dinosaurs while they were resting or getting a drink in the swamp. They were fast with sharp teeth and toes used as weapons. Some weighed as much as a small horse. Though their three-toed footprints are not fossils, they’re treated as such under Utah Code.