Millions of years before the formation of the Missouri River in Montana, dinosaurs made this once lush wetland their home. Today the lazy river has forged its way through a variety of geological formations, including the Montana Badlands. Northeastern Montana has provided a wealth world class fossil discoveries. The Tyrannosaurus Rex finds are among the most outstanding. The 65-million-year-old Cretaceous carnivore weighed over seven tons and stood 20 feet tall. A 1902 T-Rex discovery here was one of the first. The most complete T-Rex skeleton in the world was found here in 1990. In 1997, a 52-inch long pubic bone from a creature larger than the largest known T-Rex was found in McCone County near the Big Dry arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Excavations around the region continue to take place annually. Some digs are open to the public.
Where you can learn more about dinosaurs
Visitors to Missouri River Country can see the remains of many species of dinosaurs at area museums. The Fort Peck Powerhouse Museum in Fort Peck has a Triceratops skull on display, along with numerous fossils that were discovered during the digging of Fort Peck Dam.
The Fort Peck Dam Interpretive Center and Museum is now open to the public, featuring both the skeleton and a fleshed-out copy of Peck’s Rex, a tyrannosaur that was found in the area in 1997. Bone preparation, molding and casting of original fossils takes place at the Fort Peck Paleontology Field Station, located about a mile from the Center. Please check the web site for hours and events.
The Phillips County Museum features fossil discoveries from the nearby Judith River Formation (late cretaceous period, 77 million years ago). Displays include a 33-foot long skeleton of “Elvis” the Brachylophosaurus, one of the best articulated dinosaur skeletons ever found, a complete T. rex skull, and a dynamically posed 28’ skeleton of an early T. rex cousin, Albertosaurus. Pose with a 700-pound Apatosaurs femur and shop in the gift store.
The Great Plains Dinosaur Museum offers the public an intimate look into a working fossil laboratory. Visitors view Leonardo the Mummy Dinosaur (Guinness Book of World Records “best preserved dinosaur”, 2003), other remarkably preserved members of the Brachylophosaurus family plus a wide array of Montana specimens under preparation.
The Garfield County Museum displays a full-scale model of a triceratops, which was found about 35 miles from Jordan in 1964. Check with the museum for information about dig-site tours.
To learn more about Montana’s world-class dinosaurs, visit the Montana Dinosaur Trail website. Information on dinosaur exploration and escavation programs and ongoing paleo research can be found at the following websites: Great Plains Dinosaur Museum (located in Malta) or the PaleoWorld Research Foundation, (located in Jordan, Montana.)