Kansas dinosaur attractions offer historic amounts of fun

05/17/2014 12:00 AM

05/17/2014 3:12 PM

Feel like hunting dinosaurs this summer? Amateur paleontologists will find a surprising amount of prehistoric fodder right here in Kansas.

Bolstered by a new law signed by Gov. Sam Brownback in April that elevated both the tylosaurus and pteranodon as our newest state symbols, dinosaur lovers may enjoy trekking throughout the state to enjoy everything from dig sites to museums to dinosaur-themed restaurants.

Sternberg Museum of Natural History

3000 Sternberg Drive, Hays (Fort Hays State University campus)

The Sternberg Museum houses one of the largest collections of dinosaur specimens from Kansas in the world. Under the dome, guests can see a giant animated T-rex and some life-size hadrosaurs.

This summer, the Sternberg museum will be hosting student and family groups to actual fossil dig sites in the state, said David Levering, director of education. The paleontology camps will involve driving to a field site and working to excavate a mosasaur fossil. Visit http://sternberg.fhsu.edu for more information.

Fick Fossil & History Museum

700 W. 3rd St., Oakley

A long time ago, Kansas was under the ocean, part of an inland sea thought to have stretched from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Certain areas in Kansas are hotbeds of sealife fossils from this prehistoric period. In the 1960s, Oakley residents Ernest and Vi Fick began collecting these fossils, including thousands of ancient shark teeth. The museum also houses a mosasaur skull. The museum is currently undergoing renovations and is expected to open by the end of May. Call 785-671-4839 for updates.

Keystone Gallery and Fossil Museum

401 U.S. 83, Scott City

The Bonner family has been hunting fossils in Kansas since 1925 when Marion Bonner became interested in fossils as a freshman at Wichita County High School in Leoti, Kan., and found a fish skull in a Cretaceous chalk bed in Logan and Gove counties during his first hunt.

Marion Bonner’s son, Chuck, and his family opened Keystone Gallery in 1991. The family says the museum houses a permanent collection of local Kansas Cretaceous fossils. In addition to the fossil museum, there’s a gift shop and an art gallery with paintings by Chuck Bonner and scenic photography by his wife, Barbara Shelton. The family is still active in fossil hunting and conducts guided fossil hunts in the area. If you are in the area, also check out the chalk formations known as Monument Rocks and the canyons and bluffs at the Lake Scott State Park. Visit http://keystonegallery.com for more information.

Museum of World Treasures

835 E. First St., Wichita

The Museum of World Treasures permanently houses Ivan, one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossils ever discovered. The T. rex was uncovered in northwestern South Dakota.

The museum also offers camp-ins for groups of children that include a museum tour, craft or activity and late-night movie. Visit www.worldtreasures.org for more information.

T-Rex Cafe

1847 Village W. Parkway, Kansas City, Kan.

T-Rex Cafe is a prehistoric-themed restaurant that features animatronic dinosaurs in atmospheric environments. Props include, of course, an enormous T-rex, triceratops, pterodactyls, and many other prehistoric creatures.

The site also features several hands-on activities for kids, including interactive exhibits and a dig area to hunt for stones, minerals or fossils. The restaurant is anchored by a large gift shop with no shortage of fun, dinosaur-themed apparel and souvenirs. Call 913-334-8888 for more information.

Dinosaur Not So National Park

State Highway 47 (1.25 miles west of US-59), Erie

The Dinosaur Not So National Park is a private display of life-size sculptures located on the Dorris property on the north side of K-47, one mile west of Erie.

According to the KansasTravel.org blog by Keith Stokes, when Robert Dorris retired from his work as an Air Force engineer years ago, he began creating sculptures from junk metal. The yard is filled with about two dozen flowers, reptiles and dinosaurs. The largest are more 30 feet long.

Robert Dorris died in 2007 at the age of 82, but the family still lives in the home. Visitors are welcome to drive in past the Dorris home to photograph and enjoy the sculptures, according to Stokes’ blog. The Erie Chamber confirmed the property is open to visitors. Folks can even stop at the house to speak with the family.

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