Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Thermopolis, Wyoming

Hannah hugging a model of a dinosaur © Hannah Karns Can you tell Hannah is a huge fan of dinosaurs? © Hannah Karns

Hannah Karns, Midwest Sales Director, recently returned from a trip to Thermopolis, Wyoming.

In a nutshell…

My best friend and I share an interest in dinosaurs and both wanted to experience a paleontology dig. While many volunteer digs are a commitment, both in time and money, I discovered a Dino Dig for a Day program at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. After researching flights, accommodation and looking more into the dig, we booked the trip!

Tell us more…

For the Dino Dig for a Day program, we arrived at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center for 7.45am and were promptly assigned our own guides. We piled into one of the center’s vehicles and began our journey into the hills surrounding Thermopolis. For the first part of the day we walked through an active dig site, where the guides pointed out dinosaur footprints and the types of bones we would be able to find, visible yet still embedded in the rock and other elements. Next, we were driven to our dig site ‘Beside Sauropod’, where Camarasaurus remains had been found while the center had been excavating to install a parking lot. The guides walked us through how to use our tools: dustpan and handheld brush for larger debris, an oyster knife to carefully chip away at the mudstone and a smallerpaintbrushh for tiny details. And then we began digging.

Excavating in the Paleo Prep Lab © Hannah Karns Excavating in the Paleo Prep Lab © Hannah Karns

After a break for lunch (provided by the center), we were given the option to keep digging or go for a hike to find belemnites. We opted to move around and consequently discovered many of these fossilised ancient squids in what would once have been the seabed.

Back at the center, we had a tour of the Paleo Prep Lab, where we got to try our hand at cleaning fossils with dental tools and handheld air-powered hammers. The day concluded with a private tour of the museum. It was a fantastic experience, and I highly recommend it.

Funny find…

On our way to Thermopolis from Salt Lake City, we decided to stop in a town called Kemmerer for coffee and fuel. As we drove through town, we discovered it was the home of the original J C Penney department store. Not only that, but there were fun pieces of art sprinkled about town. We stopped a few times, snapping photos and enjoying the opportunity to stretch our legs.

The vast landscape of Wyoming © Hannah Karns The vast landscape of Wyoming © Hannah Karns

Good grub?

My friend and I were craving Thai food, and were pleasantly surprised to discover a Bangkok Thai restaurant in Thermopolis. Between the spicy curries and friendly service, it was the perfect meal after the long drive from Salt Lake City.

Fave activity?

Apart from the dino dig? Walking through downtown Thermopolis and capturing images of all of the dinosaur-related sculptures and signs throughout town.

Bizarre encounter?

From a one-room schoolhouse to a replica of the bar where the Hole-in-the-Wall gang once drank, Hot Springs County Museum is filled with items and oddities from Thermopolis’s past. The basement houses old storefronts, from a bank to a barbershop to a dentist, and on the ramp down we found a gorilla not so subtly hidden in a painting of the rugged Wyoming landscape. No idea why it was there, and no explanation provided either!

Want more behind-the-scenes adventures? Find out what Trailblazer Chloe Gunning got up to on her recent trip to Turin, Italy.

Gaze into the mile-deep chasm of the Grand Canyon, hang 10 on an iconic Hawaiian wave, or let sultry southern music and food stir your soul; all with your trusted travel companion.

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