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In The Footsteps of Giants: Dinosaur Trails

Explore dinosaur trails less travelled

Have you ever wanted to take a journey in the footsteps of giants? One that is less travelled by man, and full of prehistoric wonder!

Well, now’s your chance because Australia’s dinosaur trails have opened up in this amazing world.

But if you’re already a dedicated traveller, there may be none of the well-known trails left in your repertoire.

So why not invent one of your own? May I suggest a slightly different trail?

If you’re a grey nomad or any other southern self-contained gadabout and you’re heading north to sunny Queensland, start your trail at Lightning Ridge in far northern NSW.

If you’re already in North Queensland, simply start at the other end.

 

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Start at Lightning Ridge

Dinosaur Trails - Cretaceous Australia.

Cretaceous Australia. Photo: Creative Commons

Lightning Ridge is the source of some of Australia’s most spectacular dinosaur fossils; spectacular because they are opalised.

The district is a productive sight for Australian opals and that can add another dimension to your visit.

Most dinosaur discoveries at Lightning Ridge are from the Early to Mid Cretaceous periods, between 145mya and 110mya.

At this time central Australia was covered by a vast, relatively shallow, inland sea. Lightning Ridge would have been on the south-eastern shore of this sea.

These opal fields are the source of several important dinosaur fossil finds. Most recently, the small ornithopod dinosaur, Weewarrasaurus pobeni, was announced in 2019.

This dinosaur was small, approximately dog-sized and likely travelled in family groups or herds for protection. We know it from two fragments of a jawbone and some teeth.

Dinosaur fossils found in an opal mine

Prior to that, fossils of what appears to be a herd of larger ornithopod dinosaurs were found deep underground in an opal mine.

This dinosaur, Fostoria dhimbangunmal, is related to the well-known Muttaburrasaurus from North-western Queensland.

Over 60 bones have been discovered for this species representing four individuals.

The species name is a local Aboriginal word meaning ‘sheepyard’ from the locality where the fossils were found.

Numerous other fragments and bones of extinct dinosaurs remain to be identified in the district. Perhaps the most tantalising of these is ‘Lightning Claw’.

This dinosaur is known from very little evidence and none sufficient to flesh it out or officially give it a name.

It is assumed to be a large theropod, a Megaraptor, perhaps the largest of a type of dinosaur rarely found in the Australian fossil record.

Lightning claw

Lightning Claw. Photo: Creative Commons

Things to see and do at Lightning Ridge

Lightning Ridge has several caravan parks. Check out the fossicking heaps at the Tourist Information Centre.

The John Murray Gallery is a must, and a good meal can be had at the Lightning Ridge Bowls Club.

In particular, I’d recommend Piccolo Italian Restaurant. The food is superb but whatever you do, don’t ask for connolis.

This is a proud Roman restaurant and they don’t do that sort of Sicilian fare, as I discovered when I asked. They were polite but very definite.

Try the Car Door Tours; an economical, quaint way to see the sights.

When you get to Lightning Ridge, ask about the new Australian Opal Centre.

This is a proposed, state-of-the-art museum to be built into the earth at Lightning Ridge. Construction is due to start in 2022.

Lightning Ridge - Car Door Tours

The Car Door Tours at Lighting Ridge are a must-see attraction. Photo: Jocelyn Watts

Lightning Ridge - John Murray Gallery Mural

John Murray Gallery mural at Lightning Ridge. Photo: Jocelyn Watts

Explore Australia’s lesser-known dinosaur trails

So you’re looking for a destination that’s off the beaten path, why not explore some of Australia’s lesser-known dinosaur trails?

These areas are home to prehistoric creatures that once roamed the earth, and offer an unforgettable experience for travellers of all ages.

Lightning Ridge

Sunset at Lightning Ridge with a labyrinth. Photo: Shutterstock

 

PART TWO: DINOSAURS IN QLD

 

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