WALTER KIDDIE DINOSAUR PARK FIELD TRIP (1.5hrs): For adults and children ages 5 and up. Meet at end of Locust Avenue in Roseland and hike 1.5 miles total to explore this National Historic Landmark that is home to three-toed Grallator dinosaur tracks from the late Triassic age. Using clay, we’ll make and take an impression of a track and leave the site undisturbed for future paleontological study. Led by David Alexander
The best access point is Locust Ave in Roseland. Follow the blue blazed trail right before the bridge to visit. An Essex County Park Map is here: https://www.essexcountyparks.org/facilities/riker-hill-complex/about
Dinosaur Park Information:
The Essex County Dinosaur Park is a 16 acre tract located off of Locust Ave in Roseland, NJ that is open to the public by scheduled tours only (call 973.228.8776 to inquire). The site was discovered by two Livingston youths in 1968 when more than 1,500 dinosaur tracks were found. The tracks are thought to be from the late Triassic (a geologic period from about 250 to 200 million years ago) and early Jurassic periods (206 to 144 million years ago) and discovered in an area of the third Watchung mountain when the Walter Kidde & Co. Rock Quarry was operating.
Excavation or digs are prohibited without written permission from the Essex County Park System. The site is only open to guided tours. Park ordinance requires that absolutely nothing be removed from the site (except litter please).
The Livingston youth who brought attention to the site and was instrumental in working toward its National Historic Register status is now known as Dr. Paul E. Olsen, a renowned paleontologist.
Dr. Olsen is a leading expert in the dinosaur fossils of New Jersey and the region’s geology during that era. When Olsen was 14, he and a friend heard that dinosaur footprints had been discovered in a stone quarry owned by the Kidde company of Clifton, NJ, on the Livingston-Roseland border . In the years that followed, Olsen and his friend found thousands of fossils and dinosaur footprints in the folded deposits of shale and sandstone.
Surrounding the quarry pit is the basalt from third Watchung Mountain. As the Triassic dinosaurs spread throughout Pangaea and over time, the Pangaea landmass began to split. By the Jurassic period, it had split into two enormous continents named Laurasia and Gondwana. At this time the magma intruded into the Newark Basin, then an active rift basin associated with the breakup of the supercontinent Pangaea. The magma formed large intrusions and ultimately broke out to the surface through large, episodic eruptions that formed the Watchung Mountains. the lava that errupted formed huge sheets o basalt, covering and protecting the layers of mud below. Heat and pressure of the basalt on the mud and sand caused it to harden, eventually becoming fossiliferous shales and sandstones. Although the basalt served to protect the fossils from the elements, it could not stop the probing of man, who discovered the area to be rich in fossil fauna and flora of that time, a veritable cross-section of the Triassic period!
You can see how the land changed overtime with this Dynamic Earth Tool: https://dinosaurpictures.org/ancient-earth#0 Select Roseland, NJ as your location, and you can change the years and the earth rearranges to show the position (inferred) of the landmasses depending on the year (mya).
The young paleontologists wanted to prevent the site from being developed and began extended lobbying and a media campaign to make the quarry a protected park area. While the surrounding area was protected as park land, the quarry itself was not. After having no luck getting New Jersey state officials to protect the area, Olsen continued his letter-writing campaign to President Richard Nixon. They even sent Nixon a dinosaur footprint cast from the site. The quarry was divided and the most fossil-rich portion was preserved and donated to Essex County Park Commission. Olsen succeeded in getting the Riker Hill Fossil Site being named a National Natural Landmark in June 1971 (unlisted due to access and sensitivity issues). The rest of the quarry was later developed into the Nob Hill apartment complex (now known as Everly). Olsen appeared in Life magazine in Dec. 1970 and got a commendation from president Richard Nixon. He went on to become a leading paleontologist, publishing papers on the Riker Hill discoveries as an undergraduate at Yale, where he received a doctorate in biology in 1984.
Dr. Olsen is now a geology professor at Columbia University, and also works at the University’s Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory.
WALTER KIDDIE DINOSAUR PARK FIELD TRIP (1.5 hours): For adults and children ages 5 and up. Meet at end of Locust Avenue in Roseland and hike 1.5 miles total to explore this National Historic Landmark that is home to three-toed Grallator dinosaur tracks from the late Triassic age. Using clay, we’ll make and take an impression of a track and leave the site undisturbed for future paleontological study. Led by David Alexander
For More Information:
Brydon, N. (1974). The Passaic River: Past, Present, Future. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Gallagher, William B., (1997). When Dinosaurs Roamed New Jersey. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Olsen, Paul. E., Paleontology and Paleoenvironments of Early Jurassic Age Strata in the Walter Kidde Dinosaur Park. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University
Olsen, P. E., 1975, The Microstratigraphy of the Roseland Quarry (Early Jurassic, Newark Supergroup, New Jersey): Open File Report, Essex County Park Commission, Newark, New Jersey, 84 p.
Olsen, P. E., 1980, Comparison of the vertebrate assemblages from the Newark and Hartford basins (Early Mesozoic, Newark Supergroup) of eastern North America: In Jacobs, L. L. (ed.), Aspects of Vertebrate History. Flagstaff, Museum of Northern Arizona Press, p. 35-53.
Olsen, P. E., Remington, C. L., Cornet, B., and Thomson, K. S., 1978, Cyclic change in Late Triassic lacustrine communities: Science, v.201, p. 729-733.
Olsen, P. E. and Galton, P.M., 1977, Triassic-Jurassic Tetrapod Extinctions: Are They Real? Science, v. 197, p. 983-986.
David Alexander is author of the Buzz Into Action & Hop Into Action Science Curricula. He specializes in making nature accessible to people and wildlife. You can follow him at www.natureintoaction.com