Eastern Mojave Vegetation Triceratops Trail, Golden, Jefferson County, Colorado  

Tom Schweich  

Home Page  To several locations that fossils can be seen.

Other articles:
• 6th Avenue Trail:   at Triceratops Trail;
• Field Notes:  21 Dec 2019;
Full Size ImageBeginning of Triceratops Trail on the 6th Avenue Trail.  

Junction: 6th Avenue Trail

Other articles:
• Field Notes:  21 Dec 2019;
Full Size ImageMorrison-Golden Fossil Areas National Natural Landmark
Full Size ImageWelcome to Triceratops Trail.  

Information Kiosk

Welcome to Triceratops Trail
Things to See …

This one-mile trail winds through an old clay mine, owned and operated byt the Parfet family from the 1870's to the 1990's. The signs along this trail help interpret the evidence left by dinosaurs, other animals and plants of Late Cretaceous time.

Trace fossils resulting from animal activity as well as leaf and log impressions are useful in reconstructing prehistoric environments.

  1. Clay Pit Overlook. The clay pit offers a view of dinosaur tracks, evidence of a stream and an area trampled by dinosaurs.
  2. Duckbill Tracks and Other Traces. This site features different types of dinosaur tracks.
  3. Clay Mining. The narrow pits were mined many years ago. Tree trunks were wedged between the sandstone walls for the safety of the miners.
  4. Geologic Overlook. This site provides a general overview of the geology of Golden.
  5. Triceratops Tracks. Natural casts of tracks of horned dinosaurs, probably Triceratops, appear on the sandstone wall.
  6. Palm Fronds & Bird Tracks. Impressions of palm leaves as well as dinosaur and bird footprits can be seen here.

Trail reverses direction.

Other articles:
• Field Notes:  21 Dec 2019;
Full Size ImageView of clay pit display from overlook.  

Overlook view of clay pit.


Spur trail into clay pit

Other articles:
• Field Notes:  21 Dec 2019;
Full Size ImageClay Mining interpretive panel.  

Clay Mining
Excavación en la arcilla
Five generations of the Parfet Family operated these and other local clay mines.
Cinco generationes de la familia Parfet operaron estas y ortas minas de arcilla.

In 1877, George W. Parfet, Senior began mining the rich clay from between the harder sandstone layers and restored Golden's mantle as a mning hotspot. This mine was named the Rockwell and in its heyday it shipped 70-75 rail cars filled with clay weekly, each weighing over 2,000 tons!

Bricks made from this clay were used in the Jefferson County Hall of Justice and the Human Services buildings, Denver East and South high schools, the Governor's Mansion and more. The mine closed in 2001 and was reclaimed in 2002 by the City of Golden.

Sign sponsored by the Golden Civic Foundation.

Other articles:
• Field Notes:  21 Dec 2019;
Full Size ImageGolden's Changing Landscapes, Panel #1
Full Size ImageGolden's Changing Landscapes, Panel #2  


Full Size Image
Castle Rock from Triceratops Trail
Golden's Changing Landscapes

Several mountain ranges have been uplifted and subsequently eroded away before the rise of the Rocky Mountains you see today. The geologic history of Colorado started nearly two billion years ago, and is recorded in the old rocks seen in the mountains to the west. We start our discussion 72 million years ago, when Colorado was inundated by an inland sea.

Colorado Submerged by an Inland Sea
72-69 million years ago.

An ancient shallow seaway covered much of Colorado and deposited marine shale (mud and clay) forming the Pierre Formation.

The Sea Retreats as Mountains Rise
68 million years ago.

The inland sea retreated with the beginning uplift of the Laramide Rocky Mountains. Rivers carried sediment from the mountains to the shore (Fox Hills Formation). Along the rivers, sand, clay, and coal were deposited in alternating layers. These river and swamp deposits are the Laramie Formation. Dinosaurs and plant debris made impressions on muddy surfaces before being buried by sand that washed in from periodic floods. The rocks where you are now standing are about 68 million years old. The following diagrams show how the rocks you see along the Triceratops Trail were formed.

When dinosaurs left their tracks at this site, the environment was similar to the swampy Mississippi Delta region of modern-day Louisiana.

River channels were flanked by swamps where clay and coal deposits formed.

During periodic floods, the river breached its banks, spilling sand across the swamps. This repeated flooding created the alternating sand and clay layers that we see here.

Mountains Rise Higher, Volcanoes Erupt
67-34 million years ago.
The birth of the present-day Rocky Mountains began with the uplift of large fault-bounded blocks. Rivers washed rock debris from the newly elevated mountains, depositing coarse sand and gravel at their base. These deposits are now preserved as the Arapahoe, Denver, and Green Mountain formations. 64 million years ago, volcanic eruptions near Golden produced lava flows that form North and South Table Mountains.

As uplift of the Rockies continued, strata originally deposited horizontally were tilted to near vertical.

55-34 millions years ago, The Laramie Rocky Mountains were eroded down to a gently sloping surface. Sediments, carried by rivers, buried the mountain front and spread across the eastern plains.

Erosion Sculpts the Landscape
34 million years ago to today.

The present-day Rocky Mountains were uplifted to their current elevations. Rivers cut into their present valleys removing softer rock and leaving more resistant rocks. This erosion created features such as the high mountains of the Continental Divide, the jagged rock formations of Red Rocks, Dinosaur Ridge, Green Mountain, and the Table Mountains

Sign sponsored by SCFD, the Colorado Scientific Society, and Dr. Robert Weimer.


Trail reverses direction.

Other articles:
• Triceratops Trail:  Interp. Shed north;
• Field Notes:  21 Dec 2019;
Full Size ImageShed over interpretive site.
Full Size ImageTriceratops Track  

Interpretive shed

Other articles:
• Triceratops Trail:  Interp. Shed south;
• Field Notes:  21 Dec 2019;
Full Size ImageShed over interpretive site.
Full Size ImageBird track.  

Interpretive shed

Full Size Image
Palm fronds.

End of Trail

If you have a question or a comment you may write to me at: tas4@schweich.com I sometimes post interesting questions in my FAQ, but I never disclose your full name or address.  

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Date and time this article was prepared: 2/5/2024 4:11:55 PM