Dinosaurs and more dinosaurs!
The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History is located 24 km south of Winton on the “Jump Up”. Locals know this term but I discovered that The Jump-Up is a large mesa plateau that is approximately 270m above sea level and stands 75m above the surrounding land and forms part of a mesa formation called the Vindex Range. Like much of the Winton Shire, the Jump-Up is part of the Winton Formation, which is dated around 95-98 million years old.
We decided to go early so we could maximise our time taking in the various displays, movies and self guided walks as well as enjoying the stunning scenery and native flora and fauna. This museum holds the largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils in the world.
From the start we were amazed at the location – the museum complex sits on 1800 hectares of spectacular mesa plateau and the scenery is vast with lots of walking trails and wildlife.
This is also a working dinosaur museum with the most productive Fossil Preparation Laboratory in the Southern Hemisphere, so we headed to the lab first to gain a little insight into the life of these pre historic creatures and the area they lived in 1000 million years ago.
A short stroll later took us back to the award winning Reception area which opened in 2012 and contains a shop, cafe, staff facilities and a Holotype room, also known as the Collection Room. Designed to blend into the surrounding Jump-Up rock, the building takes on the earthy hues and textures of the surrounding landscape. The concrete walls of the building were coloured and stamped with latex mats that were moulded from the rock surface of the Jump-Up rock. A life sized, 5m long bronze statue of Australovenator (“Banjo”) stands at the entrance to the Reception Centre.
The Collection Room is fitted with audio visual equipment which complements the guided tours by showing animation footage of western Queensland’s dinosaurs. This was fascinating and the children were captivated especially as the footage consists of excerpts from the documentary Monsters in the Outback – the video of which the kids watched in the car prior to our visit.
Then we hopped on the Noble Express shuttle – a little bus which took us to the Dinosaur Canyon Outpost and the March of the Titanosaurs exhibition.
The Outpost is perched on the cliff overlooking Dinosaur Canyon and includes 300 metres of elevated concrete pathway throughout the gorge below. Five outdoor galleries are positioned along the pathway, which resembles a treetop walk as it winds throughout massive boulders and thick vegetation below the rim of a gorge. The Dinosaur Canyon exhibits recreate life as it would have appeared during the Cretaceous Period including: Dinosaur Stampede, Pterodactylus Family, Kunbarrasaurus ieversi, Death in the Billabong and Valley of the Cycads. Australia’s first International Dark-sky sanctuary is here and the building is currently under construction. When finished it will be called the Gondwana Stars Observatory and will enable visitors to see the quality of the dark night skies without any threats due to its remote location.
The March of the Titanosaurs exhibition is in a purpose built room which is temperature controlled and displays a 54 metre long Snake Creek tracksite which was discovered on a property near Winton.
The tracksite was made when herds of sauropods roamed western Queensland, when the landscape was covered in temperate rainforests and muddy billabongs. The tour guide showed examples of footprints and other animal prints of a diverse ecosystem that included lungfish, small mammals, turtles, crocodiles, ornithopods and tiny therapods.
Outside was a life sized dinosaur with its young – something else to impress young and old alike!
There is much to see and do hee so my advice is spend the day, take a picnic and try not to cram everything in at once. We were lucky to be there in August when the weather is beautiful – and loved this sign ….
I have no doubt that we will return to this fascinating part of Outback Queensland, after all it is right on our doorstep!