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Triceratops Dinosaur Rib Excavation

Triceratops Dinosaur Rib Excavation
Triceratops Dinosaur Rib Excavation

Triceratops Dinosaur Rib Excavation (Tough Long Read)

There might be a few words to google here. My apologies ⚒⚒⚒. Geology has it’s nomenclatural requirements. To put all this in the big picture is the tough part.

Our Ranch by coincidence 🤔 is located upon a 700 feet thickness of Sandstone. It has exposures of the famous Hell Creek/Lance Formation (Cretaceous Period) The Uppermost Cretaceous was a period of life on a coastal plain similar topographically to the piedmont of North Carolina. Locally the climate was pretty lush, warm and wet. Meandering Huge Rivers choked with Sand / silt worn off the rapidly eroding mountains to the (current) west. The land lay of different orientation that currently.

North America appears to have been rotated 90 degrees west of how it’s positioned currently. Located around the equator with plate tectonics moving/rotating the continent to it’s current position over the intervening 66 million years. T-rex, Triceratops, Duckbills, ankylosaurs, all those dinosaurs kids know the names of lived here. Here one died…

This is higher up rock section toward the top of the Hell Creek formation not long before the massive “Bolide” (google this) struck the earth. Chicxulub Mexico sits on that big impact area. punctuated the extinction process already underway at the end of the Cretaceous. Big 80 percent of all species Extinction events. Extinction ultimately is initiated by a populations inability to reproduce .

There was a pizza oven effect from the radiant heat from all that Bolide ejecta re-entering the atmosphere. That effect didn’t help anything that wasn’t underground or in the water (mammals) as 20 percent of species survived this age. There is a discussion that dinosaur and other groups were waining in density/diversity near the actual time of the Bolide ended the age of Dinosaurs. Dinosaurs as a group died off but avian dinosaurs did not. (Birds are dinosaurs more or less just short tail and teeth). Eventually the environmental effects killed off the food web in the ocean too. Bad time on the planet for most.


This sediment is called Bentonite. Wyoming sells LOTS of Bentonite. Cooking it turns it white. Lots of industrial uses. Dave Love (a famous Wyoming Geologist) famously wrote/said: “Wyoming is a wonderful State, we can sell our dirt”. 🤘👀⚒ Bentonite is a clay rich volcanic ash as this is a lake deposit. This rib belonged to an animal that floated into a body of water. Spreading of this carcass did occur and one rib bone excavated was vertical as someone stepped on it and pushed it into the mud on edge. I found a raptor tooth mixed in the mud with this 20 percent Triceratops carcass. (It was Dromeosaur richardoestesia )

Above the Triceratops rib is it’s upside down fragment of pelvis. Another rib hides in the upper right corner of the frame. This was one of the smaller ribs collected on a smaller Tric. The little bottles are full of thin superglue which we consume by the pint. We have the tip off the end of it …. A rib like this will come out in 30 pieces and reassembled back at the ranch headquarters.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Triceratops Dinosaur Rib Excavation

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Triceratops Toe “Phalanx” Fossil

Triceratops Toe "Phalanx" Fossil

Triceratops Toe “Phalanx” Fossil sees the first light of day in “Some Time” 😜

The latest Cretaceous Age here on the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch was a time of fine grained sediment accumulation deposited from huge rivers. These rivers were sweeping back and forth across the landscape choked by the sand and finer grained sediment load they carried. Sand sized material was the rule for these rivers ability/capacity to carry things down river. This Triceratops Toe “Phalanx” Fossil survived it’s transport from the distant past to the present under my gentle brush.

With the exception of isolated small scale deposits like this, the Hell Creek/Lance Formation is largely barren of fossils. In 5.5 square miles of HellCreek/Lance formation on my ranch, only about an acre can be called ‘fossilferous”. That acre is the total of 25 smaller locations (microsites) and a bone bed Triceratops Toe “Phalanx” Fossil sits here “In situ”. (In place in the undesturbed bedrock).

This fossil is positioned in the outcrop deeper than you might suspect. Your looking at a toe bone physiologically behind a claw/nail. it is 4 more inches deeper into the outcrop so this is the top 2 inches of the bone exposed. Triceratops had big toes lolol. It’s deeper than it is long. I like to take photos of fossils in the outcrop as it’s sort of the “Eureka”/adrenaline rush moment.

Geologic Musings on this ranches “Dirt”:

Geologists consider the Cretaceous to have ended 66 million years ago. This toe bone has literally not seen the light of day in that unfathomable period of time. The sediment it is in, is a mix of sand, clay with chunky chunks (up to 2 feet) of torn up river bottom clays. The ripped up chunks of clay were rounded by bounding down a river/transport. There is a 2 foot thick or so blue clay pure of any fossil or other detritus directly under this 3 foot thick channel. That above that clay is a channel packed with chunks of clay/mud from upstream. . A mix of at least 3 different mud chunks from various sources nearby. I’ve seen chunks of mud angular like they got torn up 50 feet up stream. So this is a “channel” I’ve been following that tapers on either side that filled up with ripped up chunks of upstream river bottom mixed with a variety of bones from who ever was walking around at the time.

The bones were dropped here for me to find because the river waters slowed enough in this location to drop them out of suspension here mixed in among chunks of mud. The spaces between the “Cobbles of mud” are filled with sandy material that “Sifted in” from the flowing water. This is classic river sedimentation/deposit stuff. That is where you find the little fossils too. Sands mixed with smaller rounded pebbles of river bottom clay. It’s all part of the “Bed load” of a river and what is in it depends on river current velocity… (followed by a really long discussion lolol). IF the river is fast enough to move

Location: Bliss Dinoaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana.

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Triceratops Pelvis With Tendons

Triceratops Pelvis With Tendons
Triceratops Pelvis With Tendons

Pelvis, Tendons for the tail of a Triceratops “In Situ” (In Place)

This Triceratops Pelvis with Tendons (ossified tendons) adjacent just left from the ligature supporting those massive heavy tails. Here is shown exposed from one of our “digs” up here. This animal was around 20 percent there with 80 percent missing as it were. More still of this animal may be at the site. It’s probably about 1 inch below or deeper into the hill than where we stopped digging. 🤣

Tools and Location:

Tools of the trade are brushes, Wood Awls, Superglue and of course shovels and wheelbarrows. Named the Triceratops “Doug” after the rancher that gave me permission to hunt on his ground (this is about 1/2 mile off my ranch so this was legally his fossil). The land owner owns the fossil unless you have been told otherwise as is the law with fossil remains generally. Very close to the Montana Wyoming border, this is Lance/HellCreek Formation. This is a dinosaur bone from the end of the rule of dinosaurs. Uppermost Cretaceous with perhaps 200 feet of Hell Creek/Lance Fm above this before everything when BOOM. Hell Creek/Lance is about 700 feet thick sandstone/shale sequence. It’s all river/lake sedimentation.

I first started this excavation in 2006 when I found a partial brow horn from a triceratops walking this hillside. . It was all by itself down hill from the side about 30 meters. It even a little right of the final location for this Triceratops carcass. This threw me off for a day or so finding the actual fossil bearing sediment. (It was a big hillside). Fossils laying on the surface came from somewhere. Usually either right where they initially found are OR somewhere up hill of which this one was steep and big. It could have come from ANYWHERE up slope. (That Discovery piece is a wonderful fossil too). The site was finished 3 years ago now soon after this was removed. .

Remember it is illegal to collect vertebrate fossils from State, Federal or Tribal Land. Only private deeded land is OK to collect from/on. You want written permission from Tribal land management and only state authorized digging can occur on state ground. BLM is a tougher nut to crack so generally if you find a vertebrate bone of any significance on a piece of federal/state ground, leave it there. Don’t neglect a report it to the local field office of the BLM. (not that “Brontosaurus Lives Don’t Matter” but I refer here to the Bureau of Land Management lolol). It’s best to have fossil agreements in writing. Just my 2 cents. I point you to the BLM website for more specific instruction on the law as I’m not a lawyer.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

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Dinosaur Tail Vertebra “In situ”

Fossil Tail Vertebra "In situ" in Hell Creek Formation
Fossil Tail Vertebra "In situ" in Hell Creek Formation

Geologic Musings: This Dinosaur Tail Vertebra “In situ” (in the rock) was taken on an outcrop of Hell Creek Formation we at the Bliss DInosaur Ranch have been working for well over a decade. This small Tail Vertebra from a Dinosaurian got itself a photo. It was experiencing the first light from the sun in some time you might say and had a hankerin’ for a little “limelight”. Here’s some old “wildlife” from the Wyotana borderlands. 🤔

I’m not sure of the name of the previous owner but it sure cleaned up nicely when all that white crust (which is commonly around fossils up here being sort of a chemical reaction area with ground water fluids bearing alternative minerals with them. A reaction rind so to speak. When cleaned with a tooth brush and water, the real bone structure is visible. It’s not crocodile for sure. I know what it’s not….

Paleontological Stuff:

Hell Creek/Lance Formations are the Cretaceous River Sands/muds the dinosaurs hung out on. Our Ranch is covered with both formations across the MT/WY state line where the Formations change names formally. Same rocks, different name.🤣

I got my masters degree on all things Paleo-Environmental……..I was one one of the first Pale-environmentalist ever minted lolol. There is another that will read this I graduated with. Hi Dave!

So, paleo-topography when this dinosaur roamed was a broad equitorial coastal plain sloping like the piedmont of North Carolina east facing toward the then interior sea way Stretching from the current Gulf of Mexico across the continent to Canada.

Facies: (good google word with geology attached) At the same time in adjacent locations there were the land sandy deposition, the Beach Sand (you know with the little umbrellas mixed in with the sands) and the Marine Sediments were to the east with Cephalopods, Marine Dinosaurs and a host of deeper water fossils.
My ranch and most of the eastern parts of MT/WY/CO gets it’s water from those beach sands (Fox Hill Formation) which is UNDER the Hell Creek/Lance that eventually built OVER the older beach as the growing land filled up the interior sea. That terrestrial riverine environment is at the surface now with younger sediments removed. We do find some sand blasted petrified wood that are residual in the surface sediments that have been removed relics all. The Hell Creek Lance sands all came from now gone large mountain range to the west of the current location of the BigHorn Mountain.. Those missing mountains provided the Sands for the Dinosaurs to walk on.

Huge Rivers the size of the Missouri swept back and forth across the land choked in sand. Many times fossils were moved and buried several times by the meandering occasionally flooding rivers of the Cretaceous Hell Creek Plain. This sediment was laid down at the end of the age of Dinosaurs with T-rex and Triceratops being key players…. .

There is a reason we are Called the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Location: Montana/Wyoming borderlands.

Dinosaur Tail Vertebra “In situ”