|By Lori O'Brien|
GRANBY Dinosaurs once roamed what is now the Connecticut River Valley and their impressions left behind are still being excavated today by one local dinosaur aficionado.
Kornell Nash, son of the late Carlton S. Nash, took over his father's tourist attraction in 1997 and today harvests dinosaur footprints on a regular basis.
During a recent tour of the Nash Dinosaur Track Quarry, Nash explained that the approximately 30 to 50 visible dinosaur prints in the quarry are from the early Jurassic period. The majority of the meat-eating dinosaurs that left footprints stood four to eight feet tall.
Nash added that 80 percent of the tracks found at his quarry at grallators. All specimens still seen embedded in the 75' x 75' quarry and in the rock shop date back 200 million years.
Nash provides a hands-on approach to the footprints in the quarry, allowing children to trace with chalk the outline of the dinosaur tracks. All Nash asks is that visitors do not break the rocks.
In addition to dinosaur footprints, Nash pointed out ripples in sand that were preserved as well as petrified wood and plant material.
Since his father began peeling back layers of the quarry in the 1940's, Nash estimated that close to 4,000 tracks have been discovered and most sold through the rock shop.
Nash explains to visitors the layering process of the ledge and how to quarry tracks. For persons seeking a unique souvenir, a host of prehistoric tracks, stones, teeth and even dung can be purchased. Dinosaur tracks range in price from $50 to $900, while Trilobites range in price from $5 to $20, and polished stones start at $1.
Nash also attends rock shows each year and has a host of unique items for sale from across the globe. Prehistoric seashells from Morocco, fossil fish from Wyoming and fossil weevil pupal cases from Australia are just a sampling of what visitors can purchase.
Nash describes his "old time rock shop" as unique since it allows visitors the opportunity to touch most of the items on sale.
The Nash Dinosaur Track Quarry on Amherst Road, off Route 116, is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is $2.50 for adults, $1.50 for children. For more information, call (413) 467-9566.
For persons interesting in spending a day absorbed in the history of the Connecticut River Valley and dinosaurs that once roamed the region, another recommended stop is the Museum of Natural History, located on the campus of Amherst College.
For museum goers, there are three floors of exhibits and more than 1,700 specimens on display. Visitors can expect to see displays on vertebrate evolution and extinction, including fossil skeletons of a mammoth, mastodon, dire wolf and saber-toothed cat. Displays on the geological phenomena in the Connecticut River Valley showcase mountain building and glaciation, as well as local animal and plant fossils. An exhibit on human evolution and teeth is also featured.
The museum's ground floor boasts the world's largest collection of dinosaur tracks (primarily from the Connecticut River Valley), skulls of a Tyrannosaurus rex and a Triceratops, and a diorama with a model showing what some of the local dinosaur species might have looked like. Also, both the first and second floors include drawers that can be opened to view specimens from the museum's various collections.
The museum's summer hours are Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. There is no admission charge. The museum does not have public parking during weekdays. Visitors who choose to drive to the museum can park in the lots or in the garage in the center of Amherst, and can easily walk to the museum. For more information, call (413) 542-2165 or visit www.amherst.edu/~pratt.