Anyone that’s seen Jurassic Park, or any of its summer-fixture spinoffs, knows that dinosaurs lived large. There was never a bigger badass than T. rex, and even though he ruled the West, he flamed out just as quickly as his meek brethren in a fantastic fireball 66 million years ago.
This was the fifth time that our very own Mother Earth has tried to eliminate all life on both land and sea, and this extinction event is known as the K-T Boundary.
“In fittingly sensational form, their deathblow was catastrophically abrupt and mind-bendingly spectacular. At the end of the Cretaceous, the largest asteroid known to have hit any planet in the solar system in a half-billion years hit Earth” — Peter Brannen, The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions.
If you’re still wondering if the trip to Trinidad Lake State Park in southeastern Colorado is worth the effort, in his excellent book Peter Brannen goes on to say:
- A rock larger than Mt. Everest hit planet earth, near Chicxulub, Mexico traveling twenty times faster than a bullet.
- It compressed the air below it so violently that it briefly became several times hotter than the surface of the sun.”
- The asteroid instantaneously put a hole in the ground more than 20 miles deep … and stretching more than 60 miles wide.”
- The enormous gash in the Yucatan remained hot for 2 million years after the extinction.”
- Most dinosaurs were literally roasted in their tracks.
In earth’s history, there’s probably never been anything as spectacular as this explosion, but by the time this 5th Extinction was written into the rock record it was a thin bed of gray claystone.
“Rock Stars” aren’t always obvious and don’t always locate themselves for your convenience, and this is the case with the K-T boundary. It’s not hard to find, but it’s also not easy, so to avoid roaming around the countryside, these directions will get you there:
Trinidad, Colorado is 200 miles south of Denver on Interstate 25; and Trinidad Lake State Park is on Hwy 12, just west of town. Your journey begins at the State Park Visitors’ Center.
- At the Visitors’ Center pay your daily fee and pick up a trail brochure – Mention that you’re there for the K-T Boundary: it’s a guaranteed conversation starter.
- Drive back to the main park entrance and take Hwy 12 west for 5.1 miles.
- At a brown sign “Long’s Canyon Viewing Area” turn left and cross the bridge.
- Proceed to County Rd 18.3 and take it into Long’s Canyon.
5. Continue on this road to the parking areas. There are two, and you can park at either one, but if you want to shorten your hike a bit, continue to the second turnaround which has a locked gate on the roadway. The trailhead is ahead and well marked.
If you’d like to check the location beforehand and print up a map, go to Google Maps and search: “K-T Boundary, County Road 18.3, Cokedale, CO”
If you’ve made it this far in the post, I hope you’re hooked and making plans. The K-T boundary marks an incredible turning point in earth’s history, and certainly qualifies as a worthy addition to your Bucket List. Just think of all the glazed-over eyes at your next cocktail party.
P. S. Ground zero for the asteroid was near the town of Chicxulub (CHEEK-shə-loob), Mexico in the northern Yucatan. Our blogging buddy Joe at Month at A Time Travel visited the small town, and wrote this very informative post. Check it out.
P.P.S. And if you haven’t had enough, we’ll leave you with some corny dinosaur puns. 🙂
Photo Credits: 1. Uwe Dedering