Durham's Hidden Dinosaur – Durham, North Carolina - Atlas Obscura

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Durham's Hidden Dinosaur

Don't be surprised if you see a long-necked dinosaur peeking out from among the trees in Northgate Park. 


What could make a lovely walk through the forest on a paved path even better? A surprise dinosaur! Left over from a time when the museum was a little bit closer and Hurricane Fran hadn’t hit North Carolina, this long-necked concrete friend hides out just off the path and grins.

The lone statue is made of fiberglass and measures 77 feet long. It was once part of the Museum Of Life & Science’s original Dinosaur Trail. When it was first built in the 1960s, the long-necked dinosaur​—appropriately named Bronto—was thought to be one of the largest replicas of its kind in existence. (Though a model brontosaurus at the Calgary Zoo outstrips Bronto by about 30 feet.) The trail included several other dinosaur replicas as well as other features meant to make the landscape feel more prehistoric. But like the real dinosaurs, a natural disaster spelled trouble for the old Dinosaur Trail.

According to Strange Carolinas, “in 1996, Hurricane Fran blew through town, damaging many of the dinosaurs. The trail was closed, and the neglect led to the further deterioration of the dinosaurs, except for our mighty Brontosaurus, who still stood tall, even with a homeless man taking up residence in his stomach.”

In the 2000s, Durham’s Museum Of Life & Science built an all-new Dinosaur Trail that includes more than a dozen life-sized models of dinosaurs including parasaurolophus and albertosaurus, as well as an interactive fossil dig site. But the old Brontosaurus sculpture was left behind.

At one point, the lonely brontosaurus was decapitated in the middle of the night. Most of the sculpture’s neck was torn off in the process. Luckily the head was eventually located and restored.

Know Before You Go

The walk is shortest from the Edison Johnson Aquatics Center (0.1 mi total), but you can park at the dog park or Northgate Park. The trail leading from the EJAC parking lot is paved and multi-use, and takes you to a pedestrian crosswalk to the unpaved pathway leading to the dinosaur. You can see the dinosaur from the trail.

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