Nash Dinosaur Track Quarry

Nash Dinosaur Track Quarry

How did we find our dinosaur tracks? It was easy. We went to Nash's Dinosaur Quarry. Located in Granby, MA, just one mile from where the first dinosaur track was discovered on the farm of Pliny Moody. The Nash Dinosaur Track Quarry was in operation for 80 years, 1939 through 2019. It is now closed.

In 1933 Carlton Nash discovered an outcrop of dinosaur tracks just off Aldrich street in Granby. Three years later in 1939 the owner of the property was planning to dynamite the rock to produce flagstones. Carlton was able to purchase 1-3/4 acres containing the dinosaur footprint site just in time. Over the years famous dinosaur experts visited the quarry such as great the American dinosaur hunters Barnum Brown and R.T. Bird, and more recently Roy Chapman Andrews, Jim Jensen, and Jack Horner. And many famous people have purchased tracks from Nash' such as General George Patton's family, the Carnegies, Laurel Hardy, the Maytags, Dave Garoway, and John Cameron Swayze. Carlton Nash passed away in 1997 at the age of 82. His son Kornell Nash then took over the operation of the quarry and store. Kornell passed away in 2019 and the quarry is now closed.

digging dinosaur tracks part 1

How Did They Quarry The Tracks?

The type of rock in the quarry is shale, which is a fined grained sedimentary rock. Shale has cracks where there is mica in the stone causing a weak area. Dinosaur tracks are quarried by peeling off the topmost layer of shale. This is done by finding a crack (there are many) and lightly tapping dinner knives into the crack. The dinner knives are used as wedges to slowly and gently open up the crack.

As the crack gets bigger, metal carpenter's rulers were then tapped into the growing crack to continue to enlarge it.

Prying Up Slate Slabs

Quarrying Tracks Part 2

As the crack grows larger, pry bars are gently and slowly tapped into the crack, enlarging it further. In the photo above you can just see the ends of the metal carpenter's rulers sticking out of the rock. Once the slate slab is breaking free, the pry bars may be used to fully break the slab free and lift it up.

Once the slab has been lifted up we can take a look to see if there are any dinosaur tracks. There is no way to tell ahead of time what is inside the rock. Only when it has been split and the top piece is lifted does the interior of the rock reveal its secrets.

Quarrying dinosaur tracks is slow, hard work, and sometimes after an hour of work all you have is... a piece of rock (no tracks). Sometimes a slab breaks in two, right in the middle of what would have been a good dinosaur track. And sometimes there is a good dinosaur track or maybe two or three!

Ornithischian vs Theropod Footprints

Quarrying Tracks Part 3

But your job is not done. Sometimes once you can get a look at the rock there are faint traces that indicate something better may be inside. That means starting the process over with the dinner knives to split the slate slab that was just pried up. In the photo above the splitting process is at the point of tapping the metal carpenter's rulers into the slab.

Once good quality dinosaur tracks are found (not all tracks are good quality), they need to be cut out of the slab to provide a manageable and salable size rock. And that is basically how dinosaur tracks were quarried.

We should note that the quarry was not a "you pick" quarry. For an admission fee of $3 visitors were welcome to go into the quarry. But, the actual quarrying of the dinosaur tracks was done by people who knew what they were doing. It is much easier to destroy a rock than to get it out of the ground in one piece with tracks on it.

Next - Preservation of Tracks   Go Deeper - Track Research