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Dinosaurs take over Big Bend at fossil exhibit

October 27, 2017 GMT

.For the past 27 years, Big Bend National Park geologist Don Corrick dreamed of displaying the many dinosaur bones and fossils found in Big Bend. Now that dream is a reality, and it features the largest flying creature, the Quetzalcoatlus northropi, hanging above visitors, as well a giant bronze T. Rex skull big enough for you to stick your head in.

Corrick has a passion for showing people that science can be interesting and fun.

“My goal is just to share an overlooked resource with the visiting public,” Corrick said. “Our visitors, I think, get a kick out of dinosaur stuff.”

When Corrick began working for the National Park Service, he immediately knew the park was special. He committed himself to educating the public on the history of Big Bend.

“I quickly learned that the park had produced tremendous dinosaurs - the world’s largest flying creature, dinosaurs that were found nowhere else in the world,” Corrick said. “All kinds of cool stuff, and I thought it would be great to share that because we really weren’t doing a good job of that.”

People from all over the world visit Big Bend, and the exhibit is one way to capture and preserve the park’s history. Oklahoma University student Sally Robinson visited the exhibit in June and talked about her love for rocks, artifacts and dinosaurs.

“When you come out here, you can see something new from where you’re actually from,” Robinson said. “It’s nice to experience new terrain.”

The exhibit is more than a museum - it is an experience. Visitors get context and vivid visuals to go along with the replicas of fossils and bones. The original bones are kept in Austin to be preserved for research.

“One thing that really makes it special is that we tell a story,” Corrick said. “Instead of it just being a trophy room with a bunch of skulls in it, you see 130 million years of geologic time and changing environments.”

Along with great visuals, the exhibit offers accessibility for visitors that use wheelchairs or are visually impaired. The exhibit has wheelchair ramps, as well as touchable molds for major castings and large print brochures. The park wants to allow everyone to enjoy Big Bend’s history.

The Fossil Discovery Exhibit is located 8 miles north of Panther Junction on the Persimmon Gap Entrance Road (Highway 385). There is no fee to get into the exhibit, just the fee to get into Big Bend National Park. There is no water available at the exhibit, but there are bathrooms and shade, as well as cell phone reception most of the time.

The Big Bend Conservancy raised more $1.5 million to support the construction of the exhibit.

Houston native Chelsea Karrenbrock is a public relations major at Texas State University and plans a career in social media and wedding planning. She traveled to West Texas and New Mexico as part of a Study in America program offered by the university’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.