Wyoming Explored – my new blog series on unique things to see and do in Wyoming, which is my home. This is inspired partially by me wanting to see things I haven’t in 30+ years, and by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to me focusing on adventuring closer to home.
I love dinosaurs, so when I realized there is a cabin built out of dinosaur bones less than an hour from my hometown of Laramie, I realized I had to make an effort to go see it (if you care, I love long necks, like brachiosaurus, but I really love all dinosaurs). Into the car, and north on US Highway 287 out of Laramie I headed!
The drive continues north through the metropolis of Rock River (population 245) and the vast openness of the high plains. Though I had programed the Fossil Cabin into my GPS, it’s pretty hard to miss as it is right off the highway about fifty miles north of Laramie.
The Fossil Cabin was built in 1932 by Thomas and Grace Boylan, who homesteaded the area in 1908. It served as a roadside attraction, gas station, and museum before closing in 2011. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is often called the “oldest building in the world,” though we know rocks can outdate dinosaurs by quite a lot. It was also called the “cabin that use to walk,” which is quite accurate! Apparently this is the only cabin made of dinosaur bones in the United States, as well… in case you were wondering, ha! I don’t believe dinosaur bones ever took off as a building material.
The cabin is located near Como Bluff, which is very important in dinosaur history. From wyohistory.org:
“Como Bluff is part of an anticline, a geological formation where the rock layers on a long axis–east to west in this case–were bent upward. Later, the middle of the anticline eroded away, leaving two long flanks, north and south. Como Bluff is the south flank of the anticline, with the dinosaur-bone-bearing rock layers exposed on its steep, north side.
Here, paleontologists found many fossil specimens in near‑perfect condition. During the late 1870s and 1880s, paleontology teams from Yale University and the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences discovered a multitude of dinosaur and other prehistoric animal remains here. Some dinosaurs found at this site were: Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodocus and Apatosaurus, known then as Brontosaurus Dinosaurs from Como Bluff are on display at the Peabody Museum at Yale, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.”
The “dinosaur wars,” or “bone wars,” occurred in this area, as competing scientists fought to outdo each other in discoveries and fossil discoveries. For those interested, here’s some more reading on the subject: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bone_Wars#1877%E2%80%931892:_Como_Bluff_finds
Como Bluff itself is on private property, and cannot be visited by the general public. Luckily the roadside cabin gives visitors a taste of dinosaur goodness!
Finally getting my fix of all things dinosaurs, it was time for a quick trip into Medicine Bow, which is just a handful of miles down the road. Here is the famous Virginian Hotel and Medicine Bow Museum.
Quick stop in Medicine Bow done, it was time to return to Laramie as the thunderstorms developed. What a great afternoon!
How to get there
The Fossil Cabin is located right on the side of US Highway 287. It is located about 50 miles north of Laramie, and 7 miles south of Medicine Bow. You can put “Fossil Cabin” into Google Maps and it will lead you there. There are also road signs that alert you to the historical site ahead. The cabin is being prepared to be moved into the town of Medicine Bow, but as of May 30, 2020, it was still at the original site.
What is your favorite dinosaur?! Tell me in the comments!