Big Bend National Park Seeking Public Input On Proposed Fossil Exhibit

Big Bend National Park officials want to build an improved fossil exhibit 8 miles north of the Panther Junction Visitor Center. NPS photo.

Though it looks anything but a great habitat for prehistoric animals today, Big Bend National Park's landscape has a rich connection with the long-ago past. And to display some of that history, park officials are proposing to build a fossil exhibit along the Fossil Discovery Trail.

According to park officials, Big Bend's landscape has "produced the largest known flying creature of all time, a pterosaur (Quetzalcoatlus) with a 36-foot wingspan. Researchers and park staff have found fossil dinosaurs, pterosaurs (flying reptiles), mosasaurs (swimming reptiles), huge crocodiles, marine invertebrates (snails, clams, oysters, ammonites, etc.), fish, turtles, ancient mammals, trees, and other plants."

The exhibit wold be located near the current fossil bone exhibit off Highway 385 (Park Route 11), eight miles north of the Panther Junction Visitor Center. Approximately three to four new exhibit structures would be constructed for use by park visitors. The proposal includes building an accessible trail to the structures; rehabilitating the lower portion of the existing trail; constructing a rock garden and children’s exploration area; installing a wireless internet booster; expanding the current parking area to include a turn-around area for larger vehicles (phase two); and removing the existing fossil display structure. A parking lot, picnic shelter, and restroom already exist at the site.

The purpose of the proposed project is to construct an improved fossil exhibit that will properly interpret the rich paleontological and geological history of Big Bend National Park. The primary objectives of the proposal are to: 1) Protect fossil replicas and exhibit materials from weather (provide shaded outdoor space for weather-proof replicas and interpretative waysides); 2) Enhance interpretation of paleontological and geological resources to improve visitor understanding; and 3) Engage a wide range of visitors and provide for visitor enjoyment at the site.

Public comments are being taken on the proposal through November 22. You can find more details on the project, and leave your comments, at this page.