The Cretaceous Dinosaur Park of Sucre in Bolivia

Throughout Bolivia, we have been delighted to embark on plenty of dinosaur-related travel. South America, and particularly Bolivia, are a hotbed for dinosaur discoveries. There are many sites with well-preserved dinosaur footprints and all sorts of activities to complement the findings. Most recently, we went to the Cretaceous Dinosaur Park of Sucre.

This particular park is designed for visitors of all ages but has special attention to crafting highlights for children. When you first enter the park, you can opt to watch a film about the dinosaurs of the Cretaceous period. It is available in both Spanish and English. We skipped the movie, as we had just come from a bus-ride through the city. We weren’t much in the mood for sitting, and we were not interested in for waiting 15 minutes for the next English presentation. Instead, we spent some time at the children’s park inside of the Cretaceous Dinosaur Park of Sucre.

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We did request an English-speaking guide to walk through the park and exhibits. It was a delightful surprise to learn that this service is complimentary. It was fun to walk along with an educated “scientist” and learn all sorts of interesting things we didn’t know about dinosaurs. The kids loved it that he even dressed the part, with the typical explorer outfit like they have seen in Jurassic Park. He also had cracked glasses, a big belly, a dry personality, and a clipboard with a mirror attached to the back. He used the mirror as a flashlight to reflect the sun on specific areas of interest that were too high to point out otherwise. To say the least, the guide was rather entertaining!

This park was created after the discovery of the thousands of dinosaur footprints in a concrete factory about 25 years ago.  The factory routinely strips away layers of earth to reach the desired layers of sediment for concrete production. Ironically, a layer of sediment was reached that was deemed unacceptable for the use of concrete. So, the layer was left untouched. Afterward, the indentations of dinosaur footprints were noticed. Today, it is estimated that more than 10,000 footprints are in this areas from as many as 20 different types of dinosaurs.

Most of the footprints are on a vertical wall, a result of volcanic activity that pushed this piece of land up into the air. In the time of Cretaceous Period, the footprints were left in the sandy bottom of a lake or on the beach of an interior ocean that once existed in the middle of what is now South America. The footprints are estimated to be 68 Million years old.

By Jerry Daykin from Cambridge, United Kingdom (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The area of discovery is at risk of erosion, due to it’s exposure to the mountain elements with strong sun and wine. The concrete factory is still in operation and its presence is hard to miss, all around the dinosaur park. The city is fighting to gain the site recognition from UNESCO, which would give the city an $8 Million grant to properly preserve and protect the footprints. However, it seems like the action might not come soon enough. A large section of the wall recently fell from the slope, destroying a large chunk of the footprints. Although another set of footprints were discovered on the next layer, the site is at grave risk of continued deterioration. Experts predict that if measures aren’t taken soon, most of the footprints will be significantly eroded by the year 2020.

Visitors to the Cretaceous  Dinosaur Park of Sucre can take a tour down the mountain to walk below and next to the footprints, getting within 3 meters of the tracks. This walk has some risk, as there is no predicting when more pieces of the mountain might fall. Explorers are required to wear a hard hat. The experience is dry, dusty, and hot. We decided to skip it and to simply look from above. We have recently seen dinosaur footprints up very close with less risk during our trip to Toro Toro National Park.

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Inside the park are many artistic recreations of the dinosaurs of the Cretaceous Period. Sculpted and painted by dinosaur experts, many of the creations are life-size replicas. It was astounding to stand next to these dinosaurs and realize just how big they really were. Some of them even had sound effects, which were a little too realistic and a bit frightening. The kids were torn between fascination and flight, as it vaguely felt like walking through the set of Jurassic Park.

We stood below one of the most famous dinosaurs of South America, the Titanosaurus, previously known as the Brontosaurus. We learned that the word brontosaurus has basically been expired now. It has been deemed too broad of a term to descibe the many varieties of the massive plant eater. This massive species from South America is now said to be the largest dinosaur known to exist. We stood beneath the belly and between the feet, the belly was about 15 feet from the ground. It was incredible to see a life-replica of this magnitude.

The best part of the Cretaceous Dinosaur Park in Sucre was the dig-site. There is a beautiful play area for children that includes numerous sand pits. The sand pits are recreated dig sites that allow children to dust through the sand with a paint brush to unveil their own dino bone discovery. It was a huge hit with both kids, and our youngest said that for him, it was like a dream come true. He really felt like a paleontologist for a day.

Overall, the park was a lot a smaller than we expected. I imagined we would spend half a day or more here. But, in actuality, we were done with it all in 2 or 3 hours. But, the experience was great, super convenient, and pleasantly cheap. I suppose if we had watched the movie and done the hike to the bottom of the footprints slab, the day could have been stretched out longer.

The site is a perfect and easy trip from the beautiful city of Sucre, and it’s great for kids, dinosaur fanatics, and lovers of geology or paleontology. Although it was a bit more touristy than other dinosaur experiences we’ve had in Bolivia, it was a great adventure for the whole family.

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