Trapped in an 18,000-pound block of quicksand now turned to stone is a hidden treasure of well-preserved Utahraptor fossils. Utahraptor ostrommaysorum is a large (around five meters or 18 feet long), feathered, predatory theropod dinosaur from Utah’s early Cretaceous (~124 million years ago). Utahraptors sported huge sickle claws on their second toes, with the largest specimen measuring at 22 cm (8.7”) long. Utahraptor is a dromaeosaurid dinosaur — popularly called “raptors” based on the  Jurassic Park movie franchise shorthand for it's sickle-clawed stars.

The illustration above shows the suspected setting for the origin of this amazing fossil block. We’ve found bones of an iguanodontid dinosaur that we think got mired in quicksand. So far, we’ve found bones from perhaps six individual Utahraptors, and we think they were attracted to the quicksand mire by the easy prey. We also think the Utahraptors became mired and and died together over a relatively short period of time. This block could provide evidence for pack hunting behavior in Utahraptors. We have no idea how many individual dinosaurs might be awaiting discovery in this block.


We have a nine-ton block of rock full of dinosaur bones and it’s time to find out what’s inside! The only way to find out is to carefully reveal the bones, a subdiscipline of paleontology known as preparation. The few amazing bones that have already been prepared indicate this is going to be an exciting project with cool new discoveries almost daily!  Help us to make this project happen

via the GoFundMe page at the link below — and join the team as the scientific process unfolds on our blog and email updates. We’re asking for your support so that we can gain the maximum amount of scientific data during preparation, and provide an exciting educational window into this important paleontological project.
Click the Donate Now link to visit the GoFundMe fundraiser.

Utahraptor Project GoFundMe Site

The Utahraptor Project GoFundMe campaign is a private project by Precision Fossilworks and not a fundraiser by Utah Friends of Paleontology.





Matt Stikes, a former graduate student at Northern Arizona University, discovered the site and reported it to the Utah Geological Survey in 2001. The site is on Utah State land in east-central Utah, north of Arches National Park. A single limb bone protruding from the rock was the tantalizing clue that prompted Utah Geological Survey paleontologists to further investigate the site.

Initial excavations of the 125-million-year-old site reveal the remains of several well-preserved Utahraptors ranging in size from tiny juveniles to adults, as well as at least two Iguanodont dinosaurs. Was this a kill site? We also learned the bone-bearing layer is three feet thick!

Utah Geological Survey paleontologists Jim Kirkland, Scott Madsen and Don DeBlieux along with many volunteers  excavated the enormous sandstone block over ten consecutive seasons of fieldwork. Normally, a large fossil find would be broken into smaller pieces for transport, but the fossil density and importance of this block meant keeping it almost entirely  intact .






Volunteers and businesses donated their services to recover the nine-ton block from its steep hillside location and move it to DNR. All fossils within the block are owned by the State of Utah and after preparation, their final repository will be with the Natural History Museum of Utah.  The massive fossil block is now in the preparation lab at the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah.

Upon securing the necessary funding, one the world’s top micropreparators, former UGS paleontologist Scott Madsen, and colleagues anticipate spending 5 years or more preparing the Utahraptor block in the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point’s paleontology lab.  Your donation will directly support preparation of the raptor fossils, and help us purchase the specialized equipment needed for preparation.

As the fossil preparation work advances, paleontologists will be studying the fossils. A number of groundbreaking studies could come from this unprecedented trove of Utahraptor fossils. But before the science can progress, we need your help with funding the fossil preparation so the fossils can be studied.


Paleontologists from the Utah Geological Survey and staff with Thanksgiving Point’s Museum of Ancient Life have formed a partnership with the goals of insuring the Utahraptor block receives the highest quality preparation, maximizes public access and educational opportunities, and produces good science. Our team is composed of experienced preparators and scientists from

various disciplines, but we recognize what a great opportunity this is to teach and train new students of paleontology and preparation, as well as involve the general public in a great learning experience.

Meet the key people who have been taking this project from the field to this exciting phase of preparation:

Jim Kirkland



Utah State Paleontologist

Assistant Utah State Paleontologist

Chief Preparator

James I. Kirkland is the Utah State Paleontologist with the Utah Geological Survey. He has worked with dinosaur remains from the southwest United States of America and has been responsible for discovering many new and important genera. Jim named and described Utahraptor in 1993.

Don has been with the Utah Geological Survey for 14 years where he oversees their paleontological field program and preparation lab. He has been doing field work in the western US and Africa for the last 30 years. Don’s research interests include fossil mammals and dinosaurs. Don will be assisting with the preparation and mapping of the Utahraptor block.


Researchgate publications

Scott Madsen has collected and prepared vertebrate fossils from the Colorado Plateau for 37 years. His expertise is preparing microvertebrate fossils – the small animals like mammals, lizards, frogs, and baby dinosaurs. He works almost entirely with a microscope and carbide needles for precision preparation projects.



The donations raised will go towards funding the Lead Preparator position for one year and to acquire the essential equipment needed to get this project started. When we meet our funding goal, our Lead Preparator will be dedicated full time to performing much of the difficult micropreparation on the block, overseeing student and volunteer help, and ensuring the cameras are rolling for documentation and public viewing of the work. Our Lead Preparator and others working on the project will be able to share new discoveries daily, as well as discuss all aspects of the work on our blog.

Specialized Equipment:

Our first priority is to prepare the fossils in the best way possible, and a project as big as the Utahraptor block requires some specialized equipment. We have pared our list down to the most basic items needed to get us through our first year of preparation, and we've found the best possible sources for reasonably priced equipment.

Microscopes are the single most important pieces of equipment needed for this work. We will need two of them so that we can work on the massive block from different sides without getting in each other’s way. Each microscope will need to durable and mobile, with long boom arms so we can work far out into the middle of the block. Both microscopes will have cameras attached to video monitors so we can show you exactly what we are doing, even live-stream for special interactive events for project supporters!

Pneumatic preparation tools, a.k.a. airscribes, are critical for this work and we need a range of airscribes capable of moving a lot of rock as well prepping out the tiniest of Utahraptor baby teeth.

We will also need an assortment of special glues, consolidants, and solvents to repair and stabilize the dinosaur bones.

And we'll need some video and webcasting hardware to document and share the process.



September, 2016

World's First Discovery of Dinosaur Death Trap in Quicksand

by Utah Geological Survey

September, 2016

Scientific Paper On Quicksand  Dinosaur Trap Taphonomy

KIrkland, Simpson, DeBlieux, Madsen,
Bogner, & Tibert

September, 2015

UGS Paleontologists Collect

Dinosaur Megablock

by Don DeBlieux

January 6, 2015

Moving a Ten-Ton Dino Deathtrap

National Geographic

March 17, 2015

Utah Geological Survey Partners with Thanksgiving Point to Prepare 125 Million Year Old Utahraptor Fossils

UGS Official News Release

June 17, 2013

Dinosaur death trap outside Arches National Park could reveal a lot about how they lived

By John Hollenhorst

January 7, 2015

Mass Utahraptor grave may prove pack-hunting hypothesis

by Chuck Bednar

June 10, 2013

Paleontologists trying to move 5-ton herd of fossilized dinosaurs

KSL TV News, by John Hollenhorst

January 7, 2015

Utah's Dinosaur 'Death Trap' Reveals Trove of Giant Predators

By Brian Switek

February 22, 2011

What Do We Really Know About Utahraptor?

By Brian Switek


Utahraptor Project GoFundMe Site


Utah Geological Survey
Matthew Stikes
Andrew Leach

Julius Csotonyi

Rob Gaston

Karen Poole — Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri

Gary Hunt

Don Brummel — Ames Construction

Jim Cross & Jonathan Cross — Cross Marine Projects

Dan Harrision & Bo Harrison — High Desert Excavating , Green River, Utah

Phil Policelli

Dale Gray

BJ Nicholls

Rick Hunter — Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point



High Desert Excavating