DINOSAUR HUNTING IN DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA
This past August, my travels led me to find myself in Durham, NC during the weekend of my 23rd birthday. My boyfriend and I were heading to a music festival at Motorco Music Hall to celebrate, which, sidebar: I absolutely recommend checking out if you’re in the area. Also, while we’re on the topic, Hutchins Garage across the street was so good that we went twice in three days. I mean, it was my birthday weekend, right? It’s fine.
Admittedly, some of our favorite activities are, in no particular order, eating food and drinking beer. While that’s all fine and good most of the time, we eventually got to a point in the weekend where we decided to try find something free to do that didn’t include ingesting calories. Little did I know, the well-kept secret of the Durham dinosaur was just one poorly put together Google search away.
THE HISTORY OF THE DURHAM DINOSAUR
So, the short version of the story is that, yes, there is a 30-foot brontosaurus made out of cement hidden in the trees of the West Ellerbee Creek Trail in Durham, NC. But where did it really come from, how did it get there, and why?
The trail that serves as the dino’s home is situated across the street from Durham’s own Museum of Life and Science. Back in 1967, the gigantic brontosaurus, which Matt and I lovingly nicknamed Steve, stood tall on the trail with ten other dino and early hominid friends as part of an interactive children’s exhibit for the museum, which was then known as the Bull City Children’s Museum.
Enter: Hurricane Fran in the summer of 1996. Along with bringing $5 million of damage to the East Coast, the storm destroyed most of Steve’s friends on the Pre-History Trail, coincidentally at the same time that the museum was migrating to it’s now current location across the street, only Steve wasn’t invited. Sad face.
THE DURHAM, NC DINOSAUR: DILAPIDATED & DECAPITATED
Even years after the hurricane wiped out all of his pals, the Durham dinosaur honestly had kind of a crappy life…not gonna lie. In the early 2000’s, Steve was left in pretty poor condition, with paint chips and holes all over his body. According to a museum employee, a homeless man even took residence inside of his stomach for an entire winter (!!!).
Fast forward to the early summer of 2009, a couple of “dinothugs” vandalized the structure in the middle of the night, used an ax to behead Steve, and ran off with his stolen head, which reappeared on the trail a few days later. Surprisingly, the prank on the neglected dinosaur hit home with the residents of Durham, and the community rallied together to raise money to rebuild and replace Steve’s cute little head, as well as restore the rest of his body.
HOW TO FIND THE DURHAM DINOSAUR TODAY
Over 50 years later, the Durham dinosaur serves as one of the most interesting pieces of history in the Durham community, though he proved to be incredibly tough to find.
Technically, Steve stands on the West Ellerbee Creek Trail, about a quarter to a half of a mile outside of Northgate Park. If you pass the dog park at the very edge of Northgate Park and keep walking straight, he will eventually pop up in the trees on your right. What would be a lot easier is just starting off on the trail where it meets W. Murray Ave, right down the road from Durham’s Museum of Life and Science. Though I couldn’t get a clear picture of him on Google Maps, he can be found in the group of trees in the red oval in the picture below.