Jurassic Park.

When I was a young boy, of all the things that fascinated me, it was dinosaurs that held my attention the most. I loved learning about dinosaurs, these giant lizards that wandered the face of the earth millions and millions of years ago, and then vanished completely, leaving behind only their skeletons as reminders of their existence. I knew them all: Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Brontosaurus, Apatosaurus, Allosaurus, and of course, Tyrannosaurus Rex. My parents bought me countless books about dinosaurs, dinosaur puzzles, and an army of toy dinosaurs. Two of the earliest words I could pronounce were paleontologist and archaeologist. What that little boy did not realize, however, was that he was growing up only a few miles from where the first complete dinosaur fossil skeleton was discovered in North America.

This weekend I made the three hundred mile journey back to New Jersey to see family and friends, and also to move more of my possessions up to Massachusetts, which my parents have been graciously storing for me. Originally, there was not going to be a post this weekend. However, a comment from my friend Tyson (who runs the blog Drive to Five) gave me the itch to find something new to explore when I was back in my hometown. Then, a conversation with my Mom gave me the idea to visit the park where Hadrosaurus foulkii, the first complete dinosaur fossil, was discovered in North America, in the town of Haddonfield, NJ.

Haddonfield is a colonial town first settled in 1682. Its name would come a few years later when Elizabeth Haddon, a Quaker settler fleeing religious persecution in England, came to the New Jersey colony in 1702 and named the town in honor of her father. Haddonfield played a large role in the founding of the United States: the New Jersey legislature officially declared the colony’s independence from England at the Indian King Tavern on Kings Highway in Haddonfield (via Wikipedia).

In the 19th century, a local man, William Estaugh Hopkins, was digging for marl (clay soil that can be used to make fertilizer) when he unearthed large bones in a pit beside a nearby stream and put them on display at his home. This brought the attention of William Foulke, a geologist and historian from Philadelphia (he was also a lawyer, pamphleteer, prison reformer, and abolitionist). After studying the bones at Hopkins’ home, Foulke began to excavate the site, the pit near a stream that branches off from the Cooper River. Working with paleontologist Joseph Leidy, the skeleton was excavated and eventually displayed at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. The exhibit became an immediate hit, attracting a constant stream of visitors to the museum (via Wikipedia). The site where Hadrosaurs foulkii was discovered can still be visited, and so after a 300 mile drive yesterday, I pointed DH up the road to check out this unique spot.

Image of I-95 in the rain, through a car windshield.
Friday’s drive: 300 miles of clouds, wind, and rain.
Photograph of a bridge.
This bridge in New Haven, Connecticut on I-95 caught my eye.
Photo of new and old Tappan Zee bridge.
Progress continues on the new Tappan Zee bridge. Meanwhile, lots of traffic on the old one.
Map of South Jersey with a pin on Haddonfield.
Maple Avenue in Haddonfield, site of the first dinosaur excavation, and less than a half hour from Philadelphia.
Picture of the Hadrosaurus Foulkii park.
Maple Avenue dead-ends at this small park…
Photograph of the sign denoting the Hadrosaurus park as a National Landmark.
…but closer inspection reveals that this is actually a really important place! The park you see was actually created by a young man for his Eagle Scout project in 1994.
Photo of toy dinosaurs on a wood bench.
In what has become a bit of a tradition, children who visit the site leave toy dinosaurs on the park bench.
Photo of the stream.
With no fence stopping me, I decided to venture down the VERY rough path on the embankment to see where the dinosaur was excavated. If you do this, come prepared. I wore long pants and a long -sleeved shirt, as well as good hiking shoes.
Brick wall along river bank.
Along the way, I came to this stone wall that had slid down the embankment.
View of river bank and area of excavation.
Where the dinosaur was discovered, over 159 years ago. Little has changed down here since that time.
Photo of the river bank.
The climb back up was a good workout.
Honda Accord in front of park.
Of COURSE I’m going to photograph DH in front of the park!
Dinosaur statue along sidewalk in Haddonfield.
A statue of Hadrosaurus foulkii was placed by the Borough of Haddonfield on the sidewalk along Kings Highway. Since its discovery, “Haddy” has been the town’s unofficial mascot.
Photo of the Indian King Tavern.
The Indian King Tavern, where New Jersey declared its independence from England. Despite the Tavern being world famous, don’t expect to order a beer there… or anywhere else in town. Haddonfield has been a “dry” town since 1873.

After a fun tour of Haddonfield, I decided to go see Hadrosaurus foulkii in person. Part of Drexel University, the Academy of Natural Sciences is one of the coolest museums in Philadelphia. An entire wing of the museum is dedicated to just dinosaurs! My inner 7-year old boy was very excited! Unfortunately, my trip to Philadelphia coincided with the city being essentially shut down by a (peaceful) protest and counter protest about the current President. I was mired in gridlock and had thoughts of heading home, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw a sign for a parking garage. Making several quick turns that would have made Jason Bourne proud, I parked DH and headed to go see “Haddy.”

Photo of the exterior of the Academy of Natural Sciences.
Established in 1812, you can visit the Academy of Natural Sciences to learn about frogs, butterflies, bears, fish, and of course, DINOSAURS!
Fossil of Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The very first thing you see when you enter… Tyrannosaurus Rex!
Chasmosaurus belli.
Chasmosaurus belli
Animatronic dinosaurs.
These animatronic dinosaurs were pretty lifelike. If I was still a little boy, I would have thought they were awesome. Ah, who am I kidding? THEY ARE AWESOME!!!!
Display of Hadrosaurus bones.
An exhibit on Hadrosaurus Foulkii outlining the first bones that were found. While it was cool to see it, I was expecting more…
Hadrosaurus exhibit
After seeing only the small exhibit in the previous photo, I wondered if the museum didn’t think “Haddy” was that significant of a discovery… Then, I went down a hallway and found this very large and detailed exhibit.
Skeleton of Hadrosaurus Foulkii.
Hadrosaurus foulkii, in all its glory.
Dioramas in museum.
I know it’s unrelated, but something about these dioramas reminded me of the scene from the TV show The Wonder Years when Kevin and Winnie go to the natural science museum…
Free Library of Philadelphia.
On the walk back, not wanting to fight more traffic, I stopped by the Free Library of Philadelphia, which I had never visited. The Free Library of Philadelphia system was chartered in 1891 to give city residents access to a public library. This flagship building on Logan Circle opened in 1927.
Interior of the Free Library.
The library’s interior was jaw-dropping.
Interior of the Free Library.
Absolutely astounding.
Reading room at the Free Library.
Seemed like a cool place to read and study.

Finally, for your weekend entertainment, check out this clip of a drive in northern India through the mountains between Shimla and Kishtwar. I keep a list of possible trips for this blog, but rest assured, this will not make the list:

So my Saturday was spent as an amateur dinosaur hunter, tracking down the origins of one of the most famous fossils in history. The Hadrosaurus Foulkii Leidy site in Haddonfield is free and open to the public year round. The Academy of Natural Sciences is located at 19th and Cherry Streets along Logan Circle in Philadelphia, PA. The museum is open 10:00 – 4:30 pm on weekdays and 10:00 – 5:00 pm on weekends and holidays. Tickets for adults and children 13 and older is $17.95, seniors and veterans are $14.95, and children ages 3-12 are $13.95. If you feel in the mood to retrace the steps of a major moment in scientific history and you are near Philadelphia, you can become a dinosaur hunter too!

Thanks for coming along on another Voyage of DH!

‘Till next time.

6 thoughts on “Jurassic Park.

  1. Awesome! I have a thing for dinos myself. There were tracks found near my hometown years ago and they built an entire exhibit around them. Thanks for taking us on this journey! About that road in India — yikes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Did you ever stop by the dino tracks with the Legend? If not, next time you’re passing through your hometown, my request is that you swing and get some photos! Glad you enjoyed the tour!

      And yes, agreed about the road in India. No. Thank. You.


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