Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published September 18th 2021
Australia’s dinosaur stamping ground
The Age of Dinosaurs is a working museum in Winton in Outback Queensland which houses the largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils in the world. Its remote location is a result of the discovery of this area as being rich in dinosaur fossils.
We were staying in Longreach, 176 kilometres south-east of Winton and chose to take a day tour from there, which included a memorable visit to the Age of Dinosaurs. Don't miss it if you're out that way, there is nothing else like it!
The road up The Jump Up, a 75-metre-high rocky outcrop, to The Age of Dinosaurs - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
1. Outback Landscape. As we left Longreach, we passed through the Thompson River flood plain, dry as a bone and dotted with Coolabah trees. The flood plains gave way to a dense covering of gidgee trees, stunted, slow-growing hardwood trees, and to mulga bush. For a while, the soil turned from black to red. Later, there were kilometres of natural open plains, with only the occasional stunted bush and low lying grass made dormant by the drought.
The soils towards Winton tend to shift and fence posts are laid low, some leaning this way, some the other. There was much roadkill and significant numbers of black-breasted kites feeding on the carcasses. Live roos were easy to spot and nearer to Winton, we passed a flock of perhaps a dozen emus.
The view from the top of The Jump Up, a 75m high rocky outcrop at The Age of Dinosaurs - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
2. The Jump Up. We left the highway 20 kilometres short of Winton and travelled 11 kilometres of dirt road to the top of a 75-metre-high Jump Up, the rocky outcrop or mesa, which houses The Age of Dinosaurs. Our small bus was shaken on the corrugations and these gave way to a winding road up with a steep gradient of 10%. The jump-up rises 75 metres above the surrounding landscape and the view from up top is jaw-dropping. Although the road is passable by 2WD vehicles (we were travelling in our family sedan), we were glad to have made the decision not to bring our own car.
The view from the top of The Jump Up, a 75m high rocky outcrop at The Age of Dinosaurs - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
3. The Dinosaur Laboratory. Our first tour was of the Dinosaur Fossil Preparation Laboratory. As we stepped inside, we saw a petrified conifer branch more than 10 metres long and 95 million years old. On racks were significant numbers of bones that have been excavated and are yet to be separated from the rock that encases them. To protect them, at the dig, they are wrapped in alfoil to prevent moisture damage, then layers of wet newspaper, a layer of hessian and finally a layer of plaster. They are labelled, things like – 'Dicksie Site 2011 Neck Vertebrae, Pete Site 2013. Very Interesting!'
Dinosaur bones protected by a wrapping of alfoil, paper, hession and plaster - waiting to be worked on in Winton - Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge
One of the protective packages was opened for a documentary and was displayed alongside the similar bone of a cow. The size difference was mind-boggling. We were permitted to touch these bones. In glass cases, more bones are displayed and compared with cattle bones and in one case a vertebra is compared with that of a Southern Right Whale, which is of almost identical size.
A dinosaur bone still in its protective casing. The small comparison bone is from a cow - Photo copyright by Gayle Beveridge
4. Archeology at Work. A demonstration of the removal of the encasing rock follows and we watch volunteers bent over this painstaking work, as they prepare the bones for research and display. These volunteers pay to do the work and to live on-site; it is an important component of the Centre's fundraising. You too could get hands-on with the fossil preparation. Click here to visit their website to read about the Prep-A-Dino Experience. You can sign on for anything from 1 to 11 days or beyond by arrangement.
Using an air drill to remove rock encasing a dinosaur bone at the Age of Dinosaurs in Winton - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
5. The Collections Hall. In the Collections Hall we viewed the actual bones that have so far been recovered on two species which are the first of their kind found anywhere. They are affectionately named Matilda and Banjo. We were shown diagrams illustrating which bones have been recovered and animations of what these dinosaurs were thought to look like. Each bone was pointed out and explained.
Recovered dinosaur bones for 'Banjo' - Australovenator Wintonensis' - the first of its type found anywhere in the world - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
Getting There, Accommodation and Visitor Information. The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum is 24km south-east of Winton in outback Queensland. It is 164 kilometres from Longreach via the Landsborough Highway or 600 kilometres from Townsville via the Overlander's Way. Click here to visit the 'Getting There' page on their website.
Fossilised crabs from Ilfracombe, just a couple of the many fossils on display - Photo by Gayle Beveridge
For those on the Prep-a-Dino or Dig-A-Dino Experiences, accommodation is on-site. For other visitors, accommodation is available in nearby Winton. Click here to visit the Accommodation page of the Experience Winton Website.
If you are staying in Longreach and would like to take a day tour to the Age of Dinosaurs and Winton, click here to visit the Outback Pioneers website.
The Age of Dinosaurs can be contacted on (07) 4657 0078, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to visit their very comprehensive and informative website.
Great article Gayle. Winton is an amazing place to visit - so much to see and do. Most Aussies would be surprised to learn so much about the Australian dinosaur history too. Thanks. Hope to visit there again one day.