Dinosaurs may be oh-so-65 million years ago, but they still intrigue us even in a world dominated by technology. From the action movies made about their reappearance to the fossils unearthed all over the globe, from the plastic toys children adore to the museums dedicated to their bones, the interest in dinosaurs has never gone extinct. In fact, you may even find them in places you’d never expect.
Erie Dinosaur Park is located in Erie, Kansas and considers itself a roadside attraction. Once called the Dinosaur Not So National Park (and often still referred by this name), it features structures of these prehistoric reptiles.
The structures were created by Robert Dorris, a Kansas local who kept them in his backyard. After a long career as an Air Force engineer, he took to engineering something else, something a little more unique.
Using junk metal he’d found discarded in dumps and wherever else, he manufactured works that merged art and science as well as the past and present.
The Dorris family was well known by the Erie Community and always willing to share the inventions with anyone curious. Even after Robert Dorris’s death in 2007, his creations continued to walk the earth….at least sort of.
In 2014, the Dorris family donated their collection to the town of Erie. Since then, the artwork’s been housed in the Erie Dinosaur Park. While it’s the most unique place to take the family (or go for a field trip), the times are limited: it’s only open the second Saturday and third Sunday of each month.
The park is new and runs largely on donations from both local community members and folks far away. Donors can actually “adopt a dinosaur” through their generosity. As the park grows in popularity, there’s always a chance that its hours and days will broaden, allowing more and more people to experience a glimpse of eras past.
Why dinosaurs continue to draw our interest is hard to say; we don’t seem to have the same love for the Wooly Mammoth or the Dodo Bird. Perhaps it’s because of their ridiculous size. The sauropods, the largest of the dinosaurs, were estimated to grow to sizes between 98 and 130 feet. They only thing close to comparable is the blue whale, the largest animal to have ever lived.
Or maybe it was their staying power: they ruled the earth for more than 160 million years. It could even be the way they died or, more accurately, the mystery that surrounds it.
While a giant meteor is the most common theory accepted by scientists, no one knows for certain. Volcanic activity or weather changes that resulted in diminishing food supply and sun exposure could have also played a role. Regardless, their intrigue will probably be the only prehistoric thing that never goes out of style.
So, the next time you’re in Kansas, consider a visit to the Erie Dinosaur Museum. Walk over, bike over, or drive over in your old beat-up car, the Jurassic Parker.