Utah tourists keep throwing dinosaur footprints into a lake

Utah's Red Fleet State Park near Salt Lake City has a big problem: visitors keep accidentally destroying precious dinosaur tracks. The tracks are imprinted in sandstone, which visitors keep prying up to chuck into a nearby reservoir. At least ten notable prints have disappeared in only six months due to visitors' actions, many of which may be gone forever.

According to Utah Division of State Parks officials, some of the dinosaur tracks aren't readily identifiable, meaning visitors mistake them for ordinary rocks. Not realizing what they are, these visions may break pieces free to throw into a nearby lake, where the fragile sandstone often shatters or dissolves; at least some of the prints can't be recovered.

The prints are about 200 million years old and were created by dinosaurs that roamed northern Utah. Hundreds of tracks can be found within the Red Fleet State Park, many near a trail where visitors can see them. The tracks are a big attraction for tourists, but those tourists are now a threat to the prehistoric artifacts.

According to officials speaking with The Salt Lake Tribune, the parks may hire divers to search the reservoir for footprints that have been tossed into the lake, but that plan hasn't been confirmed. How many of the prints can be recovered is anyone's guess. The park already has signs warning visitors not to touch the rocks.

Technically, anyone who damages these dinosaur footprints can be charged with a felony, but no one has been charged. Though these issues are apparently the result of ignorance rather than deliberate destruction, other parks in the state have increasingly faced issues from vandals caught carving their names into ancient sites, destroying delicate rock structures, and more.

SOURCE: The Salt Lake Tribune