Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology

Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology

 Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology

PLEASE NOTE: Because of Covid-19, visitor capacity at the ranch is reduced and requires reservations. Advanced purchase of a Day Pass is preferred to visit museums. Please click here to purchase or purchase at the Welcome Center upon arrival.

It is not hard to imagine the dinosaurs walking along the edges of the buttes overlooking Ghost Ranch. From the corner of your eye it sometimes feels like you’ve caught a glimpse of the shadow of the long neck and tail of these creatures. Especially after visiting the museum, it’s more tempting to stop and study the rocks along the edges of the trails. A visit to the Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology brings it all alive.

The museum focuses on the fossils and the environment of the late Triassic Period between 200 and 220 million years ago at the Dawn of the Age of Dinosaurs. The Coelophysis Quarry is a National Natural Landmark as designated by the National Park Foundation.

Three well-known fossil quarries contribute to our exhibits on early Mesozoic life. The Canjilon Quarry, discovered in the 1920s on U. S. Forest Service land adjacent to Ghost Ranch, has produced some of the best skeletons of both the armored herbivorous aetosaurs and also skeletons of phytosaurs the giant crocodile-like predators of the Triassic swamps. The Coelophysis Quarry, discovered in 1947 on the Ghost ranch property, preserves a unique assemblage of several thousand skeletons of the small dinosaur Coelophysis in addition to other rarer Triassic vertebrates.

A twelve-ton block of mudstone, one of the many large blocks removed from this site, is currently undergoing preparation as the centerpiece of our museum exhibits. Museum visitors may interact with the paleontologist as he meticulously removes the rock that has encased the bones for over 200 million years. A new discovery from the preparation of this block is the first complete skeleton of strange armored swimming reptile Vancleavea. Both a cast of this unique skeleton and a life-size model of the bizarre animal are on exhibit.

In 2002 a new locality, the Hayden Quarry, was discovered by hikers at Ghost Ranch. This new quarry has produced a diverse fauna of more than twenty species of land vertebrates preserved along with charcoalized fossil wood from wildfires in the Triassic forest they lived in. These fossils include Dromomeron the first recognized dinosaur precursor from North America, and Tawa, the oldest North American dinosaur known from a complete skeleton. Ongoing field work at the Hayden Quarry promises to reveal new discoveries.

In 2018, the Whitaker Quarry (Coelophysis Quarry) was listed on the State Register of Cultural Properties and Federal Register of Historic Places. This designation puts Ghost Ranch on a list of all designated properties in the U.S. maintained by the National Park Service.

The museum is named for amateur paleontologist Ruth Hall, wife of first resident Ghost Ranch Director Jim Hall. Today the Museum of Paleontology houses not only the huge block of bones but also numerous exhibits, photographs and life-sized replicas of dinosaurs found on the Ranch. Well worth a visit, even if you’re not a child.

What You Will See
Ghost Ranch is the site of one of the best known paleontological digs in the Northern Hemisphere. Two little dinosaurs, discovered at Ghost Ranch decades apart, form the centerpiece of the research and exhibits at the Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology. The bones of the Coelophysis (SEE-low-FY-sis), who roamed the ranch 220 million years ago, were discovered in 1947. Six decades later in 2009, the Tawa Hallae (ta-wa-hay-lee) discovery was reported in the December issue of Science. Also, another specimen of Vancleavea, new, very well preserved, articulated skeleton was discovered at Ghost Ranch. The paleontological dig at Ghost Ranch is known world-wide. Newly renovated exhibits also highlight the Triassic animals from 210 million years ago, including the recent discoveries of Tawa, a new species of small carnivorous dinosaur and Effigia, the archosaur species named okeeffeae (O’Keeffe’s Ghost).


Schedule: Wednesday through Sunday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Join us Sepember 18th for Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day. Follow the link below for tickets. Each ticket admits two to our museums only. Access to Ghost Ranch Grounds requires the purchase of a day pass.

Smithsonian Magazine – Ghost Ranch

Cost: Because of Covid-19, visitor capacity at the ranch is reduced and requires reservations. Advanced purchase of a Day Pass is preferred to visit museums. Please click here to purchase. If you do not pre-book, please pay at the Welcome Center not at the museums. The site fee grants guest access to Museums, labyrinth, and ranch grounds. Most buildings are closed at this time.

School Outreach
Annually, approximately 2,000-3,000 school children visit the anthropology and paleontology museum on field trips and have the opportunity to learn about local cultures by participating in related educational activities such as traditional tinwork, sand painting, and straw-inlay work, as well as having the chance to hike to archaeological sites found on Ghost Ranch.

To arrange an outing for your school group or to have a visit made to your school, call the museum at 505.685.1000, ext. 4118.


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280 Private Drive 1708 Abiquiu, NM 87510


9 am - 4 pm Daily

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