Museum of Paleontology

dino_toothIt 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.

Imagine the excitement of a child holding the jawbone of a dinosaur in their hands, placed there by our resident paleontologist. That’s been known to happen at the Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology at Ghost Ranch.

In 1985 a huge, 8-ton block of plaster-encased dinosaur bones was hoisted by crane onto the back of a flatbed truck and moved to the main campus of Ghost Ranch. The museum was built around it. Our resident paleontologist Alex Downs is currently at work on a large block taken from the quarry on Ghost Ranch where Coelophysis was discovered in 1947. Visit the museum and watch fossil discovery right before your eyes.

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.

Hours of Operation

  • Monday through Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

  • Sunday:  1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

There is a $5.00 conservation fee payable at the Welcome Center that allows guest access to hiking trails, labyrinth, Museums, bathroom facilities and campus grounds.

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).

Coelophysis Quarry
The Coelophysis Quarry is a National Natural Landmark as designated by the National Park Foundation.

School Groups and Visits to Schools
Annually, approximately 2,000-3,000 school children visit the museum on field trips and participate in related educational activities such as the “Dinosaur Bone Dig” and “Plaster Bone Casting” as well as a hike to the Coelophysis quarry site. To arrange an outing for your school group to come to Ghost Ranch or to have one of our museum staff come to your school, please call the museum at 505.685-1000, ext. 4118. Special programs available for school groups which are different from our public paid tours highlighted below. See school outreach tab above for details.

For more information on paleontology at Ghost Ranch, please click the “VIDEO” button.


Paleontology of Ghost Ranch Tour
Times: Thursdays 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. April 6th through October 19th
Price: $49 2-hour tour | Learn about the Triassic fossils discovered here at Ghost Ranch. Coelophysis, the New Mexico state fossil was found here in 1947.

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