Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals by State

Dinosaur National Monument in Utah

Mike Lyvers/Getty Images

Some states in the U.S. were richer in dinosaurs than others. If you live in New Hampshire, for instance, you're never going to be able to compete with the likes of Utah with its treasure trove of fossils, like the Allosaurus and Utahceratops.

Where Dinosaurs Lived on the Map

However, no matter where you live, you can bet there was at least some prehistoric life there five million, 50 million, or 500 million years ago. Use the list below to see which dinosaurs and prehistoric animals lived in your state during the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic Eras.

Alabama to Georgia

Stegosaurus skeleton

Carl Court/Getty Images

It shouldn't be surprising that Alaska, California, and Colorado are the big winners when it comes to the most fossil finds among these states. Alaska has long been poised for migration routes, with California and Colorado on the route to South America. 

Every state here does have some interesting finds, though. For instance, the coastal states like Florida, Georgia, and Delaware have a nice selection of marine fossils. Even Connecticut has a good collection of footprints.

Within these states, you'll find some of the best-known dinosaurs. The Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex, for instance, have been found in both California and Colorado. Mammoths ranged from Alaska to California, and over to Arkansas and Florida, while sabertooth cats have been found in both California and Florida.

Alabama was home to a large tyrannosaur called Appalachiosaurus, as well as the prehistoric shark Squalicorax. The most famous dinosaur to be discovered in Arizona is the Dilophosaurus.

Hawaii to Maryland

Mammoth fossil

 Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The mega finds of other states are not found in any from this group, though they do offer some very interesting prehistoric revelations. The state with the most actual dinosaur discoveries here is a surprise: Maryland.

As for the other states, Hawaii has only a few prehistoric animals because it was underwater for much of history. Likewise, the Midwestern states were submerged as well, so many of the fossils found in Kansas, Idaho, and Iowa were aquatic. While mammoths have been found in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa, and mastodons in Kentucky and Louisiana, these were simply not fossil-rich states. No real dinosaurs have been found in many of them.

It's also interesting to note that the environments and soil of both Louisiana and Maine were not the best for fossil preservation. While more prehistoric life than science knows about may have lived in either state, the fossil records simply didn't survive.

Massachusetts to New Jersey

Raptor skeleton

 Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Montana is the fossil hotbed among this set of states. That shouldn't be much of a surprise, given its proximity to fossil-rich South Dakota and Wyoming. Montana was home to raptors, Triceratops, sauropods, Stegoceras, and so many more. 

Other states in this group were not so lucky. Minnesota, Mississippi, and southern New Jersey spent much of prehistory underwater. While marine fossils have been found in those aquatic areas, northern New Jersey did have a fair amount of terrestrial dinosaurs.

The mastodon and mammoth were found in almost all of these states, and Nebraska was once teeming with a diverse prehistoric mammal population. Another surprise is that no complete dinosaurs have been found in Nevada, though plenty have been discovered in neighboring Utah.

New Mexico to South Carolina

Triceratops skeleton at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum.

Allie_Caulfield/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

Where can you find the richest dinosaur fossils among these states? New Mexico is the place you'll need to go, as its fossils number in the thousands. Oklahoma, thanks to its dry conditions throughout history, is another dinosaur hotspot despite the fact that it was submerged for a significant period of time.

States like New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island were underwater much of the time, so they primarily have marine and amphibious fossils. Likewise, the Carolinas were often covered by shallow water. Yet, North Carolina has some unique fossil records worth exploring, and South Carolina was home to the saber-toothed tiger. 

Pennsylvania may not have dinosaur fossils, but a great many footprints have been found, proving it was a popular area at one time. North Dakota? Scientists have found a Triceratops here, though nothing much else that's been as complete as the finds from neighboring states.

South Dakota to Wyoming

Tyrannosaurus rex

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Are you ready to dive into some of the wealthiest states in terms of fossil records?

Many of these states are in the western and southwestern parts of the U.S. That means the conditions were often ideal for fossil preservation because the bones were high and dry through much of history.

This explains why Utah is a paleontologist's dream, and the state most noted for its fossil discoveries, including the astonishing 1,500-pound Utahraptor. Likewise, Texas boasts hundreds of complete fossils and Wyoming is a hotbed, with 500 million years of history to be found.

Though it doesn't have the number of fossils that those states can claim, South Dakota has diversity on its side. This dinosaur-rich area has produced the Dakotaraptor, Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, Barosaurus, and many other species, large and small, reptilian and mammalian.

As for the other states, Washington and Vermont have mostly marine fossils, West Virginia has amphibians, and Virginia has footprint evidence but no actual dinosaur fossils. Wisconsin's rocks didn't preserve fossils well, either. And yet, each of these states does have some fascinating specimens.

Tennessee didn't have a lot of dinosaurs, but it was home to megafauna, including the camelops, from which all camels are descended.

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Strauss, Bob. "Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals by State." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/dinosaurs-and-prehistoric-animals-by-state-4150411. Strauss, Bob. (2020, August 28). Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals by State. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/dinosaurs-and-prehistoric-animals-by-state-4150411 Strauss, Bob. "Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals by State." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/dinosaurs-and-prehistoric-animals-by-state-4150411 (accessed June 2, 2023).