Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals by State

Which Dinosaurs Lived in Your State?

Dinosaur National Monument in Utah
Dinosaur National Monument in Utah.

Getty Images/Mike Lyvers

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.

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

Fossil Finds: Alabama to Georgia

Stegosaurus skeleton

 Getty Images/Carl Court / Staff

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 migration route between it and 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. 

 

Fossil Finds: Hawaii to Maryland

Mammoth fossil

 Getty Images/Ethan Miller / Staff

The mega finds of other states are not found in any from this group, though they do give us 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 environment and soil of both Louisiana and Maine were not the best for fossil preservation. While more prehistoric life may have lived in either state than we know about, the fossil records simply didn't survive.

Fossil Finds: Massachusetts to New Jersey

Raptor skeleton

 Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives

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

Other states in this group were not so lucky. Minnesota and 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 apparently teaming with a diverse prehistoric mammal population. Another surprise is that no complete dinosaurs have been found in Nevada, even though plenty come from neighboring Utah.

 

Fossil Finds: New Mexico to South Carolina

Dinosaur footprints

Getty Images/Imagno / Contributor 

Where can you find the richest dinosaur fossils among these states? New Mexico is the place you'll need to go and 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 Sabertooth 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? They've found a Triceratops, though nothing much else that's been as complete as the finds from its neighbors.

Fossil Finds: South Dakota to Wyoming

Tyrannosaurus rex

 Getty Images/Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Staff

Are you ready to dive into some of the wealthiest states in terms of fossil records? You might say we've saved the best for last, but that's just the magic of the alphabet talking.

You'll also notice that 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 they 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.