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Immersive Field Paleontology

Immersive Field Palentology


The BasicsLia Quarrying 2 Jerry Blount

Experience the thrill of unearthing dinosaurs in the remote spaces of northwest Colorado. This 16-day journey will place you directly in the quarry to uncover dinosaurs and will guide you through the data collection process. You will also learn basic backpacking and cooking skills critical to camping in the field. This experience represents a rugged outdoor experience and is available for 5-credit bearing credits through CNCC.

Two sessions are available with a maximum of 16 students per session allowed. Slots are assigned on a first come, first served basis so get your application in early to guarantee your spot!

Session 1: Tuesday, July 9th 2024 – Saturday, July 20th 2024       

Session 2: Thursday, July 25th 2024 – Monday, August 5th 2024              



 CNCC prides itself on offering unique experiences at low costs to provide accessible, affordable and quality education to all our students. The basic dig fee of $1,800 accounts for food, lodging, dig supplies, and other costs associated with a 16 day experience. Our prices as a non-profit college breaks it down to the slimmest of margins to give you the lowest cost possible for maximum return. Student tuition can be added in addition to the $1,800 base and depends on financial aid and residency factors.Bobby_at_work_-_Cristian_Heck.jpg

Base Dig Cost: $1,800

Add 5 college credits for additional cost

(estimates are approximate given financial aid and residency factors)

  • In-State= $1,510
  • In-State w/COF = $930
  • WUE* = $1,341
  • Out-of-State = $1,478

The student is responsible for their travel to and from Craig, Colorado. The closest airport is the Hayden International Airport approximately 40 minutes away. The Denver and Grand Junction airports require a 3-4 hour driving time either by rental car or greyhound bus.

The Area

CNCC van Cristian HeckThe summer dig site is located in the Morrison formation (155 – 148 million years ago) in the Jurassic period of the Age of Dinosaurs. This particular dig site is a large bone bed which consists of many dinosaurs from large sauropod dinosaurs, carnivorous theropods, small dinosaurs, and all things in between. The quarry is less than half a mile from base camp up gently sloping ground and is massive. All indications that the bone bed is larger than a football field in area with bones densely packed all throughout.

The area is unique geologically as you will have the ability to look deep in time through the Cretaceous, Jurassic, Triassic, and even Permian. You will have the ability to help geologists map the area and prospect for fossils and find new sites. This area is also near an official Dark Skies designated area where you will be able to see stars, planets, and Milky Way in a manner you have never experienced before!Painted Valley Jen Cozart

Wildlife is abundant at the site. Elk are common in addition to birds and lizards. Mountain lions do peruse the area, but they stay away from large groups like us. Sagebrush, grasses and prickly pear cactus’s compose the main vegetation of the area. Wetter months increase ticks which we make sure to mitigate with regular tick checks and DEET. There are limited trees save juniper and pinions. Rattlesnakes have been spotted in the area, but Rat snakes are more common. We like them. They keep the rattlers away.

Cactus Flowers Jen CozartThe area is above 6,000 ft (1828 meters) above sea level and in semi-arid climate. If you are coming from sea level directly to high altitude, please consider spending a day or two in town before the start of the experience to acclimate to the elevation. Also being so high means you are 6,000 feet closer to the sun. We highly recommend you bring your own sunscreen or SPF clothing and will be required to apply it regularly.

Temperature swings widely from warm and hot days to clear and cold nights. May tends to be wetter and can bring larger rain weather systems into the area. June is warmer and mostly clear, even though thunderstorms and rain systems can occur. Yes, it and occasionally snow in May and June. July trends hot and into the upper 90’s consistently.


Camp Life

This experience is immersive in the great outdoors of northwest Colorado. You will be eating, sleeping, and socializing in a remote area with little to no access to modern amenities like electricity or running water. This is camping at its core and you should be prepared to sleep in a sleeping bag, participate in outdoor cooking, take sponge baths, and be prepared for the extremes of weather. This experience is one step up from ‘primitive’ or ‘backcountry’ camping as we do have a variety of gear and infrastructure provided. Fortunately, you will have three days of practice in Craig at CNCC’s campus to gain the skills and become familiar with the environment before you travel to the dig site.

Base Camp AmenitiesLunch_-_Cristian_Heck.jpg

  • Sleeping tents
  • Outdoor cooking area
  • Outdoor communal area
  • Fire pit
  • Potable water tank
  • Outhouse
  • Handwashing station
  • Picnic tables and camping chairs
  • Phone charging solar capabilities
  • Propane refrigerator
  • Secure trash area
  • Handwash laundry
  • Medical supplies


What to Bring?

Click on the link below to find a list of recommended items to bring with you on your paleontology field camp. This list was compiled from experienced hikers and field paleontologists who know the common field pitfalls. Weather can change in an instant and dehydration, sunburn, and insect bites are the mostFlash Flood Unknown common ailments.

To minimize your packing gear, shirts and pants can be worn more than once. However, participants can hand wash clothing at the dig site if necessary.

If you do not have a recommended item, see if you can use an existing item in your possession or borrow from a friend. You should not have to buy many items for this field camp. All paleontology tools (e.g. hammers, brushes) will be provided to you.

Packing List



White Duck Canvas TentYou will have your own individual two or three person dome tent where you can rest and recover after a long day. You will be provided with a sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and waterproof container to store other bedding or clothing. You will be responsible to bring a pillow or purchase one locally before leaving town. If you are in need of any other items, please indicate this on your application. You are more than welcome to bring your own sleeping gear, but please alert the paleontology coordinator so we can accommodate packing space.


Dig Itinerary

 Itineraries are flexible when you are out in the field as weather conditions and tasks change rapidly. The rough outline of a 16-day experience is below.

  • Day 1: Dig orientation, repository tour, introduction to camping (Location: CNCC Craig)
  • Day 2: Outdoor coursework in hiking and cooking (Location: CNCC Craig)
  • Day 3: Outdoor coursework wrap-up (Location: CNCC Craig)

Decision deadline to participate in Field Paleontology OR remain in town for Paleontology Lab Techniques as an available substitute

  • Day 4: Travel to dig site, camp orientation, quarry orientation (Location: Craig/Dig)Quarrying and Bone Jen Cozart
  • Day 5: Introduction to the Quarry (Location: Dig Site)
  • Day 6: Quarry Work (Location: Dig Site)
  • Day 7: Quarry Work (Location: Dig Site)
  • Day 8: Quarry Work (Location: Dig Site)
  • Day 9: Day off (Location: Dig Site)
  • Day 10: Quarry Work (Location: Dig Site)
  • Day 11: Quarry Work (Location: Dig Site)
  • Day 12: Quarry Work (Location: Dig Site)
  • Day 13: Quarry Work (Location: Dig Site)
  • Day 14: Quarry Work (Location: Dig Site)
  • Day 15: Half-day dig, pack-up, celebration meal (Location: Dig Site)
  • Day 16: Return to Craig, Depart


The Courses

This is your opportunity to obtain 5 college credits through CNCC. CNCC prides itself on its outdoor experience and low tuition rates. Obtaining 5 credits that you can apply towards your college degreePaleo's Classroom   Jerry Blount in 16 days is impressive. Keep in mind that these courses do go on transcripts and have grading criteria associated with them. Your instructors will be with you to help you day in and day out. These courses are:

  • Backcountry Cooking (OUT 1050) – 1 credit

Focuses on menu planning, nutritional requirements for wilderness camping, and meal preparations. Includes cooking a backcountry meal. If you have additional questions on what will be taught, visit

  • Hiking (OUT 1100) – 1 credit

Provides skills related to hiking and wilderness travel. Emphasizes hiking skills, proper conditioning, route finding, equipment, and hiking hazards and ethics. If you have additional questions on what will be taught, visit

  • Field Paleontology (GEY 2229) – 3 creditsCactus Flowers Jen Cozart

Provides the opportunity to experience paleontology in a field setting and apply field techniques in the identification, mapping, and excavation of rocks and fossils. The course will culminate in a field trip lasting between seven and fourteen days. The specific area of investigation will be indicated in the course schedule each time the course is offered. If you have additional suggestions on what will be taught, visit

So you want college credit? Follow the steps below:

  1. Fill out your paleo application to reserve your spot on the dig and indicate you wish to register for college credit HERE
  2. Apply for admission to CNCC HERE
  3. Complete your admission checklist, including financial aid and residency questions
  4. You will be automatically be registered into the courses after March 13, when summer registration begins.

You can always unregister from courses if you change your mind online or by calling one of CNCC’s dedicated advisors. Visit for more information.

Paleontology Contact Information

Craig Rangely


Email:  Garrett Scofield
Phone: (970) 824-1118


About CNCC

Colorado Northwestern is one college in two Colorado communities. Depending on what you want to study, CNCC has the perfect surroundings and facilities to meet your needs. Founded in 1962 as “Rangely College,” CNCC now serves nearly 1,600 students on two campuses, two service centers and online. Our two campuses are located in Craig and Rangely and are 90 miles apart in the mountains and canyons of Northwestern Colorado.