What is the State Dinosaur of Colorado?

Colorado, like Wyoming, has a lot of choice when it came to choosing a state dinosaur. It has abundant fossil beds throughout the state, including the world famous Morrison Sites, and has unearthed some of the most famous dinosaurs ever.It was also the first state to choose a state dinosaur. So with so many dinosaurs to choose from which dinosaur made it as the state dinosaur of Colorado, we check that out below.

Stegosaurus was named as the state dinosaur of Colorado in 1982. it was also the first U.S. State to adopt a dinosaur as a state symbol. Stegosaurus fossils were found in 1937 by a teacher and his students and In 1981 another class of students suggested that Colorado name stegosaurus as their state dinosaur.

So while the Stegosaurus may have been head of the pack in the state dinosaur of Colorado race, it was not without competition. Fossils of Allosaurus, triceratops, Apatosaurus, diplodocus and even the mighty T-Rex have all been found in the Centennial state, which demonstrates how rich the fossil discoveries really are here. As Colorado was the first state to name a state dinosaur there really was a lot of choice!

state dinosaur of colorado

Stegosaurus: The State Dinosaur of Colorado

We have some quick facts about the Colorado State dinosaur, the Stegosaurus below for you and have included the most important in a table to make access easier as well.

Stegosaurus Quick Facts

  • Stegosaurus measured up to 25 feet long (8 meters).
  • Stegosaurus would likely have weighed up to 11,000 lbs (5300 Kg) making it a very large dinosaur.
  • Stegosaurus are known from two species, the Stegosaurus Stenops and the larger Stegosaurus ungulatus.
  • Stegosaurus name means roof lizard, ann for a while there was some confusion if the plates on its back covered, or stuck up from its back.
  • Stegosaurus was first found in Colorado, where it also the state dinosaur, in 1877.
  • Stegosaurus was herbivorous, which means it ate plants and lots of them. .
  • It is quite an early dinosaur living in the later Jurassic, around 155 to 145 million years ago.
  • Stegosaurus became the state dinosaur for Colorado on April 28th 1982. It was the first state to have a dinosaur as a symbol.
  • Stegosaurus is an easy dinosaur name to say. It has 4 syllables and you say it like this. Steg – 0h – Saw – Rus
Dinosaur NameState Dinosaur ofLengthHeightWeightWhen LivedWhen and where Discovered
StegosaurusColorado, 198221 – 25 feet (7-8 meters) 10-13 feet feet (3 -4 Meters) 7-11,000 lbs (4-5300 kg)155 – 145 million years agoColorado, 1877, 1937

Why is Stegosaurus the State Dinosaur of Colorado?

With Colorado being the first of all the U.S. States to name a state dinosaur they had the pick of the bunch, especially for such a fossil rich state so why did they choose a Stegosaurus. The story is a really nice one, and shows the power of Education. (something we believe very strongly in)

Carl Kessler was a teacher living in Canon City where he taught Science and History at the Canon City high School. He was an adventurous soul and although being born in Montana, had worked all over the country and had even ventured as far as the Philippines to teach English in his younger years.

As part of his science lessons ( and we would have loved to part of these science lessons!) he liked to take his students on treks into the wilderness of Colorado – we imagine there were slightly less restrictions that perhaps there are today for this!.

On one of these excursions he and his students found the fossil remains of a very complete Stegosaurus in Colorado it was found in Four Mile Creek. Ever the educator he managed to get his students to be part of the excavation process. They may not have been paid much, even for the time, but how many of us would actually pay for the chance to be part of the excavation of a complete stegosaurus!

we have to fast forward, and miss a lot of his other discoveries, to start the story of how stegosaurus became the state dinosaur of Colorado.

In January 1980, a class of Fourth graders at mcElwain School in Denver were learning about dinosaurs and had learnt that one of the most complete Stegosaurus fossils had not only been found in their state, but by a teacher and his class of students.

They questioned why Colorado, a state so full of important fossil discoveries had neither a State fossil or a state dinosaur. So the class, it has to be said moving away from their study of dinosaurs, started looking at how they could rectify this glaring error with the help of their teacher Ruth sawdo. They were told by then State senator polly baca barragan that a bill could be introduced to vote on a state dinosaur in 1981.

it actually took just over a year from then, but on April the 28th, 1982, by the order of Governor Richard D. Lamm the stegosaurus was named as the state dinosaur for Colorado. Starting a trend that continues today of school children using their democratic power to change things for the better.

Unfortunately Carl Kessler didn’t live to see another group of dinosaur obsessed students successfully lobby for his Stegosaurus to be named as the State Dinosaur of Colorado in 1981/1982, but there is no doubt he would have approved.

Colorado may have been the first state to name a state dinosaur, but it was also the first to have children actively campaign for it. it has been followed by states like Delaware, Arizona and Wyoming in which school children were heavily involved with their choices for dinosaur symbols,

Stegosaurus State Dinosaur of Colorado

Where was Stegosaurus discovered?

Arthur lakes, a prominent geologist, is credited for first discovering the fossils of Stegosaurus. these were found in the Morrison Formation near the Town fr Morrison in Colorado. it is from these that the holotype of Stegosaurus is taken.

state dinosaur of colorado
Cretaceous Colorado

Since that initial find many more fossils of Stegosaurus were found both in Colorado and the surrounding states. The best find was in 1885 near Canon City in Colorado, when an alomost complete fossilized remains were found. We have an article on the biggest armored dinosaurs here on the site.

What is the State Fossil of Colorado?

In a demonstration of efficiency not often seen in governments anywhere in the world, Colorado has the Stegosaurus as both the state dinosaur symbol and as the state fossil.

Colorado state fossil

While it is certainly one of the most impressive dinosaurs, with a fossil history and rich as Colorado’s it would be possible to have any one of the top 5 most popular dinosaurs as their State fossil. Perhaps they are letting the other states have a chance as well !

So while California has the pick of the prehistoric fossils, Colorado had the pick of the dinosaur fossils.

you can check out the other state dinosaurs, those that have adopted one as a state symbol, here in the following list.

You can also read more about State dinosaurs in our US State dinosaur page as well linked here and below.


So Stegosaurus is the State dinosaur of Colorado, and Colorado was the first to name a dinosaur as a symbol. Even with so many dinosaurs to choose from, we think Stegosaurus is a great choice and the fact that it was accomplished with the help of a class of school children makes it even better.


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