Tours and Activities:
Lake Barreales, Land of DinosaursMónica PonsProyecto Dino
This site provides fossil lovers with the opportunity of an educational experience to discover and learn about dinosaurs with the help of specialized guides.
During the last few years the Province of Neuquén has become the hub of paleontology fossils in Argentina and has changed the world view of this science. The site at Lake Barreales is one of its major 90-million year old dinosaur deposit.
It is located in Loma de la Lata, in land belonging to the Paynemil Mapuche community. Its recent history dates back to the year 2000 when a group of researchers from the Universidad Nacional del Comahue found fossil remains in the water intake headers of the indigenous communities. Since then there has been a thorough search for other such valuable pieces.
The northern coast of Lake Barriales and 600 meters of the adjoining cliff up to the nearby mount were explored. Bones, splinters, a theropod tooth, a fragment of a sauropod humerus and a turtle shell were discovered.
The area was combed and yielded one surprise after another. Once collected, the important material found on the site was sent to a lab to be analyzed by experts.
It is estimated that 300 pieces have been recovered to date including vertebrate fossils and plant remains. Jorge Calvo, a paleontologist, enthusiastically stated: ‘Sauropod dinosaurs (gigantic, among them the futalognkosaurus), theropods (megaraptor), ornithopods, pterosaurus, crocodiles, turtles, fish and eggshells are all part of a complete Mesozoic ecosystem.’
As an example, it has been impossible to determine the name of a small, two-meter long dinosaur with a horny beak which stood on its hind legs and lived in an ecological niche with low vegetation.
The different paleontology campaigns on the site have been greatly appreciated and studied by both local and foreign researchers alike and it has become a highlight of thematic tourism. In this way, while field work continues, it is not only a valuable experience for all involved in the Dino Project but for visitors as well.
The Project, and Lake Barreales Paleontology Center offer guided tours of a dig during which not only fauna and flora fossil recovery and cleaning techniques are shown but also their treatment and conservation.
This absolutely educational experience makes visitors feel ‘paleontologists for a day’ in the midst of an incredible reddish plateau and a lake whose waters are ruffled by the Patagonian wind in an ever changing landscape.