Prehistoric Parks



The first “prehistoric park” — i.e., by my definition, a display of (more than just one) life-sized  stationary statues (as opposed to mechanical figures like those at Disneyland and from Dinamation International Corp.) of prehistoric animals exhibited outdoors, presumably intended to last permanently, not only temporarily as with Sinclair’s exhibits at the 1933 and 1964 World’s Fairs — was  created by artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins in 1853, many of the figures based on  very incomplete fossil remains and quite inaccurate by today’s knowledge, on the Crystal Palace grounds in Sydenham, London.  The statues (Iguanodon photo, left, taken and given to me by Bill Warren) are still on display.

Over the years seemingly countless “prehistoric parks” have sprung up in North America and on other continents — and I’ve been to a lot of them, most of them having gift shops selling prehistoric items of varying quality .

The first such display to open in the USA was, in 1936, Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, SD.  Following that came E. V. Nelson’s  Prehistoric Gardens near Gold Beach, OR, opening on January 1, 1955.  Among the earliest such parks in the USA was the Prehistoric Land, part of the Enchanted Forrest attraction at the Wisconsin Dells. This park started up in the mid-1950s. The dinosaur figures, sculpted by Dick Day, were strongly influenced by the ones sculpted by Emmet Sullivan for Rapid City’s Dinosaur Park. Prehistoric Land no longer exists, except in family photos, personal memories and also  postcards like this one.  Just some of the many other such parks, some now extinct or in ruins, included Dinosaur Land in Shenandoan, VA.,  Prehistoric Forest in Irish Hills, MI,  The Land of Kong in Eureka Springs, AR,  the Cabazon Dinosaurs in Cabazon, CA, the Pleistocene Gardens at the La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park, Los Angeles, CA, the Prehistoric Parks in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada, various  Flintstones Bedrock Cities, in the USA and  the Prehistoric Park at the Calgary Zoo,  Dinosaur World in North Wales, Parco Zoo del Granda-Parco del Dinosauri in Bussolengo-Pastrengo, Italy, The Dinosaur Park, Blackgang Chine, Isle of Wight, and, in a way, the entire town (including Dinosaur Gardens) of  Vernal, Utah, To see my own private “dinosaur park,” CLICK HERE.

There are way too many “prehistoric parks” to do them justice on this website. However, the following postcard (below left, ca. 1910) is especially interesting, being from both of one of the earliest such parks (1909). The photograph is of a full-scale Diplodocus, based upon a design by artist Charles R. Knight, part of animal collector Carl Hagenbeck’s prehistoric menagerie displayed at the Tiergarten (zoo) in Stellingen, near Hamberg, Germany. This statue  and others in that collection are still standing today.


A variation on the “prehistoric park idea: Thunder Beast Park, Chiloquin, Oregon, was devoted only to prehistoric mammals.

Thunderbeast Park






Souvenir postcard of 65-foot long Dinny the dinosaur statue at Fantasyland Park in Iraan, West Texas. The park, which includes more Oop imageru, was conceived by Hamlin when he revisited Iraan, the town where he created his classic comic strip, in 1929.


Although not literally a “prehistoric park,” this outdoor diaplay showing a life-sized Tyrannosaurus statue is outside the Geology Museum, University of Wyoming, Laramie, seen in this souvenir postcard.








Museum-shop postcard showing the life-sized “Dueling Dinosaurs” statues based on the identically dubbed skeletal mounts inside  the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Postcard of a plastic life-sized  Pteranodon statue made by museum artist Ellen V. Walters displayed outside the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.


There are and have been way too many prehistoric park to cover fully on this website, but I have tried to give samples of many of them. Every image on the below montage of souvenir postcards represents a different “prehistoric park” — and there are many more of both parks and cards, probably some still unknown to me, some still mysteries as with the two postcards below.





Dinosaurland, Mallorca, Spain.


Rockford, Illinois, in 2008, temporarily became a sort of “prehistoric park”  with its  “Dinosaurs on Parade” event, where brightly colored and decorated sauropod statues appeared all over the town, one of which is seen in this postcard.









Postcard from the Dinosaur Gem & Mineral Shoppe, between Danbury, Connecticut and Brewster, New York.




Dinosaur statues of various sizes have also been featured outdoors at numerous miniature golf courses.







Alas, I have no information about this postcard, other than the company that published it seems to be located in Munich, Germany … or the next one, a Flashcards postcard, other than it bears the caption: “Man Eater”!