Discovery of richest undisturbed cache of dinosaur fossils in North America

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IT WAS THE PROSPECTOR WHO FOUND IT FIRST. Maybe 30 years ago, back when uranium was worth a lot, when people thought nuclear power was your friend. He was working a ridge up at Spring Creek, Wyo., looking for ore with a scintillometer, a modern-day Geiger counter. He was getting a lot of hits.

But there was something else. Big, off-color rocks in strange shapes were lying loose on the ground where the wind had blown the dirt off them. The prospector was a geologist. He knew what those were. Dinosaur bones. From big dinosaurs -- like the ones that fill up museum exhibits.

A couple of decades later, a lot had changed. The first prospector was deep into his seventies by then, and the partner, a Colorado-based geologist named Fred Groth, was almost 70 himself. Nobody was buying uranium much. Three Mile Island and Chernobyl had scared off the power companies.

For reasons not entirely clear, though, Groth in 1999 decided to tell somebody about the Spring Creek ridge. He said later it was because there was suddenly "a lot of interest in dinosaurs" after a long time when there wasn't. He said he was afraid "local people" would stumble on the ridge, figure out what it was, steal the bones and sell them. Except that bone hunters had been digging up southeastern Wyoming for almost 130 years without finding that particular outcrop.

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