Huge 152 Million Year Old Wood Fossil Recovered From Utah Site

An undated photo of crews working to dig up the 152 million year old ‘Manwell Log’ of the Morrison Formation. The log has been moved to a museum in Utah. (Utah State Parks)

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VERNAL – Measuring 12 feet long and weighing an impressive 8 tons, paleontologists say they recently unearthed a 152-million-year-old log at a site in eastern Utah.

The giant log now has a home at the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum in Vernal.

The discovery of the log dates back about eight years, according to the Utah State Parks Division, which wrote about the find on Wednesday. Officials say a woman whose last name is “Manwell” discovered the log in the Morrison Formation, which is a rock unit west of the Upper Jurassic period, as noted by the National Park Service. It is best known for its dinosaurs, but it is home to many fossils dating from between 148 and 155 million years ago.

The Manwell Log is transported to the museum in its cradle.
The Manwell Log is transported to the museum in its cradle. (Photo: Utah Division of Natural Resources)

The discovery occurred while Mary Beth Bennis, curator of education at the Utah Field House of Natural History Museum, and volunteer Dale Gray were searching for fossilized logs. The “Manwell Log” quickly caught their attention, as well as that of other experts, local and global.

“As she had no GPS coordinates, I took as accurate a description of the tree’s location as possible to improve our chances,” Bennis recalled in a press release. “Remarkably enough, we found the log and started collecting data on it.”

The first samples taken from the log went to a paleobotanist at the University of Bonn, Germany, who discovered that the cell structure of the log still existed millions of years later. The researcher found that the log belonged to the Araucariaceae family and was a massive ancestor of today’s Norfolk pine.

With the help of grants and volunteers, Bennis and his colleagues from Germany and China worked to figure out how to dig up the huge log and move it to the Utah Field House of Natural History state park museum for further research. Salt Lake engineer Phil Policelli, who helped haul a 9-ton Utahraptor fossil block found in Grand County, and Advanced Towing and Automotive of Vernal were among those who offered their expertise and equipment to move the fossilized log to its new home.

Paleontologists and volunteers from the Utah Division of Natural Resources prepare the Manwell Log to move to the museum.
Paleontologists and volunteers from the Utah Division of Natural Resources prepare the Manwell Log to move to the museum. (Photo: Utah Division of Natural Resources)

In total, it took nearly two weeks for the log to travel from its resting site to the museum, where it now sits in the building’s Jurassic Hall. Utah State Park officials say the Manwell Log can be cleaned, searched and enjoyed by visitors to its new resting place.

They added that two dozen other fossilized logs have been found since the discovery of the Manwell Log.

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