Reptile Roadblocks

Skull of a 17-foot roadblock

Traveling across the Great Plains, various reptiles like snakes and tortoises have held up progress. But a 17-foot turtle….?

Other times, mule Polly and I linger by choice in communities that catch our fancy. To visit a few of the ones we’ve spoken in, click here to go to the Appearances page….

Traveling across the Great Plains in my mule wagon various reptiles have held up progress.

Some days, a tortoise brings the Lost Sea Expedition wagon squeaking to a halt.

Tortoise road block
North of Hyannis, Nebraska

Other days, a tiny snake can hold up the wagon.

Outside Phillipsburg, Kansas

This week, as I removed the latest roadblock, I recalled a day spent oggling a massive reptile that inhabited the Great Plains.

Okay, so it wasn’t the type of road block I could remove by grabbing behind the head (snake) or by its shell (turtle). For once, I didn’t even have to wash my hands in Polly’s water bucket after handling it (I have a knack for making snakes and tortoises nervous when I handle them so they pee on me).

I’d heard this critter resided at the Journey Museum in Rapid City, South Dakota. So I took a day off to investigate.

Its skull looked like this.

Front end of a 17-foot roadblock

You’re looking at the skull (actually, it’s a cast resin replica) of a giant marine turtle that was found in South Dakota.

A sea turtle in South Dakota? Sure. South Dakota, home of modern-day reptiles like turtles and snakes, once looked quite different. Here’s a map of how it looked.

South Dakota 75 million years ago

That’s right, way, way back when, South Dakota was covered in a shallow sea that stretched from roughly the east slope of the Rocky Mountains to the western rise of the Appalachian mountains. Paleontologists call it the Western Interior Sea. I call it the Lost Sea because it’s fewer letters that needed painting on the side of my wagon.

Coming next. The life and times of a Great Plains sea turtle that weighed 10 times more than my prairie schooner. Until then, click here to journey down the throat of a Lost Sea critter that grew to 4 times as long as my 11 foot wagon….

Or, to learn what Lewis and Clark wrote of the same beast, and how its jaw measured up against mule Polly, click here….


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