Digging for Dinosaur Bones in Montana

Marge Baisch teaches digging techniques to a young paleontologist.
Marge Baisch teaches digging techniques to a young paleontologist.

Digging for dinosaur bones you can keep found us at the outskirts of Glendive, Montana in the state’s northeast corner heading to the Baisch family’s ranch.

The ranch, in the midst of Montana’s badlands, is a privately owned experiential family travel destination. Here, at Baisch’s Dinosaur Digs, looking for dinosaur bones is peppered with stories of growing up where the vast sky is a brilliant blue and wildflowers seem to grow like magic.

Where dinosaurs roamed thousands of years ago

Marge Baisch, the ranch matriarch, is as much of a draw to dinosaur bone digging as the possibility of finding buried treasure. First off, she packs a pistol–and she’ll use it if she has to. This is rattlesnake and mountain lion country and Marge’s  aim is to make sure folks she leads across the landscape are well protected.

On our family-friendly trip, the pistol remained tucked away and butterflies were the wildlife of the day. I enjoyed listening to Marge’s stories while my son, along with a teenage boy who was traveling with his dad, dug away at hillsides wherever Marge pointed. Marge, who has been finding dinosaur bones on this property for more than 50 years knows just where to look.

With wind altering the terrain, new bones appear no matter how many bones have  been found already. Generally, the bones are in small pieces but Marge is an expert at telling a rock from a bone and what is petrified wood.  She also knows which bone is from what dinosaur. Marge is a patient teacher as she shows youngsters how to gently move dirt away from a possible bone as to not cause damage.

Over the course of our day trip, we learned details about the creatures who roamed here from the planting eating triceratops to the ferocious T-rex. We left with bones from both, as well as, bones from a prehistoric crocodile and a fossil from a turtle shell.

There are dinosaur bones here if you know where to look.
There are dinosaur bones here if you know where to look.

Along with packing a pistol, Marge packs baggies for the bones as a way to keep them grouped in order.

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There isn’t a limit to what visitors can take, although if an extra special bone is found, that one stays with the ranch. Marge is happy to show off some of her findings as well. At her house with a room that serves as a museum and the tour reception area glass cases contain prize specimens.

A boy rests in paradise.
A boy rests in paradise.

If you go: You need reservations. Call 406-365-4133 or email jsbaisch@midrivers.com

  • Bring one gallon of water per person and a sack lunch
  • Long pants are recommended
  • Wear sturdy shoes (sneakers are fine)

Digging tools and gloves are provided.

Also, my husband dropped us off. Fortunately, we were able to hitch a ride to where the dinosaur bone digging happens with the man and his son who were the two other people on our tour. Marge drives an ATV.

The cost for a day is $100, but kids 12 and under are free. My son was 12 at the time. The $100 was totally, totally worth it. We both had a blast.

Article and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein, member of Midwest Travel Writers Association