Dinosaur Digs

Dinosaur Digs



Picture it: Six days in Montana’s Little Snowy Mountains. It’s hot. It’s dirty. And it’s a total immersion of the outdoors.

There, about 20 people from around the world are digging for dinosaurs together. And they’re not professional paleontologists. They’re just everyday people who are passionate about uncovering the past.

In this rare experience, this excavation team learns the process of extracting and studying fossils, including learning how the dinosaurs died and were buried. And they learn scientifically responsible fossil collecting – with a deep understanding of sedimentology mapping and geology.

2024 Dinosaur Digs

  • Week #1 – July 7-12, 2024 – 75% Full
  • Week #2 – July 21-26, 2024 – 100% Full


What to Expect When You Join Our Excavation Team

1) Find the bones

1) Find the bones

The team explores an area that has been identified as the right geologic formation for fossils.

2) Mark the location

2) Mark the location

The team marks the location of weathering bone fragments with pin flags. Then, they step back to review where the highest concentration is located.

3) Establishing a dig quarry

3) Establishing a dig quarry

The Team will GPS and create test holes to establish an active quarry.

4) Remove the overburden

4) Remove the overburden

The overburden is removed by pick and shovel, and sometimes large equipment to about a foot above the fossil bearing layer. The team then use hand tools, such as awls, paint brushes, and X-acto knives, to do the detail work of excavating the bones.

5) Collect data

5) Collect data

The team numbers the specimens and installs a grid of stakes and string over the bones to draw them exactly how they lie in place in the quarry. The groups map the position of the individual bones, photographs, and take sediment samples for future geochemical testing. “Dinosaur CSI” is what Nate calls it, as collecting from a paleontological site is similar to the documentation that happens at a crime scene.

6) Remove the bones

6) Remove the bones

Once the bones are fully excavated, they are pedestaled and are ready for plaster jacketing. Jacketing ensures that the bones stay in place during transport to the lab so they do not move – much like a cast that a doctor puts on an arm with a broken bone. The jackets are constructed of strips of burlap and plaster.  The jacket is then numbered and catalogued.

7) Transport the fossils to Dino Lab

7) Transport the fossils to Dino Lab

There, the process of preparing the fossils for display at museums takes place. This is where “we bring them back alive,” as Murphy says.

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What does my tuition include?

This program includes a 6-day campout dig – no motels – and will offer a true Montana outdoor experience. Tuition includes all food and beverages (no alcoholic beverages) while we are at camp. All excavation tools, materials and instruction will be provided. We will provide transportation from the rendezvous point in Billings to the dig site and back.

What does my tuition not cover?

Transportation to/from Billings and hotel at the rendezvous point.

My son/daughter loves dinosaurs. Is this an appropriate experience for him/her?

We will allow young people ages 13-17 to attend with an adult. If you plan for a young person aged 13-17 to attend, then a parent must complete the application form listing each person and their age. No minors ages 13-17 can attend unaccompanied by an adult. Additionally, each minor and each accompanying adult is required to pay the full attendance fee. Please consider that this program is more for adults and young people interested in a career in earth sciences and not a kid’s summer “Dino Camp”. This program can be for you even if you are not experienced, as long as you bring a willing attitude and will listen to staff as they train you in the proper excavation techniques.

Do I need to bring my own camping gear?

Participants must bring their own tents, sleeping bags and personal effects. Porta potties and hot showers will be on site. If you have further questions regarding the program, please feel free to contact us at 1-406-696-5842.

How do I apply and secure my spot?

Complete the application and make a 50% deposit either by mailing a check or paying by credit card.

What happens once I apply?

You will receive a confirmation with the Diggers Guide and all information regarding the rendezvous point in Billings.

What precautions are you taking regarding COVID-19?

Montana law prevents us from requiring a vaccination passport. However, all activities are conducted in a safe, open and outdoor environment. We encourage vaccinations and the use of masks is up to the individual. It’s about safety for all participants.

Can I bring my pet?

No, for the safety of all campers no pets are allowed in camp.



Judith River Dinosaur Institute attracts a wide range of people who are interested in the real world of dinosaurs and being in the great outdoors of Montana. Digging dinosaurs is often hard, tedious, intense, hot and dusty work. While we have a lot of fun on our programs, this is a serious experience.


  • 6-day campout under the Montana Big Sky
  • Experience unearthing fossils that are 150 million years old
  • No experience necessary! We teach you everything.


Camp Life, like the daily digs, is off the paved roads and on the beaten trail under the Montana Sky. It is a team effort, which means everyone helps the camp function. Established in 2004, the camp has large, shaded areas where everyone can enjoy the end of the day’s work and relax. Hot and cold showers for all to knock the dust off and refresh yourself daily as well as a kitchen area for putting out great meals. We also have trailer mounted porta potties. Our camp areas are all mowed mountain meadows with the Montana Big Sky for a ceiling!

Evenings at camp after dinner offer activities such as horseshoes, cornhole, or giant Jenga.   Around the campfire you can sit in on a scientific discussion with fellow team members or an educational paleo talk by a staff member.  Thursday evening, we enjoy live music around the campfire.  Our camp is about fun, relaxation, refreshment and good conversation.

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Fly/drive into Billings. Check in at rendezvous point, Boothill Inn. Note: Boothill Inn offers free transportation to and from Billings Logan Airport.


  • 12 p.m. – JRDI staff meets team members in the lobby of the Boothill Inn. We load gear and assign vehicle transportation to the dig.
  • 12:30 p.m. – We depart from the Boothill Inn and make a 45-minute shopping stop at Walmart.
  • 2-4 p.m. – The team caravans to base camp in the Little Snowy Mountains.
  • 4-6 p.m. – Upon arrival, team sets up camp.
  • 6-8 p.m. – Dinner, meet and greet, orientation.

Monday – Thursday:

  • 7-8 a.m. – Breakfast
  • 8-12 p.m. – Field work
  • 12-1 p.m. – Lunch
  • 1-4 p.m. – Field work
  • 4 p.m. – Clean up and showers
  • 6-8 p.m. – Dinner and clean up
  • 8 p.m. – Paleontology/geology presentations, campfire discussions, movies and cheap live music upon request.


  • 7-8 a.m. – Breakfast
  • 8-9 a.m. – break camp
  • 9-11:30 a.m. – fieldwork/close quarries
  • 11:30 – 1 p.m. – Lunch, load, and depart to Billings
  • 1-3 p.m. – Caravan back to Billings
  • 3-3:30 p.m. – Arrive at the Boothill Inn, off load gear and check in
  • 6:30-6:45 p.m. – Meet at Boothill Inn lobby and go out for dinner together in Billings for a fun evening and a great way to end the week!

Optional Saturday Activity:

Dino Lab open house for diggers 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Don’t miss this opportunity to see the state-of-the-art laboratory where your fossil finds will be prepared!

Note: Schedule may vary due to workload and weather.

Boothill Inn

Boothill Inn is the official rendezvous and lodging while in Billings MT. for the JRDI and we have reserved a block of rooms around the dig dates for your convenience. Special “Dino Digger” rate for a room with 2 queen size beds is available for you. (Tax is not included in those rates.) They also provide complimentary shuttle service, serve a hot breakfast each morning and fresh baked cookies in the evening. They also offer WIFI throughout the hotel and have an indoor pool and hot tubs for guests. Be sure to check out the dinosaur fossil exhibits in the lobby.

Reservations can be made through their website at www.boothillinn.com. All you need to do is note that you are with that you are a “Dino Digger” and that will ensure you get that special rate!

Want More Information?

Completing the form below reserves your spot on the dig for 10 days. Or, contact us at 406.696.5842 or nate@jrdi.net for more information.
Inquire Now!


The Little Snowy Mountains Dinosaur Project is now booking spots on their upcoming dig programs! Immerse in the Montana outdoors and unearth the fossil remains of Jurassic giants like sauropods and stegosaurs. Space is limited, but the adventure is out-of-bounds.

Ready To Apply?

Complete the form below or click here for a fillable PDF.

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