A Brief History of Diggs County in Dinoland U.S.A.

by | Apr 19, 2020 | Disney History, Disney Parks and Resorts, Uncategorized

Like most kids, I grew up with a deep fascination in dinosaurs. We had a treehouse in our backyard, and I turned it into a museum for my “paleontological” finds. In reality, they were just sticks and rocks I found around our yard. I even found a rusty railroad spike and put it in the collection, claiming that it was a caveman tool (clearly, my knowledge of the various epochs and ages wasn’t quite up to par yet).

Fast forward a few decades, and I’ve got kids of my own. While taking a road trip to Glen Rose, Texas, we stumbled across a little roadside shop called the Stone Hut Fossil Shop. A few blocks away, we encountered Dinosaur World, a walk through attraction with over 150 lifese dinosaur statues. The kids adored it, and it immediately sucked me back into my childhood passion for the terrible lizards.

It seems Disney’s Joe Rohde has similar childhood memories. That’s why he created Dinoland USA in Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. The attraction is set in a fictional part of the United States known as Diggs County, located somewhere between Texas and Florida. A large corporation known as the Dino Institute runs much of the area. According to Rohde, “There must be college students everywhere, because they form the working class of any excavation.” He went on to state that Restaurantosaurus (a dining area with classic American fare in Dinoland) could be seen as the dorm area for the college students.

“The OSAURUS, part of the sign is supposed to be a college prank,” Rohde said in a recent social media post. “I assume that the building is older, like it used to be a fish camp or something.”

Diggs County used to be a primarily rural area, until fossil hunters discovered dinosaur bones in the 1940s. This brought scientists to the area, primarily in the form of the Dino Institute. You can visit the Dino Insitute’s headquarters while visiting Dinoland and see the collection of fossils they have amassed. You can also go on a journey through time, utilizing technology that the Institute discovered in the 1970s.

Then of course, there are Chester and Hester. They are an elderly couple that ran a gas station in the area selling Sinclair gasoline. In the true entrepreneurial spirit found in areas like Route 66, the pair decided to cash in on the influx of tourists. They began selling souvenirs to visitors, all dino themed of course. If you pay a visit to their gift shop, you can even see a picture of them, as well as the first dollar they ever earned. They are also responsible for the road signs found throughout the area, beckoning passing motorists to pull over and spend a few dollars.

More and more folks flocked to Diggs County, and so Chester and Hester expanded their operation by opening Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama. There, Guests can play carnival games, ride roller coasters, and enjoy the gaudy delights the old couple built to draw in visitors.

As someone who has spent more than a little time on Route 66, this outlandish, kitschy presentation rings true to the things you’d experience on a classic American road trip. While it isn’t as “serious” as areas like the Oasis, Anandapur, and Harambe in Animal Kingdom, it’s no less real and entertaining for all that. Anyone who has spent time with their family on the backroads has likely seen a location just like it. In the same social media post, Rohde described it as, “a tribute to a roadside America that is long gone but that my dad would always insist that we stop at.”

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