The creation of the Cabazon dinosaurs began in the 1960s by Knott’s Berry Farm sculptor and portrait artist Claude K. Bell (1897–1988) to attract customers to his Wheel Inn Cafe, which opened in 1958. The first of the Cabazon dinosaurs, a giant apatosaurus named Dinny, was started in 1964 and created over a span of eleven years. Bell created Dinny out of spare material salvaged from the construction of nearby Interstate 10.
A second dinosaur, Mr. Rex, was constructed near Dinny in 1981. Originally, a giant slide was installed in Rex’s tail; it was later filled in with concrete making the slide unusable. A third woolly mammoth sculpture and a prehistoric garden were drafted but never completed due to Bell’s death in 1988.
Since 2005, new owner Gary Kanter, an Orange County developer, has been using the dinosaurs of Cabazon as a platform for a Creationist viewpoint. Currently located inside Dinny is a gift store and museum promoting creationism with some of the toy dinosaurs in the shop sold under the label “Don’t swallow it! The fossil record does not support evolution.” The current ownership has expressed a Young Earth creationist belief that most dinosaurs were created on Earth about 6,000 years ago – the same day as Adam and Eve. In stark contrast to that belief are Bell’s painted frescoes and sculptures inside Dinny, depicting a naturalist and evolutionary viewpoint. (Yes, folks, truth IS stranger than fiction and in this case we aren’t sure which is which!)
The Cabazon Dinosaurs attraction also features an open-air museum with fiberglass and robotic dinosaurs. Other activities at the site include a sand pit where visitors can experience a “dino dig” as well as a gemstone and fossil-panning sluice. These are the parts I never take the time to see. I think I’m going to have to change that.
I intentionally left my camera at home this time since our visit was mainly centered around seeing old friends so all of my photos from the trip were taken with my camera phone. I have become a real Instagram addict. There are some amazing photographers doing groovy things on Instagram. I think I am so enamored with the imperfection of iPhoneography because my camera skills are so imperfect!