Contrary to popular belief, dinosaurs are not extinct—these prehistoric beasts are still lurking within Allaire State Park in Allenwood, NJ. Hidden among the towering trees are five fearsome reptiles—a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, Pterodactyl feeding her offspring, and Stegosaurus—made entirely out of natural materials. In the last two years, these primordial art installations have popped up throughout the park, but where exactly did they come from?
The Artist Behind The Allaire Dinosaurs
Robin Ruggiero, the New Jersey-based artist and mastermind behind these wooden creatures, has been using the park as her medium and gallery since 2019. At first, she created a series of intricate huts and witch-like symbols from branches and other organic substances found in the forest. One day, as she explored the trails of Allaire, Ruggiero discovered a massive, barkless tree bough. Sticking out every which way from the main piece of timber were short, broken branches that reminded the artist of vertebrae. This piece was the inspiration for her first Jurassic creation, a monstrous Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Each masterpiece is carefully crafted from fragments of downed trees, bones, branches, and leaves. Ruggiero spends a great deal of time scavenging or, as she calls it, shopping the forest floor for unique objects to include in her next piece of artwork. Once she starts to construct these complex statues, it’s similar to putting together a big puzzle. To keep the dinosaurs stationary, Ruggiero uses a combination of twine, cable ties, and paracord to meticulously suspend the structures. Additionally, the dinosaur’s legs are often built around tree stumps to keep the sculptures stable.
When the first dinosaurs arrived in Allaire State Park, visitors had no idea who created them. Ruggiero worked in anonymity for a few months until increased visitation to the site brought the artist’s identity to light. Now, hikers often encounter Ruggiero hard at work as she constructs her next wooden raptor. Spectators say she is extremely kind, always ready to listen to and educate those interested in her artwork. While the dinosaurs began as a personal project, they have encouraged new explorers to visit Allaire State Park.
Finding the Dinos
As the weather gets warmer, we highly recommend visiting Ruggiero’s family of dinos and the rest of Allaire State Park. But how do you get there?
The official Allaire State Park website advises guests to park at 4001 Squankum-Allenwood Rd, also known as the main entrance to the group campground. You can park in any open area, as long as you are not on the road, blocking any trails, etc. Once parked, there are a few paths one can take to find the dinosaurs: the purple, blue, or orange path. Visitors should be wary as none of these trails are marked with color-coordinated blazes; the path names are simply references.
If you’re looking for an easy walk, the map suggests taking the purple trail, a short hike that takes you almost directly to the gigantic sculptures. For more experienced hikers, consider the alternative blue or orange trails. Following the blue route will take visitors on a steeper hike and closer to the Garden State Parkway. While the orange path is a longer loop, it brings guests into the campground along a paved path.
Have you encountered the dinosaurs of Allaire State Park? We’d love to hear about your adventures below.
Main image by @thesecondgleam