The last weekend I took a trip to Vernal, UT to visit Dinosaur National Monument. First off, I have no idea why I thought I would not see dinosaur fossils. I will tell you right now I was sort of blown away with all that I saw. The trip was just one day of my mini vacation to Wyoming. I left early Saturday morning and enjoyed the beautiful drive down to the park. It was about a two- or three-hour drive and along the way, I stopped at a number of overlooks. The first stop was a little trail head around Sheep Creek. There was a little bridge with a gorgeous view of the surrounding mountains. The water was pretty high, not only at this stop but in general.
My next stop was Sheep Creek Overlook. This was a beautiful spot that looked over the Green River and the Flaming Gorge. The canyon’s walls are a deep red due to the iron in the soil giving it the name of the Flaming Gorge. I got to see more of this spot from the Red Canyon Overlook and at the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Something really cool was the sound of the cicada bug. The cicadas here sounded so different than the ones I’m used to in New Mexico. There was an almost metallic sound to them. They are normally not found in that area very often. I was told the cicadas in that part of Utah only come around every few years, although it still does not change the fact, I am not super fond of cicadas in the first place.
Inside the visitor’s center at the recreation area, there was two glass walls that were on the very edge of the canyon letting me see all the way down the canyon. There were cool displays of the wildlife and the composition of the canyon as well. After a little bit more driving, I went through Vernal, UT. There was a number of Dinosaur paraphernalia around the city (which I still did not catch on to that there would be dinosaur fossils here for some unknown reason). I entered the park and there were tons of people. I entered the park from the west most side where the Quarry was. There was a fake Stegosaurus I took a picture near the visitor center and went inside to see really cool displays.
It was just a short drive to the Quarry, and this is what really surprised me. The hall contained around 1,500 refurbished dinosaur bones still in the rock. The building was constructed around the cut out of the mountain with the face of the rock exposed as one of the walls of the building. There were two stories to look at the huge wall of bones that was (thank goodness) air conditioned. A number of signs explained how the fossils were discovered and the different types of dinosaurs found such as Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, and Stegosaurus.
Each fossil had extreme detail. You could see the individual bones making up tails or back fins as well as different joints. The bones were of all different sizes and one sign explained a possible reason to find so many dinosaurs fossilized here. They suspect there was a drought that killed the dinosaurs. Right after, there was extreme rainfall, drowning and sweeping the dinosaurs down the river immediately burying the dinosaurs providing the perfect condition for fossilization. The paleontologist that discovered all of these fossils thought it would be cool to leave the rocks in place and build something around it for visitors to come and see.
While the space was initially in place to preserve the fossils, the monument was later expanded to protect the river and surrounding areas. This is a very popular park for rafting and there are a number of hiking trails. The one I went on was a small trail to Box Canyon. I also visited Josie Bassett Morris’ cabin in the middle of the park. She had a small farm and lived off the land with no electricity, plumbing or neighbors for over 50 years.
On the way back from the monument, I stopped at the Flaming Gorge Dam. The reservoir was high but there was no water being released into the river, so the space was fairly silent. I got there just before sunset and it was a beautiful place to walk around. There was a cool rock passage you had to go through to get down to the river on foot.
This was such a beautiful trip and I got to visit somewhere that I really hadn’t heard about until recently. If you ever get the chance to go visit one of the three entrances into the national monument, I 100% recommend it. I hope you all get to enjoy the outdoors as we approach the Fourth of July weekend!