the present desert as a humid and wet swamp, huge dinosaurs rule
the earth. These creatures live on today frozen in time in the
Located East of Vernal, Utah this park is a wonderland of
geology and paleontology. Children will love the quarry,
mine squealed in delight at the glimpse of actual dinosaur
Although just a fraction of the park, the biggest draw is the
dinosaur quarry. If you donít visit any other part of the park
you have to see the quarry.
The Douglass quarry was discovered in 1909 by a young
archaeologist named Earl Douglass. Working for the Carnegie
Museum, Earl unearthed some rather spectacular specimens. The
most complete skeleton of a Brontosaurus was excavated here.
seen many pictographs and petroglyphs, which are very
interesting, but nothing prepared me for the view of the
dinosaur quarry. Housed in a modern looking building, it is
somewhat disconcerting to walk in and see these bones of
creatures that roamed the earth millions of years ago. Upon the discovery of the Douglass quarry the area was
swarmed with amateur paleontologistís. President Woodrow
Wilson set aside the area as a National Monument in 1915. The
site was covered by a corrugated building in 1950, the present
building was finished in 1954.
What appears to be merely a futuristic building built into the
side of a hill is actually the site of an ongoing quarry. The
Western side of the building is composed of the hillside itself.
This hillside is the home of actual dinosaur bones, the rock has
been excavated and the bones left in place. This shows itself as
a surreal vision of sandstone and dinosaur bones in relief.
These creatures washed up on a prehistoric sandbar and remain
there for our viewing pleasure. Children will love this feature
of the park, dinosaurís seem to be a fantasy creature that
enthrall their senses. Seeing the actual bones and exhibits had
our child squealing in delight. There arenít too many places
you can actually touch the bones of dinosaurs.
Flora and Fauna
Dinosaur National Monument is full of animals you wonít
find in the city. Keep your eyes open and you will see many
species. Prairie dogís can be seen from the road, these little
rodents will be apparent standing upright keeping guard for the
colony. Mule deer can be seen grazing in the meadows in the
evenings. We were fortunate enough to see a Golden Eagle prey on
a kangaroo rat, watching this magnificent bird carry off his
prey was like seeing the discovery channel in real life.
The desert comes alive in the springtime, many flowers bloom and
wither with the spring rains. The river bottoms provide a lush
green landscape to contrast the red rock. Later in the year, the
dull grey color of the sage plant dominates the ecosystem.
There are several campgrounds located in the Monument, although
most are closed in the off-season. Split Mountain Campground is
open year round and offers free camping in the fall through
spring. This campground is usually somewhat vacant in the
off-season. Offering great scenery and a location next to the
Green River this is my favorite campground in the park. Both the
Green River and Echo Park campgrounds are only available in the
For those who are allergic to camping, the nearby town of Vernal
offers a variety of hotels. This town also has supplies for
those who enjoy roughing it.
Like all parks on the Colorado Plateau this area is best visited
in the spring or fall. The summer temperatures can be unbearable
so take plenty of water when hiking. Dinosaur National
Monument is a less crowded version of Moab, the lack of
people in the more remote sections of the park make this a
magical place to visit.
An interesting place to visit is Josie Morrisís cabin, Josie
set up a homestead in 1914. She lived along the border of the
park until 1964, living off the land in a cabin without
electricity, phones, or any other modern convenience. Her
domicile stands to this day, covered by a roof placed by the
Park Service. Josie fenced off two box canyons creating natural
corrals for her livestock. Nowadays these provide interesting
hikes back in time both historically and geologically. Take Cub
Creek Road to its end and you will run into Josieís homestead.
the way you'll travel by various petroglyphs, keep your eyes
If you are just passing through the area be sure and stop at the
quarry. If you have the time explore the park a bit more you
wonít be disappointed.