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CampingDinosaur National Monument

Imagine the present desert as a humid and wet swamp, huge dinosaurs rule the earth. These creatures live on today frozen in time in the sandstone depositsÖ

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 bones.

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.

dinosaur.jpg (60748 bytes)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.

Iíve 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.
dinosaur001.jpg (71342 bytes)
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. dinosaur002.jpg (47412 bytes) 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.

Camping

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 summer.

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.

Overall

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.


dinosaur004.jpg (83071 bytes)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.dinosaur003.jpg (66707 bytes)

On the way you'll travel by various petroglyphs, keep your eyes open...

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.

Enjoy your time outdoors in Utah!

Nearby Areas:

Book Cliffs

Nine Mile Canyon

Starvation Reservoir

Flaming Gorge

Steinaker Reservoir

Red Fleet State Park

Resources


Maps

Dinosaur National Monument Trail Map

Dinosaur National Monument Trail Map

More than just a map - National Geographic Trails Illustrated topographic maps are designed to take you into the wilderness and back. Printed on durable tear-resistant waterproof material this map can go anywhere you do! Each map is based on exact reproductions of USGS topographic map information updated customized and enhanced to meet the unique features of each area. Folded and printed on plastic for durability.



Campground Reservations

Dinosaur National Monument (Quarry)
11625 East 1500 South
Jensen, UT 84035

Phone:  970-374-3000
Visitor Info:  435-789-2115
Email:  DINO_Superintendent@nps.gov


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