Dinosaur National Monument – Where Jurassic Park Doesn’t Come to Life

August 17, 2014

Today I visited Dinosaur National Monument. It’s part of what they call the “Dinosaur Diamond” in the upper northeast corner of Utah and northwest corner of Colorado. This is an area in which a large number of dinosaur fossils have been found, mostly thanks the combination of mountain-building forces and erosion, which led to the exposure of previously buried layers of rock.

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But even for this fossil-filled area, Dinosaur is stunning for the number and variety of dinosaur bones that have been found there. While they do have some reconstructed skeletons on display…

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… the main feature of the Quarry Exhibit Hall is a giant wall of rock in which literally hundreds of bones are embedded and clearly visible.

Dinosaur Wall

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You can even touch the ones you can reach; evidently they aren’t harmed by the oil from your fingers, as so many relics are.

Dinosaur Don't Touch

There’s a rather sad story behind this amazing paleontological find. Evidently the site used to be a riverbed. During a drought, many dinosaurs died in the area. In the course of subsequent flooding events, their skeletons were covered with mud and sedimentation and eventually fossilized. Later they were exposed by the uplifting of the Uintas Mountains, which caused the rock that had been beneath the ground to be pushed up out of it, leading to paleontologist Earl Douglass’ amazing discovery back in 1909.

You can experience a bit of what Douglass did by taking the Fossil Discovery Trail, which is an outdoor trail that walks you through various rock formations in which, if you study carefully, you can find exposed fossils! Not as plentiful, and you have to search pretty hard to see them, because they certainly aren’t obvious. Their colors blend perfectly with the rocks, which I guess is a part of the process of fossilization, but if you look closely, you can pick them out, because the shapes of bones are there, and also, they tend to be a bit shinier. It’s tricky, though. I can’t even spot the one I found in this photo – can you?

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Dinosaur is a very neat place – well worth the visit and the searing desert heat. But I must confess that the rarest fossil I found was actually in nearby Vernal. I mean, dinosaur bones are one thing, but I never dreamed of seeing one of these again:

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10 thoughts on “Dinosaur National Monument – Where Jurassic Park Doesn’t Come to Life

  1. Pingback: Nightmare in Hot Springs: A Serial Killer Strikes Again | Lori Schafer's Short Subjects I Feel Like Writing About

  2. Charli Mills

    Amazing to see all those fossilized bones. There’s a mine near Eureka, Nevada where they pulled out gold (microscopic, mostly) and cut through fossilized coral reefs. We saw fossils of corals the size of small cars! So imagine, when you were in Eureka that it was once the coast. Just so hard to fathom once you see all this remaining desert.

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    Reply
    1. lorilschafer Post author

      I know, it’s crazy! I mean, I knew about the Great Basin, but when I went to the Mammoth Site they had a map, and sea covered virtually the whole – well, “eastern” part of the west. Ammonite fossils three feet across! Makes one wonder what the future holds…

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      Reply
  3. Norah

    This looks so exciting Lori. Both my son and now his son are dinosaur enthusiasts. I would love to visit this quarry with them. It would be so exciting! I know what you mean about the public telephone though. I don’t know what Superman would do these days!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. lorilschafer Post author

      Great place to visit. Is there anything like it where you are?

      What does Superman do these days? That’s probably why they haven’t done any movie remakes in recent years – haven’t figured out where he’s going to change ;)

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Norah

        I haven’t seen anything just like the dinosaur quarry close by, but there were some big dinosaur finds in western Queensland. I haven’t been there yet – a visit is on the to-do list one day.

        I think it would be quite difficult for Superman to change in a mobile phone case! :)

        Liked by 1 person

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