Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and Colorado Provides a Look at the Jurassic Period



Located on the southeast edge of the Uinta Mountains on the border between Utah and Colorado, Dinosaur National Monument sits at the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers. Declared a National Monument in 1915, the area began as an 80 acre tract of land surrounding a quarry full of dinosaur bones but later expanded to include about 200,000 acres in both states, including the canyons of the Green and Yampa Rivers.

The fossils that make up the centerpiece of this national monument were discovered in 1909 by paleontologist Earl Douglass, who worked for Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum. Douglass and his crew sent thousands of specimens back to the museum for study; however, many remain at the Dinosaur National Monument to be enjoyed by the nearly half-a-million visitors that stop there each year to view what is considered the largest quarry of Jurassic Period dinosaur bones ever discovered.

Scientists have discovered many complete skeletons at this quarry and many of the bones have gone to other natural history museums throughout the United States. A Visitor Center was built over the quarry so that guests could view the bones while still protecting their fragility. Unfortunately, the visitor area closed in 2006 due to structural problems, so visitors will be presented with a multi-media program until the building is replaced.

Nonetheless, there are other activities to enjoy at Dinosaur National Monument as well. Nearly as fascinating as the dinosaur bones are the ancient petroglyphs found at this park. This Native American art work can be explored by visitors though problems with vandals have limited exposure to the petroglyphs.

Hiking is a favorite activity of those who visit Dinosaur National Monument. Trails include long and short hiking opportunities. Many begin at the Visitor Center and several of the shorter trails connect with one another to offer longer options. Some travel along the rivers. Many of the trails are both paved and accessible to handicapped visitors.

River rafting on the Green and Yampa Rivers is also a popular pursuit within this national monument area. While the Green River is a little more challenging, both offer Class III and IV rapids that can trip up even the experienced paddler. A number of commercial guides offer trips down these rivers, including both one-day and multi-day adventures.

Both rivers also welcome anglers, who may expect to catch a variety of species. Horses, mules, burros, and llamas are permitted within the boundaries of the park for those who wish to ride. Overnight trips with stock animals require a permit. Bicycling is allowed on paved roads but not on hiking trails.

Several campgrounds are available at Dinosaur National Monument, both on the Utah and Colorado sides of the park. Facilities vary at each and some are suitable for both tents and RVs. There are also several group sites and backcountry camping - with a permit - is permitted as well.

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