1 Jul
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Checking Fossil Butte National Monument off the List

Entrance sign at Fossil Butte National Monument

If there’s one thing I like more than the act of making a list, it’s crossing items off the list.

We’ve purchased an annual U.S. National Park Service pass for several years in a row now and have steadily crossed places off the list by collecting “passport” stamps at places visited. This weekend we visited our sixth and final location in Wyoming and our 46th place overall in the National Park Service system. Our final Wyoming destination was Fossil Butte National Monument in the far southwest corner of the state.

Visitor center display at Fossil Butte National Monument

Millions of fish and other fossils are located in the area. The visitor center has a good array of exhibits to show what type of fossils are located around Fossil Butte. We were helped by one of the friendliest park rangers we’ve encountered, and we’ve talked with quite a few over the years.

Scenic drive at Fossil Butte National Monument

The vistas were breathtaking and had my husband pulling over countless times for “just one more photo.” I occasionally flirt with the notion of moving away from Wyoming, a state I’ve lived in all 37 of my years. Visits to places like Fossil Butte make me think I could never be happy anywhere other than Wyoming. I find peace in the open, expansive landscapes of the state.

Fossil Butte doesn’t see near the number of visitors as other Wyoming National Park Service entities. Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Devil’s Tower are tough competition. The junior ranger program at Fossil Butte only has about 600 takers each year. There are so few young visitors that Fossil Butte rangers take the time to individually number their junior ranger badges.

Fossil from the Fossil Butte Historic Quarry

There were several people at the monument’s visitor center when we visited, but no one on the trail we hiked. We hiked the Historic Quarry Trail, a 2.5 mile loop, which boasts a stop at a quarry worked until the 1960s. Fossils are still spotted with minimal effort. It’s illegal to remove specimens from federal lands, but they’re still exciting to locate. We discovered a few plant life and fish fossils, which had the kids giddy with excitement.

Setting out to hike the Historic Quarry Trail at Fossil Butte National Monument

The trail was labeled “strenuous,” and it was. We laughed when we passed a sign halfway to the quarry that cautioned the route was “fairly steep.” It should have read “most definitely steep.” In hotter weather with no wind, the shadeless trail would be difficult for people not accustomed to hiking. Thankfully our children are apparently part mountain goat and trails don’t tend to bother them. The notorious Wyoming wind was actually helpful during our hike to keep us from overheating. We were burning daylight and ended up jogging most of the downhill portion of the trail. We still had our campsite to find and a tent to set up.

Our summer list includes several more National Park Service destinations, so I’ll be gratified with more things to check off.


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