13 Jun
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Take a Trip: Dinosaur National Monument

river view in Dinosaur National Monument

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016.

I have a box of plastic dinosaur figures in various sizes in our basement. Each of the boys went through a dinosaur-loving phase during their toddler years. While they no longer play with the dinosaur figures, they remain intrigued by fossils. The love of fossils comes from their dad. They all enjoy touring fossil-rich land and spotting the remains from long ago.

Inside Quarry Exhibit Hall at Dinosaur National Monument

Visiting Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal, Utah has been on our travel list for a few years. We finally made it happen over Memorial Day weekend, and it was perfect for our geologically obsessed children. I’ve emptied plenty of rocks from pants pockets and fished them out of the bottom of my washing machine. Why the Earth looks the way it does and what lies beneath our feet fascinates our boys.

dinosaur fossil in Quarry Exhibit Hall Dinosaur National Monument

The highlight of our visit to the monument was Quarry Exhibit Hall. I knew we would find fossils still encased in rock in the hall, but I was in awe of the magnitude of what is in the exhibit. The massive rock wall is filled with various fossils dating back to the Jurassic Period. There are helpful interactive touch screens to help identify which dinosaur species the fossils belong to and what part of the body.

Camarasaurus skull and neck

There was a lot of finger pointing as each of us spotted a new fossil or wanted to draw attention to something in the rock. Everyone’s favorite was the skull and neck of the Camarasaurus. It’s situated near the ceiling in the exhibit hall and is amazing. Staring at the wall made me wonder what else is hidden beneath our feet.

two boys hiking Fossil Discovery Trail at Dinosaur National Monument

The Fossil Discovery Trail begins down the hill from the exhibit hall and is a short hike exposing visitors to ancient shells in rocks and more dinosaur fossils. It was a seek-and-find mission for our family. Everyone wanted to find the most fossils. The boys would have spent more time than we allotted searching the rock cliff in the searing sun. For the record, Craig found the most fossils which surprised no one. Fossils are just one of his things.

dirt road through Dinosaur National Monument

view at Split Mountain Campground at Dinosaur National Monument

While the main draw to Dinosaur National Monument for us was what we’d discover inside the Quarry Exhibit Hall, the land the monument encompasses tells a story of erosion and massive land lifting over millions of years in the Colorado Plateau. The Green and Yampa rivers have carved canyons through the area leaving a picturesque landscape in both the Utah and Colorado portions of the monument.

petroglyphs at Dinosaur National Monument

lizard petroglyph at Dinosaur National Monument

The monument is also home to pictographs and petroglyphs from the Fremont people. We invent stories about the images we see on rock faces when we travel. Dinosaur National Monument has some very unique petroglyphs, especially large lizards, that had imaginations on overdrive shaping the petroglyphs into a story of long ago people. It’s amazing to me that images pecked and painted into rock can survive hundreds of years through the harsh elements.

hiking to petroglyphs at Dinosaur National Monument

For anyone interested in history, geology or fossils, Dinosaur National Monument has plenty to offer visitors.


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