Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Dinosaur National Monument

After Deb and Glen left this morning for Las Vegas,
Lynn and I decided to get out of the house and take
a little road trip. We drove a couple of hours to
Dinosaur National Monument, which stradles the Utah
and Colorado state lines, just north of Grand Junction.
We'd been there in 1998, but didn't get to spend much
time and it was one of the places we'd been wanting to
go to. When we got there, the place was practically
empty. They have a very modernistic building that
houses a working dinosaur quarry.

The whole north face of the three story building is a
huge sheet of rock that was a former river bed. Millions
of years of geologic upheaval have turned it on it's side,
exposing hundreds, if not thousands of bones of dinosaurs
that had died in the riverbed and were covered over by
sediment over the years. Many different dinosaurs were
present, from VERY large herbivores to quick meat-eaters
with extremely sharp claws.

Inside the building, there are scientists still working
on some of the fossils that they've uncovered. A number
of the earlier fossils were sent to museums on the east
coast and to the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City.
Now, most of the items that they find stay on location.

There were a lot of reconstructed dinosaurs at the site,
and even a herbivore's thigh bone that was about 20 feet
tall. They haven't added a lot of new things since we last
visited, and it may be a few years until we go back to the
quarry, but it was really educational and overall, a good

On our way home, we stopped at the Colorado half of the
Monument, located near the town of Dinosaur, Colorado.
Dinosaur was a little more touristy than the Utah town of
Jensen, where the Utah half was located. Just north of
the visitor's center was some really beautiful scenery.
There are huge valleys carved by the Yampa and Green rivers,
and a broad "park" at the base of the Uintah mountain range.
The Uintah is the only major mountain range in the U.S. that
runs from the west to east instead of north/south. This
entire valley, called Echo Park, was spared a dam and
flooded reservoir in the late 50's because so many people
complained about a beautiful area being destroyed. Instead
they built huge dams at Flaming Gorge in Wyoming and at
Glen Canyon in Arizona/Utah. Gee...that makes sense. Save
one beautiful area, but destroy two in it's place.

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