Unfinished Business - Fall/Winter - 2017/8 travel blog

that's us!

campground

exhibit hall

wall of fossils

dinosaur fossils

countryside

scenic drive

rock formations

the red Green River

petroglyph

box canyon

sunset


An easy drive brought us out of the high mountain elevation rich with firs and aspen trees to the high desert in Utah. The weather changed from late fall back to summer. Our goal was to visit Dinosaur National Monument and camp there on the shore of the Green River, which looks much more red than green. We weren't quite sure how to access the park. There are two roads in from the Colorado side and a short one from Utah. That's the one we wanted because that's where an exhibit shows the dinosaur fossil beds and hints at the quantity and quality of the bone supply removed and waiting still to be found here.

The dinosaur fossil beds were discovered in 1909 by Earl Douglass, a paleontologist working and collecting for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. He and his crews excavated thousands of fossils and shipped them back to the museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for study and display. So many fossils were found that nearly every natural history museum on the east coast has a fossil skeleton from here. President Woodrow Wilson designated the dinosaur beds as a national monument in 1915. The monument boundaries were expanded in 1938 from the original 80-acre tract surrounding the dinosaur quarry in Utah, to its present extent of over 200,000 acres in Utah and Colorado, encompassing the spectacular river canyons of the Green and Yampa.

An exhibit building was erected over part of a fossil bed so people like us could see what the paleontologists worked with here. To my untutored eyes it looked like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Rushing rivers drove the dead dinosaur bodies downstream. Those that were nothing but skeletons fell apart and the lighter, smaller pieces traveled much farther than the huge thigh and pelvis bones. Those that were still incased in skin remained much more intact. Over the eons they were buried with sand which turned into sandstone and clay which was much harder. Uncovering the bones without destroying them was a real challenge.

The rest of the park has the sort of scenery that Utah is famous for. I always get interested in geology whenever we come here. The rock formations have so many colors and rise and fall at crazy angles. It's easy to visualize the changes the earth has gone through over the eons when you see these dynamic remnants of the changes.

We are paying $9/night to camp here thanks to the 50% deduction we get with our Golden Age passports. The only facility the campground has is pit toilets, so we are totally on our own. The solar panels on our roof kept us topped off until dark, when a sky crammed with stars came into view. The Milky Way was awesome. We used the generator to cook dinner, and continued to live our lives as normal without plugging in. If we are judicious in our water use, we could stay here five days without difficulty. Can you call this camping?

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