Okay…okay, it doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Welcome to Jurassic Park”, but Dinosaur National Monument is about as dinosaur crazy as you can get without a heavy dose of animatronics, CGI and Michael Crichton.
After packing up and leaving our friends’, Owen and Sally’s, place (thanks so much guys!) we started our two-day journey to the Pacific Time Zone. Growing up on the East Coast, I always assumed that once you hit The Rockies, you were pretty much a few hours from the Pacific Ocean. I was wrong. Like, seriously wrong.
Luckily, there were a few fun places to visit while we made our way to (spoiler alert!) Oregon. The first was Dinosaur National Monument, which is located in the northwest corner of Colorado. The monument was built around a massive discovery of dinosaur fossils. The theory goes that a large number of dinosaurs died out at specific period of time (see: extinction event) and, by chance, a large flood washed a number of dead dinos downstream. When the river slowed, the larger skeletons dropped to the bottom of the river and were covered by sediment, eventually becoming fossils.
Because of this, the monument pretty much only contains large dinosaur bones–the slower river was still able to carry away the smaller dino remains. One sign read, “you may have been wondering why there are only large dinosaur bones here…”. But, I wasn’t wondering that. I was too distracted by the AWESOME!
Before you actually get to see the dinosaur bones, you first have to hike or a ride a sweet tram through the Utah desert from the Quarry Visitor Center to the Quarry Exhibit Hall. Despite the redundancy, it was nice to get to ride through some awesome terrain. It was about 70 degrees that day, but the cloudless skies and reflective sand made it feel a lot hotter.
The Quarry Exhibit Hall is a genius idea that was not executed by geniuses. The idea was to build a structure around a large portion of the wall that revealed hundreds of dinosaur skeletons. On the first try, the builders drilled into the first few layers of sandstone rock, which apparently expands and contracts significantly as the seasons change. This quickly undermined the stability of the structure’s foundation, and the building was in danger of collapsing.
A few years (and lots of $$$$$) later, the building was restructured to be secure and (hopefully) longer-lasting. Today, it is really an impressive place. Sitting on the edge of a hill, one of the building’s walls is essentially a wall of rock containing tons (yup, literally) of dinosaur fossils.
They make you enter on the second story for dramatic effect, and, it works.
As I leaned over the balcony I spotted skulls, spines, femurs, and teeth. I also noticed a child doing the unthinkable: touching one of the carefully preserved specimens! But, the guard next to the child didn’t seem to mind…wait…just…one…second….THEY LET YOU TOUCH THE BONES!
You can probably imagine that, at this point, I basically jumped over the railing to get to the first floor where I then touched a number of different bones. Let me say that again “I touched dinosaur bones!”
In addition to the bones (did I mention that they let you touch the dinosaur bones!?!?!), there were a number of really awesome exhibits. Many of the exhibits had casts of full skeletons originally found at the monument, including a full-sized Allosaurus skeleton. I had a blast taking all sorts of photos of the bones.
After spending a while shooting the bones, Jessica and I walked down a short trail back to the Visitor Center. On the way, we passed some cacti and even a few faint petroglyphs.
After Dinosaur National Monument, we continued to work our way west. Visit tomorrow to see the next stop on our way to Oregon.