More Than Just Bones – Dinosaur National Monument, Utah

Dinosaur National Monument near Jensen, Utah

As we started our eastward return leg from Ogden toward Colorado, we had one more stop to make in Utah.  Dinosaur National Monument straddles the eastern Utah and western Colorado border.  The park’s primary claim to fame is the Fossil Quarry, located on the Utah side near the town of Jensen, UT.  Jensen lies along US-40, roughly halfway between Park City, UT and Steamboat Springs, CO.

Quarry Visitor Center at Dinosaur National Monument near Jensen, Utah
Quarry Visitor Center at Dinosaur National Monument near Jensen, Utah

The Quarry Visitor Center contains numerous exhibits about the history of the area, including the quarry wall itself that is now housed within an impressive building.  The building itself was operating at a greatly reduced capacity with reservations required.  We made our reservations several days in advance and had no trouble getting in.  Interestingly no one actually asked us for documentation of our reservations, although I’m certain they are checked randomly.

Quarry Exhibit Hall and the wall of dinosaur bones at Dinosaur National Monument near Jensen, Utah
Quarry Exhibit Hall and the wall of dinosaur bones at Dinosaur National Monument near Jensen, Utah
Quarry Exhibit Hall and the wall of dinosaur bones at Dinosaur National Monument near Jensen, Utah
Quarry Exhibit Hall and the wall of dinosaur bones at Dinosaur National Monument near Jensen, Utah
Quarry Exhibit Hall and the wall of dinosaur bones at Dinosaur National Monument near Jensen, Utah

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, PA for study and display.  President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the dinosaur beds as Dinosaur National Monument in 1915. The monument boundaries were expanded in 1938 from the original 80 acres surrounding the dinosaur quarry in Utah, to 210,844 acres in Utah and Colorado, encompassing the river canyons of the Green and Yampa.  It’s hard to believe that the fossils that remain today are the “leftovers,” as it still makes for a very impressive display.

Scenic views from Cub Creek Road in Dinosaur National Monument
Scenic views from Cub Creek Road in Dinosaur National Monument
Scenic views from Cub Creek Road in Dinosaur National Monument

While the quarry is the main attraction, I was in many ways more impressed by the stunning scenery of the area surrounding the visitor center.  We saw only a tiny portion of the 210+ thousand acres, and it would be quite easy to spend a lot more time exploring.  But alas, we were on our way to Colorado and could only devote a few hours to the park.  It’s not the kind of place you just happen to pass by, but we may decide to detour that way the next time we head west.  The drive along US 40 is much more pleasant and scenic than I would expect I-70 or I-80 to be!

Petroglyphs at Dinosaur National Monument near Jensen, Utah

I’ll added a more complete gallery of photographs from Dinosaur on my Adobe Portfolio page.

2 thoughts on “More Than Just Bones – Dinosaur National Monument, Utah”

  1. Love the portfolio page. I’ve never visited the monument but did stop at the visitor center along US 40. And, it is a much nicer drive than any of the interstates. I was surprised when you showed images of the bones because immediately assumed it was a replication. I may need to visit and it’s not all the far for me.

    1. As long as you are able to get through Poudre Canyon it wouldn’t be a bad drive, although not a day trip. We really enjoyed the scenery on US-40 in Utah west of Dinosaur, especially around Strawberry Reservoir.

      The bones are a little unreal looking at first, but I think it is because we don’t usually see such a thing in person. It was pretty cool!

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