Dinosaur National Monument-One of Utah’s hidden treasures

On any vacation there are distinct moments. Like a movie that alternates between eras or from one setting to another, a trip can be a kaleidoscope of experiences and images. Utah with its five national parks has a unique beauty.

In some ways Utah is the image of the old west at its finest. The broad vistas and small rivers make for a contrast that is unique and picturesque. One example is Dinosaur National Monument, nestled in the Wasatch mountains it offers a cool and beautiful river in the midst of a hot, dry desert.

The river contrasts the twisted and layered mountains that are spectacular for both the total lack of trees and the lines that punctuate their horizontal spread and vertical lift. The meandering Yampa River begs for a small boat; a canoe or kayak, or maybe an inflatable.

Within Dinosaur National Monument and nearby the park service’s campground are petroglyphs left by the Fremont people. Etched and painted on the side of the cliffs, the images of lizards, people and other animals like longhorn sheep seem to materialize before the visitor’s eyes the longer they are observed. One lizard turns to three which is next to other images including people. Lingering at the base of the cliff, it is hard to imagine living in this barren place before the modern era.

Looking up at 1200 year old petroglyphs at Dinosaur National Monument

The main event is the fossilized remains of ancient dinosaurs. Insight is perhaps an understatement when talking about the work to explore and bring back dinosaur bones by Earl Douglass. A paleontologist by training, he wrote to Congress asking for a national park site to preserve the incredible cache of fossilized bones, even while digging out bones of an Apatosaurus in 1915, Don’t cheat yourself if you decide to go, take the short bus ride to the dig site. Douglass was right in wanting to preserve the site and you won’t be disappointed. You may never see so many fossilized dinosaur bones in a single location that weren’t placed there by a museum curator.

“You may never see so many fossilized dinosaur bones in a single location that weren’t placed there by a museum curator.”

An ancient log jam pressed together these bones leaving a treasure of fossilized dinosaur remains

Utah is the home to five national parks. While Bryce, Zion and Arches might get all the attention, Dinosaur National Monument, the petroglyphs, and the overall scenery around the Yampa River is worth a trip all by itself.

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