June 10, 2012


We’re home!  I’ll write more about our homecoming in the coming week, but for now I’ll just catch up on the posts from our last week on the road.  Most likely, I’ll post one “catch-up” per day, so stay tuned.  Then I plan to do a series of wrap-up posts.  After that, who knows?  We’ll just have to see.

The town of Vernal Utah, and surrounding Uintah County capitalize on their proximity to Dinosaur National Monument and the quantity of fossils found in the region.  The area even refers to itself as Dinosaurland, and a pink dinosaur welcomes visitors to the town.

Dinosaur National Monument takes its name from an incredible deposit of dinosaur fossils that were first discovered in 1909.  The quarry here is one of the best late-Jurassic Period dinosaur finds in the world.  This quarry yielded the remains of more than 500 dinosaurs, and more than ten species of dinosaurs were discovered.  Twenty complete skeletons were unearthed.

We visited Dinosaur National Monument last Wednesday and were able to explore the original quarry and even touch dinosaur bones.  The Quarry Exhibit Hall is actually built over and into the side of the quarry, and what remains of the quarry wall is exposed inside the building.  Looking up, or down, at a two-story high wall filled with more than 1,500 dinosaur bones was an amazing experience.  Most of the bones appeared randomly, but there were several sections of articulated skeletons as well.

Tim Walks Along the Quarry Wall Inside the Quarry Exhibit Hall
One of the More Impressive Dinosaur Fossils in the Quarry Wall
Exposed Dinosaur Bones
What a Amazing Sight
Tim Had to Be Convinced It Was Legal to Touch the Dinosaur Bones
The Exhibit Hall Also Contains Several Impressive Exhibits
The original Quarry Exhibit Hall was built in 1957 as a part of the National Park Service Mission 66 program and was an outstanding example of modernist architecture.  Unfortunately, the building’s foundation was never stable, and long-standing structural problems forced the National Park Service to close the building in 2006.  Luckily, I was able to see the building from the exterior when I visited the park in 2007, although like every other visitor, I could not see the quarry wall inside.  Rangers we spoke with said the hardest part of their job was telling people that the quarry wall was closed.  Some of the visitors had come from half-way around the world and were simply devastated.  There was no access to the quarry wall for five years.

The Newly Opened Quarry Exhibit Hall
The current building opened just last year and is a beautiful piece of architecture.  It is billed as a rehabilitation of the original building, but it really is a reconstruction.  Virtually none of the original structure remains, although the new building does maintain much of the original design.  I’m happy the timing of our visit was such that we were able to go inside and see the quarry wall.

Landscape Adjacent to the Quarry Exhibit Hall
Colorful Cliffs
We found that there is much more to see at Dinosaur National Monument than just dinosaur bones.  The deep and colorful canyons of the Green and Yampa Rivers are preserved here, as are the historic remnants of ancient cultures, settlers and homesteaders.  We took the Tour of the Tilted Rocks to discover some of these features.  Along this route we were able to view some of the finest-quality petroglyphs I’ve ever seen.  This rock art was made about 1,000 years ago by the people of the Fremont Culture, and some of the images are enormous in size.  Petroglyphs like the lizard likely took months to complete.

An Outstanding Collection of Petroglyphs
Intricate Images
The Lizard Is a Favorite Figure

We also visited the restored cabin built by Josephine Bassett in 1935 on land she homesteaded in 1914.  Josie was an independent woman who lived alone here on her own terms.  It is hard to imagine the challenges she faced in this isolated and rugged, but beautiful land.

Josie Bassett Cabin
We followed the Green River for a while and learned how the river was responsible for creating a host of amazing geological features.  The rugged ridge of Split Mountain, which the Green River split in half, for example, loomed alongside of us for much of the way.  Colorful cliffs and unusual rock formations only added to the spectacular scenery.

The Green River Winds Its Way through the Park
Split Mountain
Cliffs Along the Green River
We drove to Dinosaur, Colorado, so we could visit the Colorado section of Dinosaur National Monument tomorrow.  For the first time on this trip, we were unable to find a campground.  The one where we had planned to stay was virtually abandoned.  We didn’t have a good feeling about the place, so we dumped our tanks and left.  We never did see anyone there.  Thus began a search for a place to camp in an area where there simply were no campgrounds.

By this time it was 6:00 pm, and we realized we would have to find a place to boondock, in other words, park off of a main road in an area with no facilities.  We turned onto a county road and then found a dirt road managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  There was a nice open space to park, and that’s where we camped for the night.  I can’t believe our first experience with boondocking took place the last week of our trip. 
Our Boondocking Site



  1. What a cool exhibit hall! I can't believe they let you touch the bones either. I love petroglyphs! Had Tim seen these before? LV

    1. LV, The exhibit hall is one of the most unique visitor centers I've ever seen. Touching the bones was very cool. Tim had never seen these petroglyphs, except in books, and he was impressed with their quality. Sarah