We decided to stop at Dinosaur National Monument because it is a waypoint between Gunnison and Grand Teton. The only prior research we did was to make sure we would confidently be able to find a campsite. The roads from Gunnison are a curvy, wavy, climb and descend as you pass through the Flaming Gorge area. Once we entered Wyoming we enjoyed a relaxing drive through a beautiful landscape of rolling hills, mountains and grassy plains. We did get caught in a bit of traffic that brought us to a halt, which to our surprise and delight turned out to be a herd of wild horses in the roadway with no intention of moving until they decided to do so.
As we neared our destination of Dinosaur National Park we noticed the terrain turn to a more arid desert landscape and contemplated that the prairie dogs we saw alive and dead on the roads had to be the speed bump of the state much like the Texas armadillo. Dinosaur is a big park with the majority of the land in Wyoming, but the center that houses the major exhibits resides in Utah so naturally we choose to visit the Utah side.
We arrived and selected a campsite near the edge of the Green River its banks less than 50 feet away and flanked by the valley and mountains. Skyler was particularly interested in some chipmunk like critters and we later noticed that these animals were nesting right at the bottom of a hollowed out tree within 25 feet of our trailer. Over the next couple of days we discovered that these guys were quite happy to enter our trailer and plunder whatever wasn’t stored in an airtight container. Live and learn. The food in our camper is now kept securely in plastic totes!
Dinosaur itself is a mix of rocks, sand and the Green and Yampa rivers that are responsible for shaping the landscape. Cars are left in the parking lot and visitors are ferried up to the Quarry Visitor Center in a tram where we half expected dinosaur mayhem, Jurassic Park style, but fortunately (or unfortunately as the case may be) the dinosaur bones are entombed in ancient sand and serve as a vivid reminder that dinosaurs roamed the earth a very very very long time ago.
The exhibit reveals sections of sites littered with fossils and we learned that they are pushed to the surface by the movement of the earth. It takes a paleontologist just to sort through what bone goes to what creature but a lot of the fossil skeletons are surprisingly intact preserved in a dinosaur time capsule. We were amazed by the amount of fossils that were on hand and the literature points out that many of the dinosaur bones on exhibit in museums were found in this area.
We also visited the Josie Morris Cabin at the end of the park. Josephine Bassett, an early homesteader and rancher, kept her cattle in a box canyon and fenced the fourth side to keep them in. The house is as big as a two-bedroom apartment with large gardens. Life had to be rough, especially through the extreme winters, but Josie lived alone to the ripe old age of 89 dying in 1964 several days after slipping on the ice and breaking a hip. We couldn’t imagine living out there in the isolation but could appreciate the solitude and beauty of the land and we took time to walk the box canyon in Josie’s footsteps.
All in all we found Dinosaur to be a great park to spend a couple of days exploring including a tour of the tilted rocks on Cub Creek Road.
Next Up: Grand Teton