Sunday, September 4, 2016

Jurassic Park!

Allosaurus Skull from the Jurassic Period

Roger here....  Vernal, Utah is one of the towns near Dinosaur National Monument.  We stayed there for two nights so that we could look for dinosaur bones.  We found them.

Before we get to the paleontology lesson, I want to tell you a few things about Vernal, Utah.  It is a fairly large town in the northeastern portion of the state very near the Colorado state line.  In some ways it is similar to Roswell, New Mexico.  The difference being that there are dinosaur statues all over town instead of alien statues.

Dinosaurs may have looked a lot like these guys :-)
We stayed at the Dinosaurland KOA, a nice campground.   A flock of wild turkeys visited us during our visit.

We had an ambitious agenda for our only full day in the area.  Since we enjoyed our first stop so much, we decided to skip a couple of our destinations in order to thoroughly enjoy the dinosaur quarry in the national monument.  (I do need to point out that this was my kind of place and not necessarily Dianne's).  A tram transported us from the Visitor Center to the quarry.  The quarry itself was totally encased in a gigantic glass building --- very cool.

Quarry containing "Dino Wall"

As we exited the tram, the driver told us that we could join a ranger-led hike through the fossil area that was just leaving.  Serendipity.

We were not dressed for hiking, but it only lasted 1 1/2 hours and was a mile in length.  Why not.  The picture above shows Dianne following Ranger Chew (his real name).  The photo below shows a good view of a portion of the trail.

Most of this one-way trail was downhill.
We walked by a variety of fossil layers.  Some were of small ancient ocean creatures such as crinoid stems and ammonites.

Others were of Jurassic period dinosaurs.  The one below --- a diplodocus leg.

Diplodocus leg bone in situ
Ranger Chew was extremely knowledgeable.  We missed some of his information when we fell to the back of the line and were surrounded by a few people who were talking loudly among themselves.  The retired teacher in me almost came out, but I held my tongue.

The rock formations along the trail were very interesting, so different from those we had seen in the mountains of Montana and Canada.

The purple color in this formation stood out from the surrounding area.

There were also amazing vistas.

That is the Green River flowing in the valley below.

The tour ended at a petroglyph site. The picture below is a pretty good one of Ranger Quayle Chew (yes, his first name is really Quayle).

Ranger Chew released us from the tour at the petroglyph site.  We followed the trail ahead, which took us back to the Visitor Center where we boarded the tram for a second time to go back up to the quarry.

For me the exposed dig site at the quarry was fascinating.  In my head I was hearing the theme song from the movie Jurassic Park.  Da da.  Da da.  Da da daa, da da da daaaaa.  I am not a paleontologist, (although it would be interesting); therefore, I cannot identify the specific bones in the photos below, but wow, are they interesting.

Hundreds of dinosaurs, thousands of dinosaur bones --- all exposed and embedded in the wall where they perished.  I could not believe the way that so many of them were stacked on top of each other.  

Vertebrae Exposed

A few of the bones were touchable, including this large leg bone.

There were also displays in the areas away from the wall.

This thigh bone from a Camarasaurus is from the Jurassic period (149 million years old).  The photo below shows what this giant probably resembled and gives a perspective of just how monstrous this plant-eater was.

The mural behind the skeleton was extremely helpful in depicting the actual form of this predatory dinosaur.

 We will leave Jurassic Park with a photo of one of the dinosaur skulls embedded in rock.

As I mentioned before, we did not get to do all the things we intended to do in the Vernal area.  The Flaming Gorge and the Canyon area of Dinosaur National Monument (on the Colorado side) will have to wait for another visit.  This would be a great place to spend a week on the way to Park City for a summer-long stay.   (Our minds are already planning future summers....)

Yampa River State Park, Colorado

We spent a pleasant overnight at Yampa River State Park in Colorado on the way to Grand Lake, Colorado (next to Rocky Mountain National Park) where we will be staying for a week.  Texas is getting closer.

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