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Dinosaur National Monument - Vernal - Utah

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This repository of ancient bones straddles the Utah/Colorado border near Vernal, Utah. The park headquarters and visitor center are just across the border in Colorado, on Highway 40. There are four entrances to the Monument, although the two most popular sites are in the south off Highway 40. This is a vast arid country of high cliffs, rolling uplands, deep gorges and whirlpools.

What to See & Do

What is now the national monument was a river in ancient times. In the sands of this former river are the fossilized remains of creatures far older than the dinosaur. In this area, the prehistoric Fremont people lived and carved their rock pictures on the cliffs some 3,000 years ago. Paleontologist Earl Douglass came to the area in 1908, searching for dinosaur remains. He wasn't disappointed for in 1909 he saw tail bones from a brontosaurus. Thousands of bones and several almost complete skeletons have been taken from the sands of the area.

The Quarry Site, near Vernal, was declared a national monument in 1915. A tour bus takes visitors to the Quarry, where the quarry building is a gallery -- displaying the sandstone face of the cliff, with its bone bearing layer. During summer months, paleontologists continue to work on uncovering dinosaur bones and are on hand to interpret the Quarry exhibit.

The monument also includes the canyons of the Yampa and Green rivers and this area is reached by driving into Colorado and turning off Hwy. 40 and heading north along the Harper's Corner Scenic Drive, to the Canyon Overlook and beyond to the Island Park and Iron Springs overlooks. At the end of the Scenic Drive is Harriers Corner, where you can walk a trail to catch dramatic views of the canyons below.

The Deerlodge Park access gate is farther east in Colorado, north of Hwy. 40. This is a summer only route. The northern viewpoint, Gates of Lodore, is reached via Highway 318 -- from either Utah or Colorado.

Those with four-wheel-drive and high clearance cars may wish to drive the 13 miles of Echo Park Road which leads west from the Harper's Corner Drive. This spectacular hack country drive leads to yet more canyon views. Beware: this hackroad is not driveable when wet.

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Developed campsites are available inside the monument. Split Mountain Campground, open year round, is near the Quarry at the Utah end of the monument. The Green River Campground -- a summer operation -- is also in this area. Primitive campgrounds are located at Echo Park, Gates of Lodore and Deerlodge Park.

Motels and other accommodations are available in nearby Vernal.

Nearby Places

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
Zion National Park
St. George
Salt Lake City

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