Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dinosaur National Monument: A Secluded Oasis Full of History

In May, I took a solo trip to Dinosaur National Monument. It was on my list of places to explore since I first moved to Colorado in 2003. Finally, I was able to make the trek and it was well worth it! I was in a place of needing some alone time, as well as, soul refreshment. The drive from Denver up toward the northwest corner of Colorado took about six hours. I checked in and found my spot at the Green River Campground. It was a peaceful setting, situated next to the river with views of Split Mountain Canyon toward the northwest. It was an idyllic spot (especially since I got there on Thursday night before the weekend crowd). At night, shadows of campers sitting around their campfires reflected above me in the branches of the cottonwood grove. I was quickly reminded of the Fremont people who once lived here, leaving stories carved along rock walls nearby.

(Cub Creek Petroglyphs)
In the morning, I drove over to the Quarry Visitor Center and Quarry Exhibit Hall. My eyes widened as I entered the exhibit hall and immediately began to decipher an entire wall of well-preserved dinosaur fossils stacked on top of each other. One of the most intact dinosaur skulls in the world is located here, Allosaurus fragilis.
(Replica of Allosaurus fragilis)
(Part of the fossil wall located inside of the Quarry Exhibit Hall)
This wall was actually a part of a sandstone foothill, where in 1909, Earl Douglass found several dinosaur bones sticking out of the ground. He then continued his research efforts in conjunction with the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, PA. In 1915, Dinosaur National Monument was created to protect this fossil bed. Today, visitors can view over 1,500 bones ranging from Allosaurus, Camarasaurus, Stegosaurus (the Colorado State fossil), and others.

Later, I spent some time hiking along several of the park trails looking for petroglyphs and wide open spaces. Eventually, I ventured down toward Josie Morris's cabin (pictured below). Josie, an independent woman, built her own cabin here in 1913. She lived off the land, planted vegetables, tended the ranch, and lived and died here over fifty years later. Today, visitors can step inside her humble abode and envision what life may have been like for Josie.

(Josie Bassett Morris's cabin)
Dinosaur National Monument is situated so that half of the park is in Utah and the other portion in Colorado. Interestingly, there is no public knowledge of any dinosaur fossils on the Colorado side. So, if fossils are your interest then you must make your way to Jensen, Utah. On the Colorado side of the monument, is where I felt most secluded. The views were expansive and I had the chance to feel like I was the only one on the planet. I found the perfect spot to sit, ponder, and adjust my bearings for whatever life brings next.
(Thank you NPS for preserving such beautiful landscapes and natural history!)
(View from Echo Park Overlook on the Colorado side)
The park is huge. On my next visit I hope to visit the Gates of Lodore area, raft along the Yampa or Green Rivers, and hike a few more trails.