Where else would you find amazing geology, dinosaur fossils still stuck in the wall and some Americana besides? Well at the Dinosaur National Monument of course! The park can be accessed from two locations off of Highway 40. The Western entrance is near Jensen, Utah, in the Northeastern corner of the state. The eastern entrance is about 40 miles east at a little town called Dinosaur, in the northwestern side of Colorado.
A Wall of Dinosaurs, Oh My!
What makes this park really special, to a Grandma that loves dinosaurs (me), is the partially excavated wall of fossils. Over 65 million years ago, a river bed slowly dried up, leaving animals searching for water dying of thirst. During other periods, the river flooded, pushing animals into an eddy and leaving them there. Eons later, the push and pull of the continents tilted this zone up on its side, at almost 90 degrees to its original position.
Creation of the Dinosaur National Monument
Of course we would not have known all this if it had not been for Mr. Earl Douglass, a researcher for Carnegie Museums in 1909. He was hunting for more dinosaur bones to go with their existing, very popular, exhibit. Mr. Douglass found some bones protruding from the top of a hill, and continued to investigate. Soon he was calling for help. The overall excavation lasted over 12 years. It was Earl Douglass’ idea to stop excavating before all of the bones were removed and build a display area around the bones still in place. It is thanks to his foresight that we get to see (and even touch) the fossils now. My imagination goes on forever seeing these amazing animals settled into the stone. What a find!
A Geological Feast!
Over a period of millions of years the land mass of the continent, including what is now the Rocky Mountains, was lifted several thousand feet. In the area of the Rockies, the land didn’t just gently lift, it crumpled into bends and folds and crevasses as it was pushed between the two continents.
And A Little Americana…
Then there is the story of Josie Bassett Morris. Born in 1874 to a frontier family, Josie learned to do the chores along with the guys, and then dress for dinner with the girls. Suspected of being a close friend of the Butch Cassidy Bunch, her life was far from normal. As a single mother, Josie decided to homestead a ranch in Cub Creek, near her family home. She worked the ranch alone, and sometimes with her son and other family members until she died in 1964. The cabin and part of the ranch land are preserved as part of the Dinosaur National Monument.