Dinosaur National Monument

Spring break has arrived for Teton Valley, and I took the opportunity to head out of town for long weekend. I haven’t seen dry ground in about 5 months, so south it was to Utah.

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Split Mountain from the campground

The first stop on my journey was Dinosaur National Monument. I pulled in around sundown and found a campsite next to Split Mountain on the Green River. Dinosaur protects the area where the Green and Yampa rivers meet. A place where almost 150 years ago John Powell led an expedition of nine wooden boats to survey the Green and the Colorado rivers. Wooden boats. World class rapids. Did I mention that Powell had one arm after losing the other in the Civil War? Crazy story.

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The Easter bunny?

Canada geese serenaded Tagg and I to sleep in our cozy car cot. The next morning we woke to a herd of mule deer grazing between us and the river. Along with seemingly thousands of rabbits that Tagg had to go chase. After having a quick breakfast, I set out to drive the monument’s roads and was delighted to find that I had the place entirely to myself. I stopped to see the parks famous petroglyph display – scratched into the sandstone by the Fremont people about 1,000 years ago! They are lovely and mysterious: human figures, animals, squiggles, and swirls that give more questions than answers. Why were these figures so important that they had to be recorded? Is it a story? I love being able to look the past in the face like that.

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Petroglyphs

Also on the drive I found a luecistic mule deer! She was traveling in a small band with a few other typically colored mule deer and enjoying the cool morning air. Leucism is a condition similar to albinism where pigment creation and deposition don’t function correctly. For that reason she is lightly colored, almost white, but lacks the red eyes you would see in an albino.

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After that it was time to see the dinosaurs!! The quarry was discovered in the early 1900’s and incredible specimens have been found and extracted through the years. What’s left today is an exhibit of fossils lying naturally in the sediments. I was surprised by how many different species are all tangled up together, but thankfully there was a info graphic answering my question! Apparently, in the region during the late Jurassic period, there was a horrible draught and many animals died near the dry riverbed. Afterwards when rain returned the heavy waters caused up a pile-up of bodies and skeletons – yikes! That boneyard was eventually covered up and fossilized, leaving the gallery that we see today.

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Sauropod fossils

Species represented in the quarry included¬†diplodocus, apatosaurus, allosaurus, and stegosaurus. There were also crocodiles and turtles found in the quarry! I can’t handle how ancient those animals are.

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Camarasaurus

After Dinosaur it was time to head farther south and see what Moab had to offer…

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