Thursday, September 6, 2012


Our first big stop on this trip was at Dinosaur National Monument. Knowing nothing of the area, we decided to stay in Dinosaur, Colorado. (Note: there are no dinosaurs in dinosaur Colorado except for big plastic ones like this example outside the town hall). The only motorhome park in town is the BlueMountain RV Park. Do not stay here. It's a couple of acres of rock and mud with a few sad looking permanent residents and some disappointed looking visitors, like us.

The south visitor's center for dinosaur national Monument is a couple of miles outside town. (Note: there are no dinosaur fossils at the south visitor center). From here a 31 mile road takes you up to the Monument south entrance. The landscape is basic high desert, mostly no more or less scenic than millions of other acres of the American West you can see from the interstate. There's a relatively small area of the national Monument that you can drive around and there are some fairly scenic areas there but there are no dinosaur fossils.

Typical western landscape
There was supposed to be a really nice area called Echo Park you can reach by driving down a rock and gully 11 mile road with about 10% down slope and a large sign at the top that said "not recommended for passenger vehicles". Some guy in a Jeep drove by and told us that it would be no problem, we should go ahead, then he drove off laughing. After a couple of hundred yards we decided maybe we should believe the sign and turned around.

The fossil wall
The next day we went to the west entrance where a road allowed you to explore another small section of the Monument. Here lies the Carnegie Quarry where, lo and behold, there actually turn out to be dinosaur fossils. Carnegie did not find any of them, he simply paid the bills. The fossil bed was discovered in 1909 and over the next several decades thousands of dinosaur bones were excavated and shipped back to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. So many in fact that the museum literally ran out of space for them. Then Carnegie died and his heirs decided with a few thousand specimens, many of which were still encased in plaster, stored away, enough was enough and they stopped funding the project.

So it was decided to chip away the rock matrix from around the remaining exposed dinosaur bones and then cover the whole rock face with a protective building and allow visitors to come and see the bones in place.
Dino ischium

It is actually pretty interesting to see. Our son would have loved this when he was six or seven years old. Now, probably not so much.

Three fossils
This is really a middle of nowhere destination. There are some nice views and the Quarry is interesting and educational. The question is, is it worth driving 200 miles out of your way to go see. If you have no place else you have to be it probably is, but I can't say that this is the best use of two days I have ever come up with.
Pioneer cabin

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