Dinosaur Diamond makes fossils easy to find

Some of the dinosaur bones in the new Quarry Exhibit hall in Dinosaur National Monument.



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Some of the dinosaur bones in the new Quarry Exhibit hall in Dinosaur National Monument.

The new Quary Exhibit hall at Dinosaur National Monument.



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The new Quary Exhibit hall at Dinosaur National Monument.

The new Quarry Exhibit Hall at Dinosaur National Monument.



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The new Quarry Exhibit Hall at Dinosaur National Monument.

Holding a fossilized trilobite in her hand, Museum of Western Colorado field coordinator Krista Brundridge, left, enthralls Eileen Lepisto of Grand Junction and her two grandchildren, 5-year-old Anika and 7-year-old Parker Rierson, right, as the group stop by the fossil display at Dinosaur Journey. The museum celebrated Dinosaur Days with several events including the fossil identification and display.



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Holding a fossilized trilobite in her hand, Museum of Western Colorado field coordinator Krista Brundridge, left, enthralls Eileen Lepisto of Grand Junction and her two grandchildren, 5-year-old Anika and 7-year-old Parker Rierson, right, as the group stop by the fossil display at Dinosaur Journey. The museum celebrated Dinosaur Days with several events including the fossil identification and display.

Don’t be fooled by the rocky, sometimes forbidding landscape. Western Colorado is anything but barren.

In fact, the surrounding landscape has been at the bottom of a shallow sea, and its lands were trod by dinosaurs and woolly mammoths.

Not at the same time, of course.

To understand this land’s history, remember that the Grand Valley is on the western corner of what’s known as the Dinosaur Diamond, a diamond-shaped chunk of Utah and Colorado that includes some of the best-known dinosaur territory in the world. At the diamond’s other corners are the Utah towns of Moab, Price and Vernal.

Though its history as a land of gigantic dinosaurs is well-known, the lesser-known history of the Grand Valley during the Ice Age is on display at Dinosaur Journey in Fruita this summer.

“Beasts of Ice Age Grand Valley” opened May 19 and features robotic models of a woolly mammoth, sloth, saber-toothed cat and a glyptodont. A glyptodont was a large, armored mammal and predecessor of armadillos.

Dinosaur Journey also is home base for dinosaur digs at the Mygatt-Moore Quarry in Rabbit Valley off Interstate 70 just east of the Utah state line.

There, fossil hunters are most likely to find bones from a giant plant-eater, apatosaurus, and the teeth of meat-eating allosaurus.

Dinosaur Journey’s expedition program offers half-day and full-day digs in western Colorado, a three-day adventure that includes a raft trip and a five-day expedition that takes goes to sites in western Colorado and Utah.

Information about the digs is available at 1-888-488-DINO, ext. 212, and at

http://www.museumofwesternco.com/dino-digs.

A less-structured opportunity for digging more recent fossils is atop Douglas Pass, where amateur fossil-hunters can pry Eocene Era fossilized leaves, twigs, bugs and even the occasional fish from the rock high above the valley.

Take Colorado Highway 139 to the top of the pass, then follow a good dirt road to the right, where an outcrop about 6 miles back yields the fossils.

Fossil hunters can keep twig, leaf and bug fossils, but must turn over any fish fossils to the Bureau of Land Management or Dinosaur Journey, which is a designated by the BLM to have those fossils.

Under federal law, hunters cannot sell or barter fossils.

Along with visits to the dinosaur museums in Price and Vernal, any tour of the Dinosaur Diamond should include a stop at the Quarry Exhibit Hall that encloses the Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry in Dinosaur National Monument off U.S. Highway 40 east of Vernal.

After being closed for years, the hall recently reopened and visitors can view about 1,500 dinosaur bones in the quarry along with exhibits on the late Jurassic period.

During the summer, shuttles to the hall run every 15 minutes from 9:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. from the Quarry Visitor Center on the west side of the monument. Go to http://www.nps.gov/dino for information.

The Dinosaur Diamond also sports dinosaur museums in Price and Vernal.

Go to http://www.utah.com/byways/dinosaur_diamond.htm to learn more about the diamond.

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