With 210,00 acres, this Dinosaur Nat’l Monument has plenty to offer
The monument, which sits just across the Colorado-Utah border in the Beehive State, encompasses more than 210,000 acres, only a small portion of which is devoted to the namesake creatures that died there eons ago.
Man, in fact, has known about the area for 10,000 years and visitors today can walk in the footsteps of those who trod paths through the sandstone and left petroglyphs and pictographs on the sandstone walls, offering insight to modern visitors about the lives of the earliest visitors to the land where the Yampa and Green rivers converge.
Most of the monument is in Colorado, but the dinosaurs are in Utah. Whitewater rafting and kayaking is available on the rivers — several outfitters offer trips — and the trip through the Gates of Lodore is world-renowned.
The earliest known residents of what is now Dinosaur National Monument were the Fremont people, followed by the Ute and the Shoshone Native American tribes.
Old homesteads still can be seen along the rivers.
Unfortunately, the Douglass Quarry, which was the centerpiece of the park’s visitor center, still can’t be visited now. The center is being rebuilt and is expected to be completed in October.
The 1,400 or more bones that date back to the Jurassic Era, about 150 million years ago, can be viewed at http://www.cr.nps.gov.
Visitors, however, needn’t go far to see dinosaur bones.
The Utah Field House Museum of Natural History features a Jurassic tableau: a stegosaurus standing alone and an unfortunate haplocanthosaurus below the menacing jaws of an allosaurus.
Vernal, Utah, offers a variety of camping opportunities, which can be viewed at http://www.utah.com/database/campgrounds.
To get to Dinosaur National Monument from the Grand Valley, take Interstate 70 west to Loma, then Colorado Highway 139 north over Douglas Pass, a route that climbs to 8,000 feet in elevation over the Bookcliffs.
The highway takes visitors past Cañon Pintado, another area in which the Fremont people left their marks along the steep canyon walls. Many pictograph and petroglyphs can be viewed easily from the road, but some require hikes.
Highway 139 dead-ends in Rangely. (Side note: Rangely is home to one of western Colorado’s better nine-hole golf courses. To make tee times, call 970-675-8403.)
To reach Dinosaur National Monument, turn west at Rangely on Colorado Highway 64 and continue to the town of Dinosaur, then take U.S. Highway 40 west to Jensen.
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While in the area of Dinosaur National Monument, you might as well swing north on U.S. Highway 191 out of Vernal for a visit to Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.
The area is inside the Ashley National Forest and extends from Utah into Wyoming.
The 91-mile long Flaming Gorge Reservoir, fed by the Green River, allows for fishing, boating and other water sports and is a cool oasis from the summer’s intense heat.
There are 43 campgrounds with plenty of campsites along the water and others tucked into the mountains.
For information on Flaming Gorge, go to http://www.fs.fed.us and search for “Ashley” and then look under “Special Places” on the forest’s main page.