Dinosaurs in Utah  

 

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Dinosaur National Monument, Jensen, Utah

Our first dinosaur encounter occurred toward the end of our trip on the Utah side of Dinosaur National Monument. We visited Quarry Visitor Center at 9am and were told the Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall was to open at 9:30am. Normally, there would be shuttles or a caravan escort hourly, but on the day of our visit, the Ranger told us to drive to the Exhibit Hall at our leisure. There was a 1-mile trail connecting the Visitor Center to the Exhibit Hall, but unfortunately, for the most of this year, the Fossil Trail will be closed due to a recent landslide, (estimated opening September 2017). Fossil Trail is also a hike where one would most likely encounter fossils, according to a Ranger.

Dinosaur fossils partially excavated in Quarry Exhibit Hall

Dinosaur fossils partially excavated in Quarry Exhibit Hall

 

The drive to the Exhibit (also called Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry) was short. As we walked in, we were greeted by a wall of partially buried giant bones. The Ranger stated that the bones in the Quarry were real. “They simply placed a building around the bones, to protect them”, he says. There were areas where we were allowed to touch these 149 million year old real dinosaur fossils. Exhibits also included huge skull bones of allosaurus, and a complete juvenile skeleton of a camarasaurus. More than 1500 dinosaur bones are found in this Monument. This area used to be a river where these dinosaur remains flowed and settled to the bottom, being forever preserved for us to stare at in awe, some 149 million years later. Dinosaurs found in this Quarry are featured in museums worldwide. It's an amazing site to see.

Painted Hills along the Sound of Silence Trail, Dinosaur National Monument, UT

Painted Hills along the Sound of Silence Trail, Dinosaur National Monument, UT

Painted Hills along the Sound of Silence Trail, Dinosaur National Monument, UT

 

After our awesome morning with the dinosaurs, we thought we would try our hand fossil searching on a trail. We hiked the Sound of silence and Desert Voices trail, for a total of about 5 miles. Muddy in some places, our trail went along very colorful hills and some slanted rocks. As we walked back, we noticed the sand beneath our feet change in color, from white, to red, to a greenish hue. I suppose that is what makes up the painted hills as well. We also saw porously textured rocks in a small section of a rock. We wondered if it was ancient form of sea sponge. Later in our trip, we saw something similar at the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City. That particular item was labelled the skin of a large dinosaur called gryposaurus.

 

Dinosaur National Monument extends to Colorado.  We did not make the trip across on this trip due to a lack of time, but from the pictures I have seen, it looks beautiful.  However there are no fossils on display on the Colorado side. 

 

Practical Information (as of April 2017):

Features: Real dinosaur fossils from 149 million years ago, still embedded in the rocks, colorful hills and slanted rocks on hikes

Our Hike: Sound of Silence: 3.5 miles, Desert Voices: 1.5 miles, both are from the same trailhead and can be connected to make a 5 mile loop

Fees: $20/private vehicle-valid for 7 days, or Free with Interagency National Parks Pass

Address:  11625 East 1500 South, Jensen, UT 84035

Amenities: Flush toilet, Visitor Center, parking

Website: Dinosaur National Monument

 

Natural History Museum of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

This Museum was a fun surprise for us. We had intended to spend most our day day at Antelope Island for a view over the Great Salt Lake and some free roaming bison, but the weather had other plans. Being pretty tired from our trip, we decided on spending the day at the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City.

We arrived at the Museum at about 11am. Parking was quite full, but we managed to snag one as someone left. We found the entrance, but were stopped at the front door, for the General Admission line on this Saturday morning. Using our ASTC member Museum reciprocity agreement, our whole family gained entrance to this Museum at no charge. 

Gallery of dinosaur fossils, NHMU

Gallery of dinosaur fossils, NHMU

 

Our first view of the dinosaurs was of gryposaurus. There lay a partially excavated fossil of gryposaurus in the glass floor beneath our feet. This is also where we saw a fossilized skin section, which looked similar to the one we saw at Dinosaur the day before. Nearby, there was a huge replica of a dinosaur footprint, that my son was drawn to.

Dinosaur Footprint, Natural History Museum of Utah, SLC

Dinosaur Footprint, Natural History Museum of Utah, SLC

 

Adjacent to the gryposaurus, we found a drawer of other fossils found in the area. One was of a horse fossil, the size of a medium sized dog. Pretty amazing how animals evolve.

Early Horse Fossil, NHMU

Early Horse Fossil, NHMU

 

Beyond these, there were several full fossils of other dinosaurs, a collection of 12 or 13 skull fossils of horned dinosaurs, a fossil of a huge crocodile, a giant sloth and a mammoth.

A collection of horned dinosaur skulls, NHMUA collection of horned dinosaur skulls, NHMU

 

This was my favorite Museum for fossils, tied for a close second are Los Angeles County Natural History Museum and La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California.

 

Upstairs were a more interactive section where one can pair DNA bases, kids can dig for fossils etc.  We also stumbled upon a temporary exhibit called Poison. It features different poisons in nature that has different uses. It was surprising to learn that even staple foods like rice, cassava and sugar cane contain things that are toxic to us. I learned that metals, such as silver and mercury, were used for many ages as an antedocte to aging, before we learned of its detrimental effects. As the saying went in the exhibit, the only difference between poison and medicine is the dose.

 

Practical Information (as of April 2017):

Features: Fossils of many different dinosaurs and early mammals

Address:  The University of Utah, 301 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, UT 84108

Fees: $15/adult, $10/child under 12, $2 discount if purchased online on NHMU website, Free if member of another ASTC Museum

Website: Natural History Museum of Utah, Salt Lake City

Other: When hiking in deserts and canyons, pay attention to the weather forecast, as rain in any surrounding area may cause dangerous flashfloods. Check with Rangers if in doubt.

 

Warning: The safety of these adventures are dependent on a variety of factors including but not limited to: terrain, weather, wildlife, hiker skill level, human error, and other foreseen and unforeseen circumstances. Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information provided at the time of publication, we do not assume any liability for the accuracy and completeness of the information provided.  As such, we will not be held responsible for any harm, injury, and/or loss that may result. Your personal judgement on the safety of each adventure is required at all times. Please use your own discretion and be safe.

 

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