Doing it All in Dinosaur National Monument: Petroglyphs, Homestead, Biking, Hiking, and Dinosaur Bones (Part 2)
In Part 1 of this busy day, we saw petroglyphs left by the Freemont people, the fascinating homestead of Josie Morris, and did some biking and hiking as well. After all that, we still weren't finished; it was time for the highlight of our time in Dinosaur National Monument, and, in fact, its reason for being: dinosaur bones!
Starting in 1909, Earl Douglass discovered and excavated fossils here in the park, and in 1915 President Woodrow Wilson established Dinosaur National Monument to preserve these ancient dinosaur fossil beds,
We pedaled our mountain bikes over to the Visitor's Center, locked them up, and took off on another hike up to the Quarry Exhibit Hall. There's a free shuttle that runs up the hill to the quarry every fifteen minutes or so, but we chose the hiking option. But of course!
This short but steep spur off the trail is the Morrison Formation, where many dinosaur bones were found. They were kind of hard to see, but we did see a couple up at the top of the stairs.
At last we arrived at the famous dinosaur quarry for the main event. In this building you can see over 1500 dinosaur bones still encased in the rock. These fossils are 149 million year old; mind-boggling!
The Quarry Exhibit Hall is an attractive example of modernist architecture. Here's how it looks from the road, nestled against the rock.
And up close:
It really is built right on top of the rocky face where the majority of fossils were discovered! I had no idea until we went inside and saw the interior.
This plaque explains how so many bones ended up in one place, A dinosaur "logjam", if you will.
Here are some of the more impressive bones. Most of the long ones are leg bones.
The two larger leg bones in the photo below are from a Diplodocus (left) and an Apatosaurus (right).
Below is a Camarasaurus femur. Some of these dinosaurs I have not even heard of.
And this is a Camarasaurus scull. Amazing.
So many bones!
We were fascinated by this exhibit of fossils from so long ago. If you have any interest in dinosaurs, you owe it to yourself to visit the Utah section of Dinosaur National Monument and see them for yourself. You can even touch a lot of them.
This was a really fun-, fitness-, and history-packed day. As we pedaled back to the Green River campground after all our activities, we dubbed it our first-ever "BHBHB" day (bike-hike-bike-hike-bike) as that's what it took to see all the sights of interest without a car in this section of DNM -- a very special spot indeed!
Next up: We head east into northern Colorado, where fall foliage greeted us.
Doing it All in Dinosaur National Monument: Petroglyphs, Homestead, Biking, Hiking, and Dinosaur Bones (Part 1)
Whew! This was one busy day for us, and we packed a ton of sight-seeing as well as fitness activities into it. There's a lot to see and tell, so I've divided this one into two posts. This map will help you follow along on our adventures.
We started the day by pulling out the mountain bikes, since we knew we'd be riding on gravel for part of the way. Cub Creek Road out of the Green River Campground to the east starts out paved but eventually turns to gravel, and we were on the way to see the Petroglyphs and Josie Morris Cabin. You can see their locations on the right side of the map above.
We got a beautiful day for it and started early enough that we beat the crowds. In fact, we had our first two stops entirely to ourselves! A park ranger pulled up as we were leaving Josie's cabin and told us that mid-summer, the parking lot would get so full sometimes, that they'd have to hold cars back on the road and let them in only as space cleared. What a difference for our visit!
But first, the petroglyphs. There aren't a huge number of them here compared to some other spots we've visited in the past, but we still enjoyed checking them out. The Freemont people lived in this area approximately 1000 years ago and made these drawings.
After seeing this main spot, we hopped back on the bikes and riding along, I spied some additional petroglyphs of lizards along another rocky face down a short trail. The camera's zoom got me a good shot from the road.
The ranger mentioned there being four lizards on this wall, but I see at least seven in this photo, plus a few human-like figures!
Josie Morris Cabin.
Continuing down the gravel road a few more miles brought us to Josie Morris' cabin and homestead. Josie lived in this beautiful and secluded spot for over 50 years, raising cattle, keeping chickens, and living off the land. It was fascinating to see her homestead and imagine what her life must have been like there with no utilities or indoor plumbing, especially during the harsh Utah winters. She must have been one tough cookie!
This house is just the right size for yours truly! I guess Josie was a petite lady too.
Here's what is left of the hen house.
There were two short hiking trails accessible from the homestead, Hog Canyon and Box Canyon. These trails both led canyons enclosed on three sides, and the sign explained that Josie corralled her cattle in them. We decided to hike to Box Canyon.
After our hike, it was time to remount our steeds, er, grab our bikes, and head back towards the park visitor's center. Before seeing the dinosaur bones, we need to make one more quick stop at another spot to see petroglyphs (marked "Swelter Shelter" on the map above).
So far, everything we'd seen had been amazing, but the best was yet to come. Stay tuned for Part 2 in which we finally see what gave this national monument its name and reason for being: dinosaur bones!
We managed to pack quite a bit in during our stay in Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. In addition to viewing petroglyphs, an historical homestead, and amazing dinosaur bones (all to be covered in upcoming posts) AND plenty of bicycling, the hiking was first-rate as well.
The River Trail trailhead was conveniently located in the "A" loop of the Green River Campground, just steps from our lovely campsite. It's only about three miles round trip and easy to moderate in terrain. There are a couple of climbs and descents, but nothing too tough. It runs alongside the Green River with stunning views in all directions. I hiked it one sunny morning on my own, and here is what I saw.
Looking back at the campground from higher ground on the trail....
The trail terminates at the Split Mountain Group Campground far in the back where everything was weedy and overgrown and the water was shut off. Kinda creepy, really. Looked like this part of the campground hadn't been used in years. I didn't take any photos but should have just for the creep value!
The trail was so nice that Barry, Paisley, and I hiked it one night after dinner. Paisley did great -- she's a wonderful little trail dog, and it's nice that Dinosaur National Monument allows leashed dogs on this trail, as that is pretty rare in NPS facilities. We didn't see another soul on our out and back.
The light was so different than my morning hike that I really regretted not bringing my camera along. For only about two magical minutes, the setting sun lit up the mountains across the river in an otherworldly red glow that I would have loved a photo of!
Sometimes best-laid plans are not enough.
On our last day in the park, Barry and I had planned an epic hike from the River Trail over to the Split Mountain Campground, where the park map shows the trailhead for the Desert Voices Trail, which then links up with the Sound of Silence Trail. A worker in the visitor's center told me the entire loop (River Trail, Desert Voices Trail, and Sound of Silence Trails) would be over 8 miles, so we were really looking forward to it.
Our plans were thwarted when we saw the park rangers putting up a CLOSED sign on the River Trail trailhead that morning. What? We weren't even dressed to go ask questions at that point, but we later found out from the camp host that there was some maintenance work beginning on the power poles along the trail and it was closed for that. Bad timing! It was to be closed for several days, so even extending our stay wouldn't have made a difference. Sure wish they'd put a sign up a few days ahead so we could have planned our days accordingly and done that hike earlier in our stay!
Barry, not one to let an obstacle slow him down, decided to bypass the closed River Trail and hike to the other two trails by walking up (and I do mean UP) the campground road and down into the Split Rock Campground to pick up the Desert Voices Trail and eventually the Sound of Silence Trail. Then he'd have to walk back on the road after hiking the two trails that were open. This was a walk of approximately three miles each way, plus the additional 5.5 miles or so for the two trails. Whew!
I decided to pass on the hike and let him go by himself, since it was a hot, sunny day and going to be a long one, about 11.5 miles total. Although he didn't take a camera, he said he had a great time and that the trails were really scenic. He only saw one other hiker the entire way!
I had taken this photo of the Sound of Silence trailhead from the road on a previous bike ride.
I was disappointed not to get to do the hike we'd planned, but that just gives us reason to return to this lovely spot in the future, right?!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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