Rocky Mountain High: Cavorting in Colorado travel blog

Green River from the campsite

Same thing

Another view

Mary and Jonathan at the river

Elephant Toes Rock


The Lizard

The Little Lizard

The Flute Player

Josie's cabin on the homestead

Josie's cabin

The Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall

Dinosaur Femur


Linda and Allosaurus


Ranger Lisa on our guided hike

Clam fossils in the rock

Another view of the Exhibit Hall

Linda at the Morrison Formation

Vertebrae still embedded in rock

A large femur bone

Indian Head Rock

An oddly placed "Cedar Mountain" rock formation

Interesting sandstone formation

Brightly colored sandstone

Mowry shale formation

Ancient ocean ripples on sandstone

Shale with fossilized fish scales

Bighorn sheep pictograph?


More drawings

Dinosaur bones still embedded in hillside inside Quarry building

More fossilized bones

Quarry building bones

Large bones in Quarry Building

More Quarry building bones

Vertebrae of a long dead dinosaur

Recreated Allosaurus skeleton with painting

Another view of Exhibit Hall

Panorama of the Green River

Some of the pictographs look "other worldy" to me

Look like aliens in spacesuits to me

Aliens in spacesuits with antenna coming out of helmet


We traveled from Rocky Mountain National Park to a state park outside of Hayden, Colorado—Yampa River State Park--on the 19th. The park was clean and new and almost deserted—50 sites but only three occupied. We had time do mundane things like catch up on the laundry but unfortunately no wifi there.

The 20th was also mostly a travel day as we proceeded to Dinosaur National Monument yesterday, and today we toured the Monument.

After seeing the Visitor Center, we drove up to the Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall. This building was built over the slope of the original Dinosaur Quarry site—one wall of the building is the rock slope that was quarried by archeologists who were digging out dinosaur bones. They didn’t dig them all out, and you can see where many of the bones are still imbedded in the rock. In fact, there seems to be a jumble of bones clearly displayed in the rock in a 200ft or so span and 30ft or so high.

Why so many bones in a pretty small area? The seemingly plausible theory is that 150 million years ago this was a shallow river where many dinosaur species lived. When a sustained period of drought occurred the animals died. Then when the water returned the skeletons were washed downstream into basically a giant boneyard. Overtime the climatic and geological forces buried them and then when the tectonic plates pushed the Rockies up 50 million years some of the bones were exposed. Paleontologist Earl Douglass, working for the Carnegie Museum discovered the first fossils here in 1909 and began excavating the Morrison Formation rock in which they are imbedded.

The exhibit building over the quarry is an engineering feat and resulted in an impressive structure. There are exhibits of casts made of the bones of the dinosaurs they had dug out, including a stegosaurus and an allosaurus as well as a camarasaurus. All these giants and more roamed this area during the Jurassic period.

The rock that they quarried is called the Morrison Formation, and it produces a diversity of fossils and dinosaur bones. It is made up of river deposited sand and gravel. Based on potassium-carbon dating of volcanic ash on both sides of the formation, the layer is estimated at 149 million years old.

We took a ranger lead 1 mile hike through another area that has not been excavated. But with a knowledgeable guide one can see signs that dinosaur fossils are in evidence. A hand sized vertebra here, an 18” femur there, more vertebrae higher up and those are only the ones showing above the rock. The ranger also pointed out the different rock formations and shale deposits that were river beds feeding an ancient ocean. High up on one Entrada sandstone formation one could see the ripple marks of an ocean bed. She also pointed out some thin shale that had ancient fossilized fish scales embedded.

We then took a 24 mile self-guided car tour of the area. There were stops to see petroglyphs and pictographs (Jonathan thought that these were proof that aliens landed here eons ago), tilted rocks, views of the Split Mountains (split by the erosive action of the Green River), and a homesteader’s cabin, built and occupied from 1914 to 1964 by Josie Bassett, who lived by herself.

We are camped along the Green River, which is not flowing quite as fast as the Missouri, at least not here, but has a respectable current. The days are warm but in the afternoons clouds form and we have had downpours with welcome cooling winds. The campground is not too crowded and we are enjoying the peace, although we do wish we had wifi and/or cell reception.

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