Dinosaur National Monument
By: Daniel Taylor
Posted On: 2014-12-27
Located in the Western United States, Dinosaur National Monument is a place where history comes alive. Straddling the Colorado and Utah borders, Dinosaur NM is a treasure trove for those interested in the past. From the Spanish Explorers to the Fremont Indians, all the way to the giant roaming reptiles that gave the monument its name, Dinosaur has a lot to offer.
Declared a National Monument in 1915, Dinosaur is primarily recognized for its impressively preserved fossils. Most of the 1,500+ samples are found in Dinosaur Quarry, which lies on the Utah side of the monument. Embedded in rock, the fossils offer a unique way to experience relics typically relegated to museums.
In addition to the bones, visitors can enjoy several other historical aspects of the monument. Petroglyphs etched by the Fremont Indians offer another look at pieces of history generally kept behind the glass. A few of their artifacts also remain. This up-close-and-personal viewing is great for kids.
If you’re more of an outdoorsman than a student, worry not. There are plenty of adventures to be had at Dinosaur.
Hikers enjoy trails all over the park, including Sound of Silence Trail and Hog Canyon Trail on the Utah side and Ruple Point Trail on the Colorado side. If you’re really interested in adventure try the 8-mile Island Park Trail or venture off the beaten path. Unlike in some other protected areas, well-equipped visitors to Dinosaur NM are encouraged to venture off-trail and discover less-visited sections of the monument.
Dinosaur’s main two rivers, the Green and the Yampa, are also major destinations. Primarily on the Colorado side of the monument, they can be fished for a variety of species, though anglers are expected to immediately release any of the four endangered species if caught. Those include Colorado pikeminnows, razorback suckers, humpback chubs, and bonytails. Though many anglers take to the water every year, the rivers are particularly attractive to whitewater rafters.
Several of the monuments remote canyons, such as the Gates of Lodore and Split Mountain, are rarely visited by anyone other than rafters. Commercial and private rafting is permissible and both allow visitors to experience the monument in unique and exciting ways.
Five campgrounds are available to guests, including the distant Deerlodge Park, located on the far eastern side of the protected area. With a permit, visitors may also backcountry camp in almost any of the monument’s 210,844 acres.
Dinosaur National Monument is a great destination for anyone from an experienced outdoorsman to a family with young kids and is only a day’s drive from Denver, Grand Junction, Salt Lake City, or Cheyenne.