Utah is also Dinosaurland
Utah is a geologist’s and paleontologist’s dream, and yes it is also Dinosaurland. The sedimentary layers hold secrets millions of years old, and dinosaurs are a big theme in Utah. Every town seems to have a dinosaur museum with impressive collections. There is also a strong history of mining, which is still viable in many places around the state. Today, Leigh Wilson, author of Utah Day Trips by Theme, shares a look at four of them.
UTAH FIELD HOUSE OF NATURAL HISTORY STATE PARK MUSEUM
This collection is pretty impressive and indicative of why Vernal is also known as Utah’s “Dinosaurland.” The area around Vernal has been extremely productive for paleontologists and archaeologists. A trip to this State Park Museum is a great precursor to venturing into the nearby Dinosaur National Monument.
As soon as you enter the museum, you are greeted by a 90-foot-long dinosaur skeleton in the rotunda. Exhibits include a theater, fossil lab, Jurassic Hall, and a fluorescent minerals room, among others.
Outside, dozens of dinosaur replicas line a garden walk through the museum grounds. The museum is also home to the local visitor center, so it’s definitely a great first stop in Dinosaurland.
Check out the website for more information.
DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT
This National Monument on the Utah-Colorado border has a lot going on! Start your visit on the Utah side at the Quarry Visitor Center, where you’ll hop on a park shuttle to the Quarry Exhibit Hall.
There are more than 1,500 fossils on display, showing nearly 150 million years of history. Next, follow the park road to view several petroglyph panels along the roadside and be amazed at the views from Split Mountain Campground.
On the Colorado side, a singular scenic road leads to Harper’s Corner, with a fantastic view of the Green River. Those with high-clearance vehicles can take Echo Park Road down to the river for a great view of Steamboat Rock.
The monument has an extensive backcountry for those inclined to leave the beaten path. If you have more than a day, take a whitewater float trip on the Green River. For more information, visit the Dinosaur National Monument website.
This open-air museum outside of Moab is perfect for anyone of any age who is obsessed with dinosaurs. Start your visit in the 3D movie theater, with a 10-minute film about the history of our planet.
Next, head to the 5D prehistoric aquarium, a virtual underwater experience, unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
In the Interactive Tracks Museum, you can learn about all different kinds of dinosaur tracks and how they are discovered.
Take a quick trip up the view tower for an aerial view before setting off on the Dinosaur Trail. The half-mile trail winds through the desert and features dozens of life-size dinosaur replicas. There are also some fun sandbox digs along the way, as well as a playground, cafe, and gift shop. For more information, visit the Moab Giants website.
JURASSIC NATIONAL MONUMENT
The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry is a working dinosaur quarry and was recently designated as Jurassic National Monument. This central Utah location has the densest concentration of Jurassic-period dinosaur bones in the world.
More than 70 individual dinosaurs have been identified at this site, from more than 12,000 bones. The most frequently found dinosaur at this site is the Allosaurus, one of the most common predators of the Jurassic period.
More than 45 individual Allosaurus remains have been uncovered here. There’s a small museum that is staffed, and an interpretive nature trail winds through some of the finds.
While digging is not open to the public, you can peer in at the active dig site, which is protected by a small metal shed.
Bring water and sunscreen, as there is no shade along the trail. This site is part of a larger area called the Dinosaur Diamond, which includes the CEU Prehistoric Museum in Price, as well as the Museum of the San Rafael in Castle Dale. Plan for about 90 minutes each way from Price; the roads are not paved but in good condition. Check out their website here.