Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument is a United States National Monument spanning from Northwestern Colorado into Northeastern Utah.

Understand

Allosaurus skull at Dinosaur National Monument

The monument was created in 1915 to protect an extensive deposit of fossilized dinosaur skeletons as well as pictographs dating back 10,000 years. The monument is divided into two districts, the Canyon Area on the east side and the Dinosaur Quarry on the west side. Each district has its own visitor center. Pets are allowed inside the monument but must be on a leash no longer than 6 ft (1.8 m). Pets are not allowed inside any buildings or on any hiking trails.

History

Dinosaur National Monument's cultural history dates back 10,000 years. The Yampa and Green Rivers have provided water for survival in an arid country. Indian rock art in the form of petroglyphs and pictographs provide evidence that many people have come before modern travellers. The Fremont Indians lived in the canyons in Dinosaur National Monument 800 - 1,200 years ago. Following the Fremont were the Ute and Shoshone, who are still found in the area today. Early settlers left their mark on the landscape with their homesteads. Those who had access to the rivers and a constant flow of water survived, while others dried up with drought and moved away. Now, many of the remains of homesteads are found alongside the Indian art work of the past.

The park's value as a site for dinosaur remains was established when paleontologist Earl Douglass first came to Utah looking for mammal fossils. He returned in 1909 and discovered an immense deposit of dinosaur bones, now protected at Dinosaur National Monument. Although made famous by dinosaurs, Douglass died preferring his beloved mammal fossils over dinosaurs.

Landscape

This part of Utah and Colorado is rocky-desert, with sinuous canyons deep-cut by rivers.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°F) 30 38 54 64 76 87 93 91 80 65 48 32
Nightly lows (°F) 6 14 26 34 42 50 57 54 45 34 23 11
Precipitation (in) 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.8 0.8 0.7 0.7 0.6 1.1 1.3 0.6 0.6

   Data from NOAA (1981-2010)

Dinosaur's climate is semiarid with temperatures averaging between 0°F (-17°C) to 30°F (-1°C) in January and 50°F (10°C) to 100°F (38°C) in July. Elevations within the park vary between 4700 and 9000 feet. Winter snow makes roads at higher elevations impassable while only light to moderate snow is found at lower elevations. Summer thunderstorms often cause heavy downpours and localized flooding, but may fail to dampen parched soils less than a mile away.

Get in

By road

Both districts of the Monument are accessed via U.S. Highway 40. From Salt Lake City, take I-80 east to US 40 east, about 4 1/4 hours and 185 mi (297 km). From Provo, take US 189 north to US 40 east, about 4 hours and 166 mi (267 km). From Denver, take I-70 west, to SR 9 north, then to US 40 west, about 5 hours and 285 mi (459 km).

Fees/Permits

Fees are charged from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. All permits are valid for seven days.

There are several passes that allow free entry for groups traveling together in a private vehicle or individuals on foot or on bike. These passes are valid at all national parks including Dinosaur National Monument:

In 2016 the National Park Service will offer several days on which entry is free for all national parks: January 18 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), April 16-24 (National Park Week), August 25-28 (National Park Service's 100th birthday weekend), September 24 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day).

Get around

Harpers Corner Road is closed from mid-December to approximately Easter due to snow at the higher elevations.

All dirt roads in the park are clay based and impassable when wet, even with four-wheel drive vehicles. These roads are Echo Park Road, Yampa Bench Road, Island Park Road and the road into Gates of Lodore. These roads are not maintained in the winter and can be impassable due to snow. The use of chains on wet clay roads renders the roads all but impassable for those who follow. Waiting for several hours will allow the roads to dry, leaving them in drivable condition for all visitors.

See

Dinosaur Quarry district

Visitors appreciating the Wall of Bones in the Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center

Canyon Area district

Do

Hiking

Each district has numerous trails of varying length and difficulty.

River Rafting

The Green and Yampa Rivers pass through the monument, offering Class III and Class IV rapids. Unless you are an experienced river rafter, do no attempt without a professional guide.

Eat

There are no restaurants within Dinosaur National Monument. However, several picnic areas provide a relaxing atmosphere with a view. Picnic areas are located:

Nearby communities offer a variety of dining options.

Sleep

Lodging

There is no lodging within Dinosaur National Monument. However, the nearby communities of Vernal, Dinosaur and Rangely have lodging. Obtaining lodging in the area can be difficult; it is recommended that you reserve lodging ahead of time if you plan on staying in the area overnight.

Camping

Dinosaur Quarry District

Canyon Area District

Backcountry

Most of Dinosaur National Monument's 210,000 acres is proposed wilderness. With proper planning, a backcountry trip at Dinosaur can be a wonderful experience of solitude and serenity. Wilderness camping is allowed with a free permit that can be obtained at the visitor center or by phone (+1 435 781-7700 or +1 970 374-3000).

The park's backcountry rules are that you must have a permit and adhere to the following restrictions:

There is one designated backcountry camping area within the park which must be reserved in advance:

Stay safe

Vehicle

Keep your vehicle's gas tank above half-full. Distances can be deceptively long between services. Watch for wildlife on monument and nearby roads. Wildlife can be abundant along roads during all seasons. Please observe speed limits and be aware of wildlife in the road corridor. Four wheel drive may not be enough on some monument roads. Many park roads are clay-surfaced (unpaved), and become impassable when wet no matter what kind of vehicle you have. Get weather and road condition reports before traversing park roads.

Weather

Dinosaur is a land of extremes; please dress appropriately for the season. Summer temperatures can soar over 100F (38C); winter temperatures can drop well below 0 F (-18C). Summer nighttime temperatures can be cool. Dress appropriately, including proper shoes and headwear, use sunscreen. Dressing in non-cotton layers allows you to add and remove clothing as needed while not retaining moisture that can lead to hypothermia.

Always carry and drink plenty of water. Extreme temperatures, high elevation, and an arid landscape can lead to rapid water loss. Many locations may not have water readily accessible and may require backpackers/hikers to carry fresh water. All water gathered in the monument must be treated before consumption.

Trails

Watch Your Step. Trails are often rocky and uneven, and other hazards may be present. Slow down, enjoy the scenery, and watch your step.

Carry food with you. At higher elevations your body must work harder than at lower elevations; more work means more calories burned. The monument ranges from 4700 feet to over 9000 feet in elevation. Salty foods can replace electrolytes lost through sweating. Eating helps your body use water efficiently.

Afternoon thunderstorms during summer are common, and lighting can strike from miles away. During summer thunderstorms avoid high, bare rock surfaces to prevent being struck by lightning. If caught outside find the lowest point possible that is not near a tree or other tall object, and make yourself small/short. Also be aware of flash flooding in canyons; a storm miles away can send a wall of water raging down a canyon, flooding it within minutes, emptying just as fast.

Wildlife

Most wildlife is more scared of you than you are of them. You might, however, surprise or startle wildlife or accidentally make an animal feel threatened. Watch where you walk; if you do come across wildlife, give it plenty of space as well as an escape route. Small children and pets may be particularly vulnerable – keep your group together at all times. Be wary of animals that are being aggressive.

Snakes are an important and beneficial part of the ecosystem. Most snakes found in the monument are non-poisonous, but two are poisonous: the midget faded rattlesnake, and prairie rattlesnake. Snakes, like all wildlife in the monument, should be observed and enjoyed from a safe distance.

Plants can bite, too. Many plants, including cactus, greasewood, Russian thistle, and others can scratch, stick, or otherwise be dangerous. Watch where you put your hands and feet.

Go next

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