Visitors can enjoy unique attractions at Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and Colorado. While visiting here, I found myself constantly shifting my field of view to things above and below me. Colorful tilting rocks in vast landscapes showed geology in action. Petroglyphs and pictographs told stories of Indigenous people from long ago. An amazing collection of dinosaur fossils took me even further back in time.
The Monument also includes places to hike, fish, river raft, picnic, and camp. There’s a visitor center in Utah, and another in Colorado.
The small Visitor Center in Utah features informational exhibits and a store.
While visiting Wyoming, I noticed the interesting pose of this happy Hyopsodus wortmani fossil at one of our stops. To me, it looked like a dog asleep on its back.
I thought I’d try to draw what it may have looked like based on the fossil. The first drawing is in pencil.
The second one is pen and ink, drawn with a dip pen with a pointed nib tip dipped in ink.
On the last one, I added a light wash of acrylic paint.
You may have noticed the Hyopsodus I drew is smiling. Do mammals smile?
Here’s a recent picture of one of my dogs, hogging both dog beds. You be the judge. 😉
Check out the happy Hyopsodus and many other amazing fossils at Fossil Butte National Monument in Kemmerer, Wyoming.
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First Friday Art (FFA)
If you’re travelling to Wyoming and like dinosaurs, consider stopping at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center (WDC) in Thermopolis. In 1993, dinosaur fossils were discovered near here at the Warm Springs Ranch. Fossils discovered here and elsewhere are on display at WDC. Visitors will see fifty-eight articulated dinosaur skeletons and a wide variety of fossils.
You’ll see dinosaur skeletons large and small in the display hall. Some are real, others are recreated from casts of fossils.
Remember the Velociraptors in “Jurassic Park?” Here’s one, blending into the background.
I especially liked this one because it shows a Tyrannosaurus dinosaur attacking a Stegosaurus.
Earlier this month, we took a long journey to go fishing for fossils in Wyoming. We had reservations for June 2, but thunderstorms dumped rain on the site and the owners shut it down. The last seven miles of the dirt road to the quarry turn into a slippery mess during rainstorms. We drove to our next destination in Vernal, Utah and returned to dig fossils the next day.
The FishDig Quarry is north of Kemmerer in southwest Wyoming. Visitors can make reservations ahead of time or just show up. FishDig opened for the season a week before we arrived. Be sure to check their website for hours and fees.
When you arrive at the site, you’re given advice on what to look for and how to split the rock. The helpful staff will try to identify things if you ask. Unlike other fossil-digging sites nearby, you get to keep everything you dig–-except for pieces worth $100,000 or more. In those cases, the owners keep 50% of the value.
A rock hammer and chisel are provided for free. They will cut your rocks down to more manageable sizes for no charge. As I’ve mentioned before, rocks are heavy so having less bulk to transport is helpful. Note, they do not provide anything for you to carry your fossils home in. Bring boxes and something to wrap them in, like bubble wrap or newspaper.
Could this be a pickled herring fossil? I got this fossil from my mom and don’t know anything about it’s history. It looks like the herring fish pictured on this Green River Fossil site. Though I was hoping it was something rare, fossils of this small fish are common.
The Green River Formation, located in parts of Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, is one of the best places to find fish fossils in the world.
This picture of an ammonite fossil up close shows their beautiful spiraling structure. In ancient times they were called “snake stones” or “serpent stones.” The stones were thought to have healing and oracular powers. Fossils of these once abundant, now extinct, marine molluscs are popular with collectors.
Stepping back in time at Clarno Palisades
Arch at Clarno Palisades
In May I visited the Clarno Palisades area, 18 miles west of Fossil, Oregon in the Clarno Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. This unit gets light usage. We only saw a few other visitors.
There are three short hikes near the covered picnic area. The Geologic Time Trail winds along ¼ mile to connect you to the other two trails. Interpretive signs note the changes of the last 50 million years. The colorful small signs explaining the geologic history looked brand new. The Trail of Fossils takes you up a ¼ mile loop trail on the hillside and shows you fossils that left their imprints in large boulders.