Dinosaur National Monument lets visitors touch the Jurassic World
There is a real Jurassic Park right here in the United States, but it has nothing to do with the books or the movies.
National Dinosaur Monument Dinosaurs died millions of years ago, but they left behind a treasure trove of fossils for generations of dinosaur enthusiasts.
“The most fun part of being a ranger here is seeing the dinosaur kids growing up,” said Sonya Popelka, the monument’s interpreter. “It may have been a few decades or half a century since their dinosaur phase, but that love and that spark and that interest comes alive when they come face to face with this wall of bones here.”
Visitors to the National Park Service site, which straddles the Utah-Colorado border, can walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs and do other things they can’t in museums.
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“You can get your hands on real dinosaur bones, turned into fossils,” Popelka said. “So you can experience the Jurassic as directly as possible by seeing and touching.”
Across North America, museums display fossils from this very site, but the National Dinosaur Monument is the goldmine.
There are over 1,500 dinosaur fossils in its Quarry showroom alone, which was built just above a wall of partially excavated bones.
“We have a lot of giant sauropods, the four-legged, long-necked, long-tailed plant-eaters. The majority of the bones that are preserved in the rock quarry are those,” Popelka said. “We have theropods. Those are the meat eaters. … We see them less frequently, much like the predator-prey relationship today where you can have a large herd of herbivores and a small number of carnivores.”
Jurassic period species include allosaurus, apatosaurs, diplodocus, and stegosaurus, among others types of dinosaurs.
More than dinosaurs
Visitors will also find evidence of what archaeologists call the Culture of Fremont, which dates back 1000 years. Little is known about the early settlers who introduced agriculture to the area and whose petroglyphs and pictographs are still visible today on the rock faces. However, the lands were tied to 36 indigenous tribes and pueblosincluding the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah and Pueblo of Santa Clara, New Mexico.
“One thing that people don’t really think about when they think of Dinosaur National Monument is the strong cultural connections that are still evident across the landscape,” Popelka said. “The recreational opportunities we now have with rafting are rooted in fur trapping, trade and transportation routes that date back centuries.”
Park visitors can explore all of this rich history or simply enjoy the great outdoors, hiking, stargazing and camping without worrying about hurried or large crowdespecially outside the summer.
“Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy it and let things sink in,” Popelka said.
Dinosaur National Monument covers over 210,000 acres and is open year-round. He saw 359,560 visits Last year.