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🠈  Dinosaur National Monument  🠊

Dinosaur National Monument was created in 1915 by President Woodrow Wilson to protect an important fossil quarry that was discovered in 1909 by paleontologist Earl Douglass.

The fossil beds are in the Morrison Foundation in the southeastern foothills of the Uinta Mountains north of Vernal. The Morrison foundation is a loose grayish layer of sandstone laid down on the Colorado Plateau in the Jurassic Period about 150 million years ago.

The Monument was expanded by the Roosevelt Administration from the 80 acres in Utah surrounding the dinosaur quarry to 200,000 acres. The expanded park includes the confluence of the Yampa and Green Rivers in Colorado. Most of the expansion in the remote Northwest corner of Moffat County.

Park Geology

Dinosaur National Monument sits on the northern end of the Colorado Plateau. The uplifting of the Rocky Mountains compressed and twisted the sandstone formations. Erosion by the Green and Yampa Rivers exposed the colorful formations.

The National Park Service1 identifies 23 distinct layers of rock in the park. The layers occurred during the dinosaur age and each layer includes fossils which provide a valuable record of the evolution of life through the ages. The park presents one of the most complete and spectacular presentations of the geological formations of the dinosaur age.

The National Monument provides numerous trails through the various formations. Rafting trips through Split Mountain Canyon and Lodore Canyon expose the full array of rock formations. Of course, rafters tend to pay more attention to the class four rapids on the river than to the geology surrounding the river. (Yes, Maytag Rapid is named after a washing machine. The many rafters who've been flipped from their boats by said rapid can attest the experience is similar to being wrung by such a machine.)

Echo Park Dam

The expansion of the National Monument designation in 1938 proved useful to ecologists in the 1950s who opposed plans by the Bureau of Reclamation who sought to built the Echo Park Dam which would have flooded Lodore and Split Mountain Canyons.

Quarry Visitor Center

The idea for the Quarry Visitor Center was first put forward in 1916 by George Otis Smith who wanted to present the fossils of the dinosaur quarry in situ protected by a skylit shelter. A temporary structure was built in 1937.

The current structure was created by the Mission 66 Project. The goal of this project, started in the 1950s was to design and install modern architecture structures for the National Park System by 1966. The Quarry Visitor Center itself was declared National Monument in 2001; Geological shifting forced the closure of the center from 2006 to 2011.

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