August 26 – September 4, 2018
After our week in Yellowstone, we stopped back in Grand Teton for a few days to take care of laundry and restock the fridge. After a day of rain cleared the smoky skies, we got to enjoy spectacular Teton views as we continued south.
Our first stop was Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area in the very northern part of Utah. Somewhere I had heard that this place was beautiful and we needed a spot to hide out for Labor Day weekend. What I didn’t realize is that most of the small forest service campgrounds here are filled by reservations. Luckily we were early enough before the holiday (it was Thursday) to score a FCFS site.
I had hoped for a spot in Red Canyon campground right on the edge of the gorge, but there were no sites open for the weekend. The host directed us to another campground about a mile down the road near a small pond. The spot we ended up with wasn’t great view-wise, but the sites were well spaced and it ended up being a nice quiet place to hang out.
We went to the nearby visitor center and looked out at the gorge, which while cool, didn’t really impress us. I guess we’ve seen too many really amazing sights because looking back at these photos it seems pretty awesome.
We rode our bikes on the very rocky and bumpy trail between the campgrounds hoping to see more bighorn sheep, but only came across some badger-like animal.
On Saturday we took the hour long drive down to Dinosaur National Monument. My favorite part of driving through this area were the signs telling you what era rock you were driving through and the prehistoric creatures that lived during that time, everything from squid to sharks and dinosaurs. Sadly I didn’t get any photos as we zoomed past so you’ll have to make due with this display at the visitor’s center.
I wasn’t sure what to expect of the monument, but it turned out to be well worth the trip. You can only get to the Quarry Exhibit Hall on the shuttle, so we parked at the visitor center, looked over the small exhibit area and then caught the free shuttle.
After a very short ride we arrived at the viewing hall, which is built around the natural rock hillside that contains most of the fossils. These bones were discovered in 1909 by Earl Douglass, a paleontologist working for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Although many fossils were sent back to the museum, Douglass had the foresight to suggest leaving this wall of bones intact for public viewing and study. The remains are from 10 different species including different kinds of sauropods (long-necked dinosaurs that ate plants), a couple of allosaurus (meat-eaters), and even stegosaurus.
You enter on the upper level and are overwhelmed by the the wall of bones. It is a huge jumble of pieces. In fact, there are fossils from over 500 individual dinosaurs in the quarry.
But how did they end up here? About 150 million years ago a drought caused a bunch of dinosaurs to die. When the rains came back a flood washed the bones downstream where they piled up here. This area is one of the richest known dinosaur fossil beds on Earth.
As you take the time to look at the wall you start to notice individual pieces.
You’ll see a lot of vertebrae.
And if you look really closely you’ll see a Camarasaurus skull.
The ranger showed us a cool app for your phone. It shows a picture of the wall and you can click on a fossil to see the species and bone name.
When you get down to the bottom you can even touch several of the fossils. After we had our fill we walked the half mile trail from the quarry back to the visitors center, but honestly it wasn’t worth it unless you just need to stretch your legs.
From Flaming Gorge we headed further south to Green River State Park on I-70. It made for a good stopover with trees and green grass and full hook-ups and put us not too far from Moab. Good thing because we’ll have to get an early start to snag a campsite there!