Dinosaur National Monument Quarry Set To Reopen
The famous quarry at Dinosaur National Monument will reopen to the public on Oct 4, 2011. It shelters a rock cliff face where you can see hundreds of dinosaur bones, making it one of the most impressive fossil sites in the world. In all, more than 1,500 fossilized bones can be found in the quarry. Some are large and have been half-exposed, so they can easily be seen protruding from the rock.
The quarry has been closed for the past couple years because the original building was deemed unsafe. Crews are now putting finishing touches on a new facility that will house the quarry and also serve as the visitors’ center.
The quarry is a huge attraction that shouldn’t be missed. The nearby Fossil Discovery Trail also offers good views of dinosaur bones still embedded in native rock. In addition, the monument offers thousands of acres of backcountry where you can auto tour, mountain bike and hike amid spectacular scenery.
Several impressive ancient Native American rock art sites can be found within the monument’s boundaries. Two great rivers, the Green and the Yampa, cut through the heart of the monument and also provide great opportunity for adventure. (Whitewater rafting is a popular activity at the monument during summer months.)
Dinosaur National Monument is located along the Utah/Colorado border, near the town of Vernal. It is one of my personal favorite out-of-the-way backcountry play areas.
A temporary visitor center is open now and the new visitor center will soon be in operation. There you can get maps and extensive information about area attractions.
Nine Mile Canyon
A fascinating concentration of ancient Native American rock art sites exists in Nine Mile Canyon, which is located northeast of Price in east-central Utah. The name is actually a misnomer – the canyon is about 40 miles long. It has been called the world’s longest art gallery.
On cliff face after cliff face, ancient people carved petroglyphs and painted pictographs depicting human-like figures, various animals, geometric patterns and other images. In all, it is estimated that there are more than 1,000 rock art sites in the canyon, containing well over 10,000 individual images. The canyon may well contain the highest concentration of rock art to be found anywhere in the world.
Most of the art work was created by the Fremont people and dates to about 1,000 years ago.
In modern times, ranches were established in the canyon and some still operate today. Others have been abandoned, with early farm machinery and other relics left behind. Today, the canyon also serves as an outdoor museum showcasing frontier homesteads and turn-of-the-century western ranch life.
An improved gravel road runs the length of the canyon. Dirt roads fork off to probe interesting side canyons. Before heading into the canyon, stop in Price at the Castle Country Regional Information Center, 155 East Main, and pick up a brochure about the canyon. The brochure includes a map and helps you find interesting attractions in the canyon.
I really enjoy mountain biking Nine Mile Canyon. If you start at the top it is an easy downhill ride to a vehicle waiting at the bottom. When you zoom past in a car, you catch glimpses of rock art and other canyon features, but you don’t have time to really absorb the intricacies of the setting. When you are on a bike you have more time to enjoy and comprehend.
Fall is a great time to visit both Dinosaur National Monument and Nine Mile Canyon. Temperatures are pleasant, the leaves are changing colors and wildlife is abundant.
Actually, fall is my favorite time to explore Utah’s backcountry. During late September and October, conditions will be perfect for serious exploration because the weather will be mild and the crowds of summer will be gone. I’m really looking forward to a couple more outdoor adventures before the snow flies.
- Dave Webb