Home » 2001 Cross Country Road Trip

Dinosaur National Monument, UT

Monday, July 16, 2001 - 4:00am by Lolo
158 miles and 3 hours from our last stop


Dinosaur National Monument was an unplanned stop on our drive from Steamboat Springs to Antelope Island. Not only was it unplanned, I didn't even know it existed until Herb smugly pointed out the brown National Park sign along the road. I hate not knowing everything. Maybe I just skipped over it in the planning because I'm really not that into dinosaur bones.

Our first indication that we were close to the monument was a very tacky gift shop, complete with 20-foot-high dinosaur in the parking lot. We just had to pull in and take a touristy photo. The gift shop sold every conceivable type of dinosaur paraphernalia as well as rocks. We managed to get the kids past the nosh, and purchased a classic hat pin of a roaring T-Rex.

Dinosaur RocksDinosaur RocksAs we entered the monument expecting to see nothing but dinosaur stuff, we were shocked to see a beautiful portion of the Green River complete with rafters happily floating through the incredible countryside. I could read Herb's mind--"What was this and why didn't I know about it?" There is absolutely nothing that Herb loves more than a raft trip and this place looked like one of the best. It turns out that it is one of the premier rafting spots in the country--the Green and Yampa Rivers flowing through the Canyon of Lodore. Oops. I felt a little better after I found out that the only way to raft through the Monument is to either go with a licensed river-running company or obtain a permit to go it on your own. These permits are very hard to get and you have to get them way in advance. Coming here to raft is a destination in itself. Hopefully, some day we'll come back here and do just that.

After watching the rafts with longing for a few more minutes, we continued into the park to see the dinosaur fossils. We took the park shuttle bus to the Dinosaur Quarry, where we saw a rock wall with hundreds of dinosaur bones protruding from it. Thankfully for us non-paleontologist types, there was a very handy display board containing an exact replica of the rock wall, with each bone labeled as to what dinosaur it came from and what body part it was. It really was nicely done.

I don't think they should have named the park Dinosaur National Monument. True, it does have more dinosaur bones than probably anywhere else in the world, but there is, after all, a whole lot more to this park than just dinosaurs.


Dinosaur National Monument, which straddles the northern Utah-Colorado border, is one of the most remote National Monuments in the country. The Monument got its name because it is one of the best places in the world for exhuming dinosaur bones--more than 350 tons of dinosaur bones have been dug up at this site and sent to museums, and many more still remain. The only place to view these fossils is the Dinosaur Quarry on the Utah side of the park, where there are more than 1,600 bones of 11 different dinosaur species covering the rock face of the quarry.

However, viewing Dinosaur bones at the Quarry is not the only thing that Dinosaur National Monument has to offer. The park contains over 300 miles of rugged badlands, 3,000-foot-deep canyons, and some of the best white water rafting in the West along the Green and Yampa Rivers.

The 62-mile roundtrip Harpers Corner Scenic Drive, which begins at the monument headquarters in Colorado, is a great way to see the park's more remote country. The road climbs a series of ridges from which there are great views of the badlands and the canyons of the Green and Yampa Rivers.

To raft through the monument, you must either go with a licensed river-running company or obtain a permit to go it on your own. These permits are often difficult to get and should be obtained well in advance.

Dinosaur National Monument location map in "high definition"

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