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Dinosaur National Monument

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Title: Dinosaur National Monument  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Paleontology in Utah, Colorado, Paleobiota of the Morrison Formation, Dinosaur, Colorado, Vernal, Utah
Collection: 1915 Establishments in the United States, Dinosaur Museums in the United States, Dinosaur National Monument, Environmental Controversies, Fossil Parks in the United States, Jurassic Colorado, Jurassic Geology of Utah, Jurassic Paleontological Sites of North America, Landmarks in Colorado, Morrison Formation, Museums in Uintah County, Utah, Natural History Museums in Utah, Paleontology in Colorado, Paleontology in Utah, Protected Areas Established in 1915, Protected Areas of Moffat County, Colorado, Protected Areas of Uintah County, Utah, Sierra Club
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Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument
Multicolored beds of the Brushy Basin Member of the Morrison Formation near Carnegie Quarry
Dinosaur National Monument is located in Colorado
Location Moffat County, Colorado / Uintah County, Utah, US
Nearest city Vernal, Utah
Area 210,844 acres (85,326 ha)
Visitation 360,584 (2005)
Governing body U.S. National Park Service
MPS Dinosaur National Monument Multiple Resource Area (MRA)
NRHP Reference # n/a (the Monument is an MRA)
Designated NMON October 4, 1915[1]

Dinosaur National Monument is a U.S. National Monument located on the southeast flank of the Uinta Mountains on the border between Colorado and Utah at the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers. Although most of the monument area is in Moffat County, Colorado, the Dinosaur Quarry is located in Utah just to the north of the town of Jensen, Utah.

The nearest communities are Vernal, Utah and Dinosaur, Colorado. This park contains over 800 paleontological sites and has fossils of dinosaurs including Allosaurus, Deinonychus, Abydosaurus (a nearly complete skull, lower jaws and first four neck vertebrae of the specimen DINO 16488 found here at the base of the Mussentuchit Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation is the holotype for the description) and various long-neck, long-tail sauropods. It was declared a National Monument on October 4, 1915.[1]


  • Geology 1
  • History 2
    • Early scientific explorations 2.1
    • Echo Park Dam Controversy 2.2
    • Historic places 2.3
  • Climate 3
  • Features 4
    • The Quarry 4.1
    • Vertebrate Fossils from Carnegie Quarry 4.2
  • See also 5
  • References 6
    • Notes 6.1
  • External links 7


The rock layer enclosing the fossils is a sandstone and conglomerate bed of alluvial or river bed origin known as the Morrison Formation from the Jurassic Period some 150 million years old. The dinosaurs and other ancient animals were carried by the river system which eventually entombed their remains.

The pile of sediments were later buried and lithified into solid rock. The layers of rock were later uplifted and tilted to their present angle by the mountain building forces that formed the Uintas during the Laramide orogeny . The relentless forces of erosion exposed the layers at the surface to be found by paleontologists.


Early scientific explorations

The dinosaur fossil beds (bone beds) were discovered in 1909 by Earl Douglass, a paleontologist working and collecting for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.[2] He and his crews excavated thousands of fossils and shipped them back to the museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for study and display. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the dinosaur beds as Dinosaur National Monument in 1915. The monument boundaries were expanded in 1938 from the original 80-acre (320,000 m2) tract surrounding the dinosaur quarry in Utah, to its present extent of over 200,000 acres (800 km²) in Utah and Colorado, encompassing the spectacular river canyons of the Green and Yampa.

Though lesser-known than the fossil beds, the petroglyphs in Dinosaur National Monument are another treasure the monument holds. Due to problems with vandals, many of the sites are not listed on area maps.

Echo Park Dam Controversy

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation plans for a ten-dam, billion dollar Colorado River Storage Project began to arouse opposition in the early 1950s when it was announced that one of the proposed dams would be at Echo Park, in the middle of Dinosaur National Monument. The controversy assumed major proportions, dominating conservation politics for years. David Brower, executive director of the Sierra Club, and Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society led an unprecedented nationwide campaign to preserve the free-flowing rivers and scenic canyons of the Green and Yampa Rivers. They argued that, if a national monument was not safe from development, how could any wildland be kept intact?

On the other side of the argument were powerful members of Congress from western states, who were committed to the project in order to secure water rights, obtain cheap hydroelectric power and develop reservoirs as tourist destinations. After much debate, Congress settled on a compromise that eliminated Echo Park Dam and authorized the rest of the project. The Colorado River Storage Project Act became law on April 11, 1956. It stated, “that no dam or reservoir constructed under the authorization of the Act shall be within any National Park or Monument.”

Historians view the Echo Park Dam controversy as signaling the start of an era that includes major conservationist political successes such as the Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Green River Canyon in Dinosaur National Monument

Historic places

Places on the list of National Register of Historic Places include:[3]

Prehistoric sites
Other sites


The Dinosaur National Monument sits on a vast area of desert land in Northwestern Colorado and Northeastern Utah. Typical of "high deserts", summer temperatures can be exceedingly hot, while winter temperatures can be very cold. Snowfall is common, but the snow melts rapidly in the arid and sunny climates of these states. Rainfall is very low, and the evaporation rate classifies the area as desert, even though the rainfall just barely exceeds 10 inches.

Climate data for Dinosaur National Monument
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 33.0
Average low °F (°C) 10.8
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.64
Average snowfall inches (cm) 9.2
Source: [4]


The Quarry

The "Wall of Bones" located within the Dinosaur Quarry building in the park consists of a steeply tilted (67° from horizontal) rock layer which contains hundreds of dinosaur fossils. The enclosing rock has been chipped away to reveal the fossil bones intact for public viewing. In July 2006, the Quarry Visitor Center was closed due to structural problems that since 1957 had plagued the building because it was built on unstable clay. The decision was made to build a new facility elsewhere in the monument to house the visitor center and administrative functions, making it easier to resolve the structural problems of the quarry building while still retaining a portion of the historic Mission 66 era exhibit hall.[5] It was announced in April 2009 that Dinosaur National Monument would receive $13.1 million to refurbish and reopen the gallery as part of the Obama administration's $750 billion stimulus plan.[6] The Park Service successfully rebuilt the Quarry Exhibit Hall, supporting its weight on 70-foot steel micropile columns that extend to the bedrock below the unstable clay.[7] The Dinosaur Quarry was reopened in Fall 2011.

Vertebrate Fossils from Carnegie Quarry

Workers inside the Dinosaur Quarry building
Young girl pointing at a dinosaur's humerus bone on the Fossil Discovery Trail
Paleontologist carefully chips rock matrix from a column of dinosaur vertebrae. These bones were left in place in the Dinosaur Quarry display.
Now enclosed by the Dinosaur Quarry building (Gilmore (1936), Foster (2003))
Glyptops plicatus
Dinochelys whitei
Opisthias rarus
Goniopholis sp.
Hoplosuchus kayi (h)
Ceratosaurus sp.
Torvosaurus sp.
Allosaurus fragilis
Apatosaurus louisae (h)
Barosaurus lentus
Camarasaurus lentus
Diplodocus "longus"
?Haplocanthosaurus sp.
Uintasaurus douglassi (h) (now Camarasaurus lentus)
Stegosaurus sp.
Uteodon aphanoecetes (h)
Dryosaurus altus
(h) = holotype

See also


  • Cosco, Jon M. 1995. Echo Park: Struggle for Preservation. Johnson Books. ISBN 1-55566-140-8
  • Foster, John R. 2003. Paleoecological analysis of the vertebrate fauna of the Morrison Formation (Upper Jurassic), Rocky Mountain region, USA. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science 23:1-95
  • Gilmore, Charles W. 1936. Osteology of Apatosaurus, with special references to specimens in the Carnegie Museum. Memoirs of the Carnegie Museum 11(4): 177-294.
  • Harvey, Mark W.T. 2000. A Symbol of Wilderness: Echo Park and the American Conservation Movement. Seattle: University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-97932-1


  1. ^ a b "Dinosaur National Monument Statistics".  
  2. ^ "Speak to the earth and it will teach you : the life and times of Earl Douglass, 1862-1931 (Book, 2009) []". Retrieved 2011-10-13. 
  3. ^ National Register of Historic Places in Moffat County American Dreams, Inc. Retrieved 2011-10-6.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Quarry Visitor Center, Part 1" (PDF). National Park Service. March 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  6. ^ "$13.1M in stimulus cash revives dino monument". Salt Lake Tribune. April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-23. 
  7. ^ "Visiting The Quarry In Fall And Winter". National Park Service. November 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-21. 

External links

  • Dinosaur National Monument (National Park Service)
  • National Park Service Douglass Quarry
  • Dinosaur National Monument
  • Canyon Country Hiking and Camping Notebook: Dinosaur National Monument
  • Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. surveyUT-138, "Quarry Visitor Center, U.S. Highway 40, 8 miles north of Jensen, Jensen, Uintah County, UT", 42 photos, 86 data pages, 3 photo caption pages
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