Welcome to Day # 209 of our "365 Parks in 365 Days" adventure!
Today we are headed to the land of dinosaurs, the place where the greatest number of our ancient predecessors have been found together. I passed the turnoff to Dinosaur National Monument a couple of years ago en route to the ravishing vistas of Canyonlands and Arches National Park, and vowed that Frank and I would go back and visit this park with our grandchildren in tow, and actually dig for dinosaurs.
The fact that we can have this experience in a congenial environment millions of years after the dinosaurs went extinct is a tribute to visionary minds that created the National Park System to protect such artifacts for the enjoyment and benefit of posterity. It also offers a cautionary note in the current political climate, where bombast and self importance appear to rule the day. Eventually, like the dinosaurs, we too will pass, and it is the record that we create now that will determine the future for whoever and whatever comes after us. What a wonderful opportunity and privileged responsibility!
Aerial view of Dinosaur National Monument - I can picture them walking there! Smithsonian Photo.
I feel so rich from the many loving and affirmative responses you send me. Thank you! They reinforce the worth of my efforts and the timeless inspirational value and sustenance of our publicly-owned lands.
"Your blog is educational and culturally comprehensive. You cover the Parks with your own African-American experience in mind -- but include everyone else in the shared experience. . . You are quick to point out the facts of our shared history--without blame--but with a poignant focus on the rights of humanity through our treatment of land and the people on it. The land, in particular "wilderness" and the Park System, is our common denominator, the real registry we can measure things by over the longest of times." Albuquerque, NM
"Thank God! Something else to focus on: Saguaro. And to sense the wonder of it: Crassulacean Acid Metabolism. Loved our nature lesson; and the sense of years and luck it takes to make a seed into a tall saguaro with arms. YOU are a wonder, to keep going, and to help us all feel the importance of the parks, when we're all feeling pretty depleted." Jackson Hole, WY
Re Voyageurs: "It always makes me feel better to read about how you find strength to deal with life's challenges. It's comforting and affirming each time you write about that. Thanks immensely." Tallahassee, FL
Re Wildlife Refuges: "Thank you for the Eden Place Story!" Arden, DE
"That man (Michael Howard) and his family are heroes!" Fort Lauderdale, FL (YES! And he tells me he's been seeking to raise funds for a much needed building for his program, and the workforce he's trained can do the construction. If you feel the urge to help an incredibly worthwhile life-changing organization, you can reach him at email@example.com, Fuller Park Community Development)
Dinosaur fossil remains embedded in a rock wall at Dinosaur National Monument/ About.com Photo.
Now,on to the land of dinosaurs!
Lacking access to the park's website, I was nevertheless able to find:
"... During the Jurassic Period of 150 million years ago the huge Apatosaurus, Diplodocus and Stegosaurus (today the Colorado State Fossil), roamed an area we now call Denver. About 100 million years ago Colorado was shore-front property, then 70 million years ago this region was covered by hundreds of feet of water. The result: today, Colorado has many different kinds of fossils. Recent finds of Ice Age mammoths from a mere 13,000 years ago that were found near Snowmass and Lamb Spring have peaked lots of interest in Colorado's ancient residents.
"In 1909, paleontologist Earl Douglass was searching for fossils for the Carnegie Museum when he discovered a formation layered with prehistoric plant and animal fossils. A quarry was established there and it proved to be one of the world's best windows into late-Jurassic-period dinosaurs. Dinosaur National Monument was created in 1915 to protect 80 acres in the quarry area. Today the monument includes 210,844 acres.
"Many fossils are embedded in a sloping rock formation that was once a sandbar on the edge of a large river. As the river carried animal carcasses downstream, many became stuck on the sandbar, which eventually turned to rock. As a result, fossils from hundreds of creatures are concentrated in a small area. Many fossilized bones have been partially exposed but left intact in the rock where they can be easily seen. A building was constructed over the area, which is now known as 'The Quarry' at the monument.
"Dinosaur remains found at the monument include Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Camarasaurus, Barosaurus, Allosaurus, Ceretosaurus, Stegeosaurus, Camptosaurus and Dryosaurus, with Apatosaurus being the heaviest at 34 tons, and Diplodocus the longest at 85 ft.
"The Dinosaur Quarry includes more than 1600 individual bones, and complete skeletons on exhibit in museums around the country were found at this location. These dinosaurs are almost twice as old as Tyrannosaurus Rex, which walked on the Earth millions of years later during the Cretaceous Period.
"The Quarry area makes up only a small part of the land included within the national monument. The remaining area includes canyons cut by the Green and Yampa rivers. The park back country is incredibly rugged and remote. It is very scenic and some areas have high wilderness value.
"The unique rock formations in this area provide a geologic record of earth history covering billions of years. Part of the mission of the monument is to work to understand that history... how rocks formed over time and were shaped by rivers and other environmental factors... how plant and animal life developed and changed over time..."
Explosives were used to blast this sauropod skull from the sandstone at Dinosaur National Monument/ AP Photo.
The story at this park continues to evolve. In 2010, discovery of a new species was announced - a type of sauropod - long-necked plant-eaters that were said to be the largest animal ever to roam land. The remains were found in slabs of sandstone that were so hard that explosives had to be used to free some of the remains/ The discovery included two complete skulls from other types of sauropods - an extremely rare find, scientists said.
But perhaps the most important story, and the one I yearn to have with my grandchildren, is reflected in this report from the Associated Press in the summer of 2012:
"GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) - The sounds of hammers hitting prehistoric rock and children's laughter rise with the dust and heat haze between two hills in the Colorado desert.
"It's more than 100 degrees in the Mygatt-Moore Quarry just this side of the Utah state line, but 6-year-old Nicolas Otal doesn't seem to notice.
"He's digging for dinosaurs. Real dinosaurs - not the kind of simulated dig in an air-conditioned museum to be found, then covered again for the next visitor - but actual undiscovered pieces of bone fragment and fossilized plant matter hidden deep inside rock from the Jurassic period.
" ' It's a dream come true - and the best vacation ever.'
" 'Come on, look, we found actual prehistoric pebbles'," Nicolas said with elation as he handed over a deep gray rock to his father, Carlos.
"The pair traveled from Ashburn, Va., just northwest of Washington, D.C., to experience what it was like to be a paleontologist.
'This was one of the only ones in the country that I found that would take kids this young,' Carlos Otal said. . ."
Grandchildren Courtney, Cameron, Jason and Joshua (all under age 10) LET'S GO!