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Utah's Dinosaur Land

Yes, dinosaurs really did exist! And Utah can prove it.

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Millions of years ago, all types of dinosaurs roamed across the landscape of what is now Utah. Literally thousands of actual remnants of this fantastic prehistoric era are carefully preserved and interpreted in sites, state parks, museums and quarries all across the state of Utah...just awaiting your discovery.  

In the following pages, you will view photos and learn about the various dinosaur attractions throughout the state and how these fossilized remains have been protected and preserved. These prehistoric fossils and bones represent a priceless part of Utah's past, and these remnants are protected by federal regulations. 

So come along and learn what dinosaurs are all about in Utah.......

Utah Map

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There are prehistoric sites throughout all of Utah....the northern part, northeastern part, central part, eastern part, southeastern part, and the southwestern part

Dinosaurs in Northern Utah

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Ogden, Utah has three places to visit.....

  1. The Historic Union Station exhibits one of the oldest dinosaur eggs in the world (estimated to be 120 million years old), and has several dinosaur bones and tracks.
  2. The Eccles Dinosaur Park has over 100 exhibits with more than 60 near life size replicas of dinosaurs.
  3. The Museum of Natural History on the campus of Weber State University has exhibits and representations of prehistoric animals.

 

Lehi, Utah has.....

The North American Museum of Ancient Life (Thanksgiving Point), with more than 60 mounted dinosaur skeletons and thousands of ancient fossils. There is also showcased the various prehistoric eras and has hands-on learning activities, along with a six-story 70 mm movie screen and theater, featuring a variety of 3-D movies and othr specialty films.

 

Provo, Utah has.....

The Brigham Young University Earth Science Museum is known for having one of the largest and most valuable Jurassic dinosaur collections.  Only 5% of the collection is on  display and over 120 tons of unprepared bones are securely stored under the university's football stadium. Their displays include fossils from two of the largest dinosaurs in the world and one of the smallest.  A 150-million year old dinosaur egg is on display with an x-ray of the embryo within. There are also displays of two fully mounted dinosaur skeletons, skulls of Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops, dinosaur skin fossils, and a new mineral collection. 

 

 

 

 

Dinosaurs in Northeastern Utah

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Vernal, Utah-----is considered the heart of Utah's "Dinosaurland".

Fifty million years ago, this part of Utah was under a 25,000 square-mile inland sea, Lake Uinta.  Now, it is an immense wild landscape dotted with several man-made reservoirs, one of which is the well known Flaming Gorge (part of the upper Green River). In spite of the desert-like terrain with it's sandstone rock formations, these various bodies of water are reminders of the land's aquatic past.

This area of land is fascinating and like a magical safe place to be. You can almost envision the landscape of times long ago when wild, immense and strange creatures roamed the terrain.

Vernal is situated between the Uinta Mountains which are the largest, single, east-west-trending mountain range in the Western Hemisphere...and the Uinta Basin, a petroleum-rich inter-mountain valley. These 2 natural features encompass 3 billion years of earth history. Their fossil record covers 600 million years and includes all forms of life from primitive algae to highly evolved mammals.

By 1870, the Uinta Basin was known for its abundant vertebrate fossils when O. C. Marsh from Yale University first identified Eocene (35-45 million years old) mammals. In 1909, paleontologist Earl Douglass of the newly-formed Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, PA, discovered fossil dinosaur remains near Split Mountain, 20 miles east of Vernal and he set up a quarry for excavating specimens. This discovery, one of the world's best concentrations of dinosaur fossils, is now part of Dinosaur National Monument Park.

Rather than lose the prehistoric wealth of the area to eastern universities and museums,  community members formulated the idea of a field house. In 1945, the Utah legislature established the Utah Field House of Natural History to house and display "the fossil remains of ancient plant and animal life and other objects of natural history."  The field house subsequently became a Utah state park.

So, Vernal and it's surrounding area has several prehistoric sites to visit....."The Utah Field House of Natural History State Park and Dinosaur Gardens";  "The Dinosaur National Monument Park";  and the famous "Douglass Dinosaur Quarry and Visitor Center"....which is within the Dinosaur National Monument area.

 

 

The Utah Field House of Natural History State Park and Dinosaur Gardens

Located within the city of Vernal, you can definately stroll through time in this wondrous place. Within the Field House itself, are ancient fossil skeletal reproductions, archaeological and geological exhibits, flourescent minerals and other natural history aspects of the Uinta Mountain and Uinta Basin. It also offers exhibits on eastern Utah history, dinosaur fossils, American Indian artifacts and one of the best geology displays anywhere.

Life-size replicas of dinosaurs sneak into the museum through windows looking out onto the Dinosaur Garden.

But the exciting, unique, main pleasure of this Field House, lies outside in it's.........

 

Dinosaur Garden

Step back in time as you walk through the dinosaur garden where Mesozoic (180 million years ago) creatures dominate the scene. Look up to a full-size replica of a 20-foot tall Tyrannosaurus with six-inch knife-like teeth or look down on a ferocious four-foot meat-eating Coelophysis. There are other prehistoric life including a wooly mammoth.

The extensive dinosaur garden of the Field House contains a swamp area, rock area, small lake and a waterfall. Eighteen prehistoric animal sculptures in their natural setting, most of which are actual life-size reconstructions of dinosaurs, are found along the trail that leads through each area. The statues are wonderfully in proportion to the trees and plants of the garden, and it gives the beasties quite a resemblance of being alive. One can stroll along the paths and catch glimpses of dinosaurs behind trees or find that one terrific head-on position.

Sculptor Ebert Porter created the models, which were acquired by the state of Utah in 1977. A group of 3 concrete dinosaurs by sculptor Millard F. Malin completes the outside display.

 

 

Douglass Dinosaur Quarry and Visitor Center

 

This famous Dinosaur Quarry and Visitor Center is located about 20 miles east of Vernal, near the town of Jensen and offers Utah's most dramatic dinosaur display. The quarry, a working excavation site, is part of, and at the western entrance of Dinosaur National Monument Park.  It is the only place within the National Monument where the public can easily see dinosaur fossils embedded in rock. This visitor center, which is built over a fossil bed, is a time capsule preserved in an ancient river sandbar. Here, the fossilized remains of over 2,000 bones have been exposed in a 200-foot-long mountain wall, now enclosed as a permanent exhibit. Other fossilized beasts within the quarry are shown still in their sandstone death pose.

How the quarry came to be, is fascinating. There is an unusually large concentration of bones in this place, as this area was once a watering hole. The rock around the fossil bones tells us that an ancient river once flowed there. Scientists believe that at one time, about 150 million years ago, the river dried up during a drought. The last watering hole was located where the Quarry Visitor Center is today. As the watering hole vanished, the dinosaurs died. Their carcasses were scattered about the dried riverbed. After the drought ended, the river again began to flow.  Over time, dinosaur bones were buried under sand and gravel, and the fossilization process began.

As ages passed, that river vanished.  Other rivers and seas came and went, leaving layer after layer of sand and mud that slowly solidified into rock. As water seeping through the ground filled the buried bones with dissolved silica, they became rock hard.

About 65 million years ago, strong vise-like forces began squeezing the Earth's crust, bending and tilting the rock layer in this area. The more the rocks were pushed upward, the more they were worn down by rain, snow, frost, and wind; layer by layer.

Eventually, some of the long-buried dinosaur bones began to show up near the top of a steep hill where paleontologist Earl Douglass found them in 1909.

In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed this great dinosaur quarry as Dinosaur National Monument Park.

In many areas of the United States, most great fossil deposits have been excavated until there's nothing left to see. That is not the case at Dinosaur National Monument. The National Park Service reopened the Douglass Quarry in the 1950's, not to remove all the fossils, but to develop them into a unique exhibit.

 

Interesting Facts....

**Digging up new types of dinosaurs allows paleontologists at Dinosaur National Monument to reconstruct the environment that the dinosaurs lived in. Each piece of information, from the types of rocks, to plant fossils, to remains of the frogs, lizards, and salamanders living at the same time as the dinosaurs, helps scientists describe what northeastern Utah looked like when the dinosaurs roamed.

**Fossils are remains or traces of ancient life.  They provide the clues that paleontologists use to learn about prehistoric animals and plants. When a plant or animal dies, it usually decays or is eaten by other animals. However if it is buried before that happens, it may become a fossil. Hard materials, such as wood, bones, shells, and teeth have a better chance of being buried and fossilized because they decay more slowly than soft tissues like leaves or skin.

**The dinosaurs of Douglass Quarry lived in the middle of the Age of Dinosaurs. They were one of nature's experiments that succeeded. The first dinosaurs survived, thrived, and ruled the earth for some 150 million years, while adapting to changing conditions. The early dinosaurs multiplied. Some grew larger, some began to walk on four legs, and others grew into different shapes. Each new feature.. a long neck or sharp teeth, or bony plates, if it helped the animal survive, was passed on to later generations. These features became the hallmark of each new kind of dinosaur.

**In order to be classified as a dinosaur, an animal must have...

    • hip, knee, and ankle bones that allow it to stand with its legs directly under its body.
    • a ridge on the upper arm bones.
    • jaw muscles that attach to the top of the skull.
    • three bones (that make up one side of the hips) that form an open socket for the thigh bone to fit in.
    • the second finger is the longest digit of the hand. 

 

 

Dinosaur National Monument Park

 

This monument is in both Colorado and Utah. It is 210,000 acres of proposed wilderness park. It is as famous for it's dramatic canyon scenery as it is for it's dinosaur fossils.  This haunting land is home to one of the world's greatest concentrations of dinosaur bones.

The area offers trails, tours and activities which highlight the parks unique geology, history, wildlife and rugged beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

Dinosaurs in Central Utah

Fairview, Utah has.......

 

The Museum of History and Art. This is a unique small community museum with outstanding exhibits including a life-size replica of a Colombian Mammoth that was discovered in the nearby mountains during a construction project in the summer of 1988. The skeletal remains were preserved in a peat bog where it died 11,000 years ago. The bones were not fossilized, but were so well preserved that scientific testing has uncovered a great deal of information about the mammoth's physical condition, including that it's last meal included pine trees. The mammoth replica is visible from the exterior of the museum through a huge window.

 

 

Dinosaurs in Eastern Utah

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Price, Utah has....

The College of Eastern Utah (CEU) Prehistoric Museum. The museum showcases the areas' ancient past, when dinosaurs roamed here. They left behind their bones, footprints and other traces of their existence. The museum has six complete skeletons from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, three of which are real bone specimens. The collection also contains many dinosaur tracks removed from local coal mines, dinosaur eggs and other fossils. The Museum currently operates ten active dinosaur fossil quarries.

 

 

Cleveland, Utah has.....

The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry. It is located on the northern rim of Utah's San Rafael Swell, 35 miles south of Price, Utah. The location of the quarry is unique....at the end of a graded road you travel out across the sagebrush plain on a road with many twisting, turning curves. Then out in what looks like the middle of nowhere, you come upon two metal buildings. These protect the exposed bone bed from weather and vandals.

Discovered in the early 1900's by area ranchers, it is the only quarry of it's kind in the world. Since 1928, over 12,000 bones have been removed from the quarry. A Self-guided Rock Walk Nature Trail leads into one of the metal buildings with exhibits.

 

 

Castle Dale, Utah has.....

The Museum of the San Rafael.  The museum tells the stories of a primitive past long buried under shifting soils. A replica of a fossilized dinosaur egg believed to contain an embryo is part of the collection, as well as skeletons of many types of dinosaurs.

 

Dinosaurs in Southeastern Utah

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Moab, Utah area has several places to visit.....

The Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail.  Located 13 miles north of Moab. Along this trail dinosaur fossils and petrified wood can be viewed in a natural setting.

 

The Sauropod Dinosaur Tracksite. Located 23 miles north of Moab. This tracksite includes the first sauropod tracks reported in Utah. The tracks make a sharp turn to the right, a phenomenon rarely observed in fossil trackways.

 

The Potash Road Dinosaur Tracks. Located about 4.5 miles along SR 279 which follows the Colorado River. A spotting scope is provided for roadside viewing of the tracks.

 

Moab has two visitor locations which showcase exhibits and displays on archaeology, geology, paleontology, dinosaur bones, and plants:  The Dan O'Laurie Museum, and the visitor center at Dead Horse Point State Park, north of Moab.

 

 

Blanding, Utah has.....

The Dinosaur Museum of Blanding.  The entire family can see rare skeletons and fossils from the Four Corners area and around the world. Walk under the jaws of a Tyrannosaurus and come eye to eye with life size adult and baby dinosaur sculptures. Stand beside a giant, fossilized tree upright for the first time in 275 million years. The museum also contains a "History Hall of Hollywood Dinosaur Movies" with movie memorabilia from the silent classics all the way through the high tech dinosaurs of todays' cinema. Paleontology exhibits complete the collection including dinosaur eggs and fossilized dinosaur skin.

 

Dinosaurs in Southwestern Utah

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St. George, Utah has......

The St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm. Dinosaur tracks were discovered on the farm in February, 2000, and it has become quite an attraction. The site is in the early stages of scientific study - so far more than 1,000 tracks have been found within a 10-acre area. Most were made by Dilophosaurus-like creatures and are three-toes, 13-18 inches long. There are also some smaller tracks and researchers have identified skin prints and impressions made by tail drags and swimming movements.

The tracks were found in large slabs of sandstone from the Moenave Formation, dating back some 205 million years to the beginning of the dinosaur era. Residents tromped over that very sandstone for years, never realizing it sheltered such treasures. Nobody new, until Dr. Sheldon Johnson flipped over a slab while trying to level his land. There, on the underside, the tracks were clearly visible.

Most of the tracks are actually "negative impression" casts that appear as bumps on the stone. The area was the bottom of an ancient freshwater lake in the center of the super-continent Pangea. Footprints left in the mud filled with silt and sand, and more sand was deposited over the top. The mixture eventually solidified into sandstone and mudstone, forming the casts. Now, when the slabs are flipped over, the casts appear, much like Jell-o popping out of a mold.

Dr. Johnson donated his land to the city of St. George and the U.S. Congress appropriated funds to help construct a science and visitor center. Volunteers do most of the work at the site.

 

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