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Dinosaur National Monument | Roadtrip USA (33)

After some fantastic days in Rocky mountain national park, it was time for the next destinations: Dinosaur National Monument and Salt Lake City! We had to go to Salt Lake City to pick up our new laptop (it was broken after 3 weeks and sent in for repair…). We also had to get some parts for the camper. Fortunately, we were able to break up the long drive with some nice camping spots and Dinosaur National Monument, where we saw and touched real dinosaur bones. You can also admire complete built-up skeletons of real dinosaurs, which lived here millions of years ago. So worth a visit.


The ultimate tour of North America

This article is part of a large one-year tour the United States en Canada in 2022, with a Dutch 4×4 camper that we shipped ourselves… It is a bucket list worthy and a once in a lifetime experience that will never be forgotten.

The ultimate roadtrip route through America and Canada | Wereldreizigers.nl
The ultimate roadtrip route through America and Canada | Wereldreizigers.nl

We wrote almost 100 articles about this ultimate tour. Below is a handy overview in 5 expandable categories.

1. Preparation
2. Highlights & Itineraries
3. Cities & places of interest (AZ)
4. National Parks & Monuments (AZ)
5. Plan your vacation to America here

From the Rockies to Salt Lake City

From the Rockies it was a tough drive to Salt Lake City so we decided to break it up into smaller pieces. We deliberately did not drive on Interstate 80, but on Highway 40. This road is less busy and there is more to see along the way. After a 6 hour drive we first stopped at Maybell Park, a small campsite in the middle of the seriously small town of Maybell. We paid $20 a night here. There were showers, toilets and even wifi!

Route from the Rockies to Salt Lake City - 1
Route from the Rockies to Salt Lake City – 1

We were the only ones on the campsite until a cyclist arrived. It was Arjun from San Francisco. He is on his way to Boston, where he will be moving. He covers the road to his new hometown with his bicycle. That is about 5300 km and with this it crosses at least twelve states from the west to the east coast. What a dick!

To Dinosaur National Monument

After two nice quiet nights at the campsite and the nice meeting, we drove on towards the desert, where the very unique Dinosaur National Monument is located. In a few hours the environment here changes from hilly green to a barren, flat desert. Watch the video below to drive a bit along the route with us.

On to Park City

After spending several hours at Dinosaur National monument, we continued on to Park City, about an hour east of Salt Lake City. Here we looked for a place to spend the night, so that we could cross the huge mountain pass (the Guardsman Pass) to the big city the next morning.

Route from the Rockies to Salt Lake City - 2
Route from the Rockies to Salt Lake City – 2

Guardsman Pass

The guardsman pass is an extreme one, which you absolutely cannot drive with a large camper. Your car length may be a maximum of 18 ft, so 6 meters. And let ours be exactly 6 meters!

Tip:: Those with a vehicle larger than 18ft can reach Salt Lake City approximately 50 miles north of Guardsman Pass via Interstate 80.

Route from the Rockies to Salt Lake City - 3
Route from the Rockies to Salt Lake City – 3

So our camper can legally cross the pass. We decided to give it a shot and I can tell you it was quite intense. Some parts had a gradient of more than 20% and our camper had some trouble with it at times. More than once I had to go up in first (!) gear and take very tight turns, as seen in the video below. Every horsepower we had at our disposal proved to be necessary to tame this beast.

After you've braved the Guardsman Pass, you'll enter Salt Lake City in a unique way. Suddenly a completely different environment than that mountain pass! But before we talk about Salt Lake City in the next blog first a little about our experience at Dinosaur National Monument…

About Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument in the United States is located on the border between Colorado and Utah where the Green River and Yampa River meet.

Dinosaurs once roamed here. Their fantastic remains are still clearly visible in the rocks. It is one of the few places on earth where you can see real dinosaur fossils, from large to small. It is therefore a nice stopover if, like us, you are making miles through the states of Colorado and Utah.

The Discovery of Earl Douglass

In 1909 paleontologist Earl Douglass looking for fossils when he discovered a formation of dinosaur bones. Numerous bones were excavated and exhibited worldwide. A quarry was later established and in 1915 the Dinosaur National Monument was established to protect 80 acres in the quarry area. Today, the monument encompasses 210.844 hectares.

Rock formations protruding vertically from the ground led to the discovery of dinosaur bones and fossils
Rock formations that protrude vertically from the ground have led to the discovery of dinosaur bones and fossils

Fossils in a sandbank

Many fossils are embedded in what was once a sandbar on the edge of a large river. When the river carried animal carcasses downstream, many got stuck on the sandbar, which eventually turned to stone. As a result, fossils of hundreds of creatures are concentrated in a small area. Many fossilized bones have been partially exposed, but deliberately left intact in the rock where they are easily seen by the public. A building now known as “The Quarry” has been erected over the area at the memorial. Below are some photos from The Quarry.

If you look closely, you will see dinosaur tails, heads, hips and legs | Dinosaur National Monument
If you look closely, you will see dinosaur tails, heads, hips and legs | Dinosaur National Monument
If you look closely, you will see dinosaur tails, heads, hips and legs | Dinosaur National Monument
If you look closely, you will see dinosaur tails, heads, hips and legs | Dinosaur National Monument

The unique rock formations in this area provide a geological record of Earth's history spanning billions of years. Part of the mission of the national monument is to understand that history.

Of course there is also a lot of information about the dinosaurs that were found in the stone.

The Allosaurus

They found an Allosaurus here, among other things. In fact, this skeleton turns out to be one of the most complete flesh-eating dinosaur skeletons ever found. He is proudly displayed here, partly still in the stone in which he was found.

Allosaurus | Dinosaur National Monument
Allosaurus | Dinosaur National Monument

It's crazy to think that you're not sitting here looking at a piece of plastic, but actually a dinosaur skeleton, which emptied here millions of years ago. The shape of its head is easy to see and the teeth are still terrifying after all these years.

Information and a head of the Allosaurus | Dinosaur National Monument
Information and a head of the Allosaurus | Dinosaur National Monument

Other dinosaurs

Incidentally, several skeletons have been set up in the hall. One even more beautiful than the other. They have also half excavated a few heads and put them on display so that you can admire them up close.

Head of a Calamasaurus
Head of a Calamasaurus
Head of an Allosaurus | Dinosaur National Monument
Head of an Allosaurus | Dinosaur National Monument

It is wonderful to admire the real fossils and bones with a representation of what nature looked like back then. It really does take you back in time.

Dinosaur national monument
Dinosaur national monument

Just before you walk out of the hall there is, of course, another impressive exhibit of a large, terrifying dinosaur. This is a replica of plastic, but that doesn't make it any less beautiful.

Dinosaur national monument
Dinosaur national monument

Conclusion

Dinosaur National Monument is a nice stopover if you happen to be traveling between Rocky Mountain National Park and Salt Lake City. It is a small park where you can spend several hours and learn a lot about dinosaurs in a short time. It is also one of the few places in the world where you can actually see dinosaur bones where they were found.

We did not walk in the park, because we were passing through, but the trails here must be very beautiful. You will also encounter plenty of fossils and dinosaur bones on the trails. If you have the time, a walk is absolutely worth it.

Whoever has a National Park Pass gets free access to this national monument. Both The Quarry and the park for walking are included in the pass, so take advantage!


Plan your vacation to America here


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Chris

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