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Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado and Utah

A dinosaur fossil from the national monument. (NPS photo)

Around 150 million years ago, a large river flowed through the land that is now Dinosaur National Monument. Many different species of dinosaurs lived near this river, relying on the water, riverine plants, and other animals as food. Some of these dinosaurs died near the river and were subsequently covered by sand, mud, and gravel. As time passed, additional layers of sediment buried the skeletons. Minerals filled in gaps in the bones, fossilizing and freezing them in the rock that developed from the surrounding mud. Through geologic uplift, the layers with dinosaur bones were pushed to the surface and were exposed to the erosive forces of wind and water. It was at the top of a hill that these fossil deposits were discovered by paleontologist Earl Douglass in 1909. The large area that contained the fossils was called dinosaur quarry.

The dinosaur quarry at Dinosaur National Monument has produced some of the most spectacular and complete dinosaur fossils in the world. More than half of known dinosaur species that lived during the Jurassic period in North America are represented at Dinosaur National Monument. Soon after their discovery, the stunning dinosaur fossils of northeastern Utah attracted national attention. The majority of the fossils excavated from the quarry by Earl Douglass were sent to the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh, offering the general public a glimpse of these fantastic creatures. Soon after, on February 11, 1916 Woodrow Wilson established Dinosaur National Monument to protect “an extraordinary deposit of Dinosaurian and other gigantic reptilian remains (Proc. No. 1313).”

While the main exhibit wall of fossils at the Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center is not currently available to the public, visitors can see a few fossils by hiking about 1/2 mile from the Outdoor Visitor Center. There are still excellent reasons to visit Dinosaur. The Monument is a spectacular 210,000-acre park with fantastic geology, a gorgeous landscape, diverse habitats, ancient Native American Rock Art, and an array of early homesteads sites. Dinosaur's rugged river canyons provide world famous whitewater boating opportunities on the Green and Yampa Rivers.

Upon hearing about the President’s proclamation, responses have included:

  • “Immeasurable! I am proud that our country still preserves land of such beauty and diversity for the public. I truly hope this is not threatened.”
  • “It helps us to realize our place in a changing world. . . we're not the first things to live here and we probably won't be the last - stewardship.”
  • “Undeveloped, natural canyon lands and wildlife habitat. Seeing what a real canyon looks like without man's interference.”
  • “You must know where you came from to know where you are going. The past can be the key to unlock the future.”


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