Saturday, September 3, 2016

A recap of our time in Dinosaurland - Vernal, Utah

As I said before, we were busy during our stay in Vernal.   It is a good sized town  (about 9000 people) that seems a little rough around the edges.    It's economy largely depends on extracting natural resources such as oil, natural gas and phosphate and to a lesser extent tourism, as it is home to a large site of ancient dinosaur fossils.

The Green River cuts a wide, brilliant green slash through the otherwise sagebrush covered  plains.    The Uinta Mountains rise and run east and west sheltering rich deposits of dinosaur bones and the longest corridor of Fremont Indian petroglyphs in the world.

Split Mountain
We visited the "Wall of Bones" encased in the Quarry Exhibit Hall located over the world famous Carnegie Quarry at Dinosaur National Monument.   We  marveled at the sheer number of intact bones embedded in a steep hillside which was once an oxbow in an ancient river.   These bones were partially excavated and then left as they were found for us to see and even touch.     Many of the finest museums in the world display dinosaur skeletons excavated here.

the Exhibit hall is built into the side of the hillside containing the fossils

Nearby Red Fleet State Park has a large area of fossilized dinosaur footprints in an area that was once a sandy beach.    We arrived there quite late in the day so we didn't make the hike around the lake to see them but saw their location from across the time we'll get ourselves around or even kayak across to see them.

the slanted red slab was once a sandy beach

One of our days we combined an off road jeep trip and a short hike to see Moonshine Arch.

it was a long way up this rough trail

  I was really happy to finally reach the shade of the arch, I haven't hiked in quite awhile and the final uphill section in the brilliant sun nearly took me out!      I'm soooo glad I persevered, the arch was beautiful and its setting unusual.

The arch is about 85 feet long and 40 feet above the ground.   I sat beneath it and caught my breath.....

There was a deep alcove along one side with an unusual hole in its end.  Its ceiling was a study in beautiful swirls and channels.

Moonshine Arch truly is a hidden gem so very close to Steinaker State Park.


  1. Cool place - cannot fathom our lives with dinosaurs running about...and Lewis thinks little kids on bikes are scary!

  2. I'm glad we finally made a stop in this area. I knew we would love the gorge, but not being big dinosaur fans, we weren't sure about the National Monument. What a pleasant surprise! We really enjoyed it. I love how they preserved the location by leaving the bones for us to view naturally. That is quite a climb up to the Moonshine Arch! We had a bright sunny day, as well, to keep us way too warm. But as you said it was worth the effort.

  3. I love how this area is kind of a hidden gem...we didn't have to share it with too many people!

  4. We're not really "into" dinosaurs either, but this is a place we definitely want to visit. (Next time you're at Lake Powell, check out the nearby visitor center for Grand Staircase-Escalante. They have an amazing mural of dinosaurs—that's where I learned that all dinosaurs had feathers. Isn't that the craziest thing??) Great photos of your hike to Moonshine Arch—it's on our list, too! :-)

  5. What a beautiful arch!! Your pics of all the swirls and colors are wonderful. Don't you love those rough roads in the Wrangler? We can't wait to get Piper out on some of those. And of course we would loooove all the dinosaur bones. Definitely have to get back there!!