What do you get when you find a LOT of dinosaur bones, so many that they cannot all fit into the museum? You get Dinosaur National Monument.
The main draw of this park which stretches across the northwest corner of Colorado and into Utah is undoubtedly the Quarry Exhibit Hall. When paleontologist Earl Douglass discovered fossils here in 1909 he began digging and sending them off to the Carnegie Museum. There were so many bones in just this one rock layer the museum ran out of space to house them and Douglass left the remaining specimens in the rock with the hope that the government would offer the public a chance to see them there. He got his wish. The original building enclosing and protecting the quarry site was constructed on bentonitic sands that expand and contract thus causing cracks to form in the walls soon after. By the 1960s the building was clearly unsafe, but the newly edified structure was completed and reopened to the public in 2011.
Inside the Quarry Exhibit Hall we found the fascinating quarry wall with its 1500 visible fossils. Many can be touched. These are not replicas, but real live (dead) dinosaur bones. Just seeing them is exciting, but to be allowed to touch is extra cool! Interactive exhibits help you find and identify the various types of dinosaurs represented.
Bones are not the only draw here. The park encompasses a vast canyon and two rivers. Ancient people left numerous petroglyphs on the cliff walls. Rafting trips are available on the rivers, hiking trails take you through diverse ecosystems, and a pioneer cabin stands restored and open to tour. We hiked the short trail into Box Canyon, walked through the cabin, and saw most of the petroglyphs before the rain turned us back.
If you are not into dinosaurs this might be a park you’d be tempted to skip, but there is so much more to it. I wish we could rave about the rest of it and the camping, but we blew a tire in southern Wyoming and also have a broken water pump so we had to camp somewhere nearer to civilization and with water hook-ups (oh, bummer...). Anyway, in our one-day visit to Dinosaur National Monument we barely scratched the surface but saw enough to know this is a place we could visit again and enjoy for several days.