On to Dinoland

Mystic of Holyhead (successor to Lynn Rival)
Rachel and Paul Chandler
Mon 14 Oct 2019 21:16
It was snowing heavily when we drove out of Jackson Hole, travelling south through western Wyoming on a quiet road with little traffic.  At first we drove past ranch after ranch, seeing vast herds of beef cattle.  We stopped for brunch at Pinehole, a small town selling all things ranch and cowboy-related, which fortunately had a good diner.  Beyond there the terrain is very sparse for mile upon mile with no services at all.  Drivers are regularly warned about the risk of wildllife and stock.  The risk of hitting a migrating pronghorn is high.  They even have wildlife bridges, fenced either side to funnel them in and across safely.

Heading south, hoping for better weather

Eventually we reached Interstate 80 - which runs east-west - and the town of Rock Springs where we stocked up on beer.  Soon we would be reaching the Utah border and we were not sure how easy it would be to buy alcohol there.  (Some states are more restrictive than others - in Montana they don't sell beer in supermarkets.)  After a short drive on the I80 we turned south again towards the Utah border and Flaming Gorge Reservoir.  We stopped to take a look at the dam.  It was windy and cold so we didn't linger and continued on to our destination, a town called Vernal.


Why visit Vernal?  This part of Utah doesn't attract the crowds - if nothing else the price of accommodation is about a third of that in Jackson or Yellowstone.  The big attraction for us was the nearby Dinosaur National Monument which straddles the Utah/Colorado border.  (A National Monument is like a National Park but...)

Dinosaur country.  More about the geological colour scheme later.

After scraping ice off the windscreen the following morning we drove to the Carnegie Quarry where a vast hoard of fossilized dinosaur bones from the Jurassic period was discovered in 1909.  Many were excavated and assembled as skeletons for exhibit in museums but others remain untouched. The quarry wall - with bones partially exposed as if the excavators had just stopped for a tea-break - is a fascinating sight.

Old bones in the 'quarry' wall

A small part of the explanatory texts

More bones - all exposed by excavation but remaining embedded in the bearing stratum

Apart from the quarry the National Monument is a vast protected area of countryside, with rock formations and canyons that provide a good introduction to the wonders of Utah (and Colorado in the eastern part of the park).

Intrepid explorer.  But for what was he looking? . . .

Rock art.  A selection of petroglyphs from the rock wall above the I.E.

A minor canyon

Confluence of the Green River and the Yampa River - from the park road on the Colorado side of the state border

Looking up the course of the Green River, from Harper's Corner

Another view of the confluence.  Not sure how the rivers maintain a sense of direction!

Some of the trees were not very well

Bi-lingual signage in the hotel - but what is the second lingo?