What is Dinosaur National Monument?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2019
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Dinosaur National Monument is a site that has been designated for protection by the United States government because it contains numerous fossilized remains of dinosaurs. These fossils are of paleontological interest and some have been preserved in situ so that members of the public can see fossils in the natural environment. The monument straddles the border between Utah and Colorado, near the towns of Dinosaur, Colorado and Vernal, Utah.

Fossils were first discovered at this site in 1909. President Woodrow Wilson became interested in the area, and designated it as a protected site in 1915. Paleontologists continue to work at Dinosaur National Monument, uncovering new specimens that provide valuable clues into the fossil record and the history of the dinosaurs. Some are displayed at the site, while others are in storage in museums and other facilities so that researchers can more easily access them.

This site is marked with a number of deep canyons, with walls showing striated patterns that reflect the geological history of the area. Dinosaur National Monument has a semi-arid climate that has helped preserve the fossils that formed there millions of years ago, and there are a number of hiking trails and campsites accessible for camp visitors. People are charged fees for camping and entering the park in a vehicle.


One of the more remarkable features of Dinosaur National Monument is the quarry, a site with exposed dinosaur fossils that have been preserved in place. As of 2010, the quarry was closed for restoration. The unstable ground in the area made the building unsafe for visitors and substantial retrofitting was needed. Funds from the Economic Stimulus Plan were earmarked for restoration of the quarry and many other sites administered by the National Parks Service. A virtual tour of the quarry is available for current visitors. Fossils from Dinosaur National Monument along with reproductions are also on display.

Colorado and Utah have a number of other sites of interest, including the Florissant Fossil Beds, Arches National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado National Monument, and Canyonlands National Park. Rainbow Bridge, believed to be the largest national bridge known, is just over the Utah border in New Mexico. Visitors who want to take a tour of the parks in this region may want to consider purchasing a National Parks Pass. These passes are available for a flat fee and offer admission to all national parks without the need to pay vehicle fees.


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