Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem dry ... are everywhere! 10/20 - 10/22

Dinosaur National Monument (DNM), near Jensen, Utah 

Tergel is barely visible in the cottonwood trees, along the Green River.  Not a bad campsite!
(the white camper [middle of photo] departed after I took this picture)  Enlarge photo for better view.

Tergel and Smartie look quite at home here in Split Mountain C/G.  Split Mtn reminds me of Yosemite's Half Dome.  Our dinette faces the mountain -- and it's the first thing I see in the morning!

This national monument is another of those places I've wanted to visit, and this is the year!  I am so glad we waited till mid-October, because the park is empty.  Split Mountain is the only campground open this time of year in DNM, with maybe one or two other campers pull in for the nite to join Tergel, leaving the next day.  There are no hookups, of course, and park personnel had already turned off the water for the winter, so no fee was being charged!  And the quiet, both day and nite, is a miracle.  Other than a breeze in the cottonwoods, hardly a sound can be heard.

It isn't hot, either, as it would be in summer.  Lofty Fremont Cottonwoods lining the Green River have turned an "old" gold color that shimmers in the sun.  The Green River flows swiftly south, to join the Colorado River, and it really is green.  The sad news is no rafts are running this late in the season, because rafting the Green, surrounded by towering canyon walls, would be almost like shooting the Colorado!  We called around, but it was no go.  We have our own tandem inflatable raft with us, but neither of us wants to tackle Class I-III rapids with names such as Moonshine and SOB, etc., before the takeout point right here at Split Mtn.  Heck, before today we didn't even know we could raft down the Green, so it's not a big deal that we missed out.

Anyway, back to dem dry bones!

Our first stop after setting up was the Visitor Center, where we learned a caravan to the Quarry Exhibit Hall occurs every hour.  We put Smartie in line for the next trip to the Quarry.  Look at this building!  Located over the Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry, the steeply tilted wall inside allows visitors to view dinosaur bones in situ.  The enclosing rock was chipped away to reveal the bones.  Hundreds of fossilized bones of Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Apatasaurus, Diplodicus, along with several others, were found embedded in the rocks.  Jimmy and I were overwhelmed when we walked thru the doors and spotted the massive wall.

 This is the lower floor, with exhibits and "touch me" dinosaur bones.  The wall of bones was too large for my camera.

With Jimmy standing in front of one area, you can judge the wall size.

While many of these bones are smallish, quite a few large ones are visible.

A bit of history ... the quarry site was discovered in 1909 by Earl Douglass, a paleontologist from the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh.  Douglass had been working in the Unita Basin, unearthing 40-million-year-old mammal fossils.  In the hope of finding dinosaur skeletons for display at the Carnegie Museum, Douglass was sent to the flanks of the Unita Mountains where uplift had exposed rocks from the age of dinosaurs.  Among the layers of rocks here is a formation known at the Morrison Formation. 

The Morrison Formation originated approximately 150 million years ago as floodplain deposits. It was widespread, covering the area that is now Colorado, Wyoming, eastern Utah, northern New Mexico, parts of Montana and South Dakota, and the panhandle of Oklahoma. These sediments were deposited under conditions favorable for the burial and preservation of skeletal remains. Most of the Jurassic-age dinosaurs known from North America come from the Morrison Formation. This rock unit is named after Morrison, Colorado, a small town west of Denver where the first major discovery of Morrison dinosaurs was made in 1877.  Much of this information was unknown to me or Jimmy, and it was fascinating to learn.

 Jimmy sez, "See the old fossil?  And also the dinosaur bones?"

 Interesting teeth for a Sauropod Dinosaur.

This is a cast skeleton of an Allosaurus, the most common predatory animal in the Morrison Ecosystem.  The skeleton is about the same size as the large skull on exhibit at left.  Think Jurassic Park?  Eeeeek!!

* * * * *

As we were finishing dinner, I was watching the play of light and colors on Split Mtn.  Just before sunset, this dramatic sight made me grab my camera and rush outside!  (no retouching ... this is truly how it looked.) Breathtaking end of an extra-special day!

After dark, around 9:30, I walked outside to see if I could spot any meteors from Oriniod's meteor shower. At first I felt scared because it was SO blasted DARK.  As my eyes adjusted to nighttime, I backed up to Smartie and looked up.  The Milky Way and "billions and billions" of stars spread above me; the vision was hypnotic.  I didn't see any "shooting stars" this time, tho I usually do, but spotted quite a few jets screaming high across the sky, their flashing red lights a dead giveaway.  Jimmy put on a warm jacket and joined me.  We craned our necks upward for quite a spell, watching individual stars or planets pulsing, looking east, looking west, hushed.  Except for the Green River lapping at its banks, our breathing was the only sound.  Clouds to the west seemed to be reflecting the dying sun's rays, so the dark wasn't quite as inky as it seemed when I first stepped outdoors.  Rain was in the forecast for later.  We called it a nite, went back inside, closed the door, and hit the sack.  


  1. I'm happy to see that the wall of bones is once again open to the public. The year I volunteered there, 2008, the building had been condemned. I spent 32 hrs/week standing outside telling irate international visitors that they could no longer see the wall. It wasn't one of my most enjoyable summers because of that, but I did love my full hookup spot in the campground. The scenery was amazing. I hope you took the box canyon hike at Josie's cabin.

  2. Oh my goodness, what a beautiful place! And dem bones! This is now on our bucket list.....

  3. Dem Bones...perfect. Isn't that complete darkness a wonderful thing?!! one of my favorite pieces of dry camping alone in the desert or canyon country. I love it.

  4. Things have sure changed there ... when we visited in the late '80s, and again in the early 90's, the building was much smaller, and there was no caravaning. I loved seeing all those dinosaur bones. I made a third trip -- or attempted to do -- but our arrival coincided with a 'government closure day' due to the budget not being passed, and the gate to the quarry was closed ... sigh!


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