This week is the grand opening of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, so we thought it would be a fitting time to talk about Dinosaurs in the United States. The Jurassic period is know as the Age of the Dinosaurs and it spanned from 208 to 144 million years ago. So National Park Units – Jurassic Style leads to thinking about Dinosaur National Monument.
Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument on the border of Colorado and Utah. Split between two states, the visitor center is in Utah and the monument is in Colorado. It is hard to picture dinosaurs wandering around Utah and Colorado, but at Dinosaur National Monument you can clearly see their remains, embedded in stone.
The monument was created in 1915 specifically to protect the dinosaur quarry. Initially 80 protected acres, the park now has 210,000 acres with a huge diversity of plant and animal life – fossilized and alive!
When you go into the Quarry Visitor Center, you can see bones littered in front of you on the wall. That’s what makes this place really unique. Usually when you see fossils, either they have been excavated, put back together and then displayed; or they are displayed in the ground where they lay.
But at Dinosaur National Park the fossils are in front of you. There are over 1,500 fossil bones on that one wall.
You can even touch a 150 million year old fossil and get your photo with replica dinosaurs. It’s fun for the whole family.
Plan to see more than just the visitor center. There are hikes from the visitor center, an auto tour of the park, camping, rafting, tons of wildlife and more.
Hint. It is hot in the summer months. Be prepared with plenty of water. Don’t bring pets because you can’t take them with you into the Visitor Center and you can’t leave them in the car.
Other National Park Units with Fossils
If you like geology and are interested in learning more about plants and animals that lived on this earth millions of years ago, there are several other national park units that preserve fossils:
- Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Nebraska – here you will see remains of mammals that lived between 19 and 21 million years ago – rhinoceros, gazelle-camel, burrowing dryland beavers and a predator from the birddog family.
- Badlands National Park National Monument, South Dakota – you don’t think of the Badlands as fossils, but there have been fossil studies of ancient animals and fish here since 1846.
- Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado - this unit has a great display of fossilized insects and plants, plus petrified redwood stumps up to 14 feet wide.
- Fossil Butte National Monument, Wyoming – called Americas Aquarium in Stone, here you will see a great display of fossilized fishes and reptiles, plus plants and animals.
- Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, Idaho – known for the Hagerman Horse, the first true one toed horse, this park also preserves fossils of over two hundred other species.
- John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon – fossil records here span over 40 million years
- Waco Mammoth National Monument, Texas - one of the newest national park units, established July 10, 2015., it preserves the remains of mammoths from 67,000 years ago.
North Dakota Heritage Center
We would be remiss if we didn’t share one of our favorite Dinosaur exhibits with you. On a rainy Saturday, we stopped by the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck, North Dakota. It is not a national park unit but it was amazing… They call it the Smithsonian on the Plains. There were full sized skeletons of a Tyrannosaurus and a Triceratops, plus pre-historic fish and a giant sloth. Really unique was the mummified skin of Duckbill Dinosaur.
If you are ever visiting the state capitol of North Dakota (maybe on your way to Teddy Roosevelt National Park), stop by to see the exhibits.
Have you been to any other great dinosaur exhibits? If so, please let us know! Just comment below.