A Jurassic Playground… Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument is located on the border between Colorado and Utah on the southeast flank of the Unita Mountains. This photo featuring the Green River was taken near our campsite. Yellow Rabbit Bush provides a splash of yellow.

While Dinosaur National Monument lacks the grandeur of some of it’s better-known cousins, it has an armload of subtle beauty, two gorgeous rivers, and a super abundance of dinosaur bones that attract world-renowned paleontologists like bears to honey.

It also has a fine collection of Indian rock-art and at least one eccentric pioneer. I’ll save the rock-art for my next blog but I’ll introduce the pioneer now. Her name was Josie Basset Morris. She lived to be 90 years old, divorced four husbands, buried a fifth, and spent the majority of her life living alone in the backcountry of what is now Dinosaur National Monument.

She was one tough old coot.

During Prohibition, she was known for making a fine apricot brandy. In her 60s she was arrested and acquitted for cattle rustling, twice.

Peggy and I went to visit the log cabin that she had built and lived in for 50 years. Natural features compensated for what it lacked in modern amenities such as electricity, running water and a phone. An ice-cold spring provided water, a hidden box canyon served as a corral, and river bottom dirt supplied fertile ground for fruit trees and other crops. 

Apparently she lived quite well. But what about the tough times? I am guessing she lived off of homemade booze and rustled filet mignon.

Peggy stands next to the log cabin that Josie Basset Morris lived in for 50 years and provides a five-foot, six-inch perspective on the size of the cabin.

A photo of Josie at her cabin in the early 50s. (Photo from Google images.)

Earl Douglass was working for the Carnegie Museum out of Pittsburg PA when he discovered the dinosaur bones in 1909. He was looking for more recent mammal fossils. The dinosaurs roamed the area in Jurassic times, some 100 million years ago. He spent several years digging bones, packing them up and shipping them off to Pittsburg where you can now see them reassembled at the museum.

Or you can visit the Douglass Quarry at Dinosaur National Monument and see how paleontologists dig up the bones. Some 1400 have been exposed and labeled at the Quarry. It’s an incredible site. It was closed when Peggy and I visited due to disrepair but fortunately I had visited it before.  Funding from the Obama Administration has since allowed this treasure to be reopened to visitors from around the world.

Peggy and I satisfied our desire to see dinosaur bones by scrambling around on the hillside near the Quarry and stopping off at the Visitor Center. The Peripatetic Bone was impressed with his ancient relatives.

The Peripatetic Bone was quite impressed with the size of his ancient relatives. Here he rests on dinosaur toes at the Dinosaur National Monument Visitor Center.

Since the Douglass Quarry was closed we scrambled up the hillside to find where a dinosaur bone had been exposed in the hillside.

We camped on the Green River and looked out on the surrounding mountains. Dinosaur National Monument is located on the southeast flank of the Unita Mountain Range, which is a part of the Rockies. Both the Green River and its sister, the Yampa, make my river running friends drool.

The River was wide and calm where we camped, however. Fremont Cottonwoods provided shade and rabbit bush a dash of yellow. I wandered around with my camera and enjoyed the beauty. 

Next blog: The Petroglyphs of Dinosaur National Monument.

View from our campsite on the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument.

A close up of the mountains shown in the Dinosaur National Monument photo above.

Another view of the mountains from our campsite on the Green River in Utah. This photo is set off by Fremont Cottonwood Trees.

The leaf of a Fremont Cottonwood tree backlit by the sun.

Flowers decorating the road into Dinosaur National Monument.

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