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Dinosaurs and views along the Dinosaur Diamond

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By Wayne Lazarus on March 23rd, 2010

Categories: Popular Cities

Celebrate spring with a three or four-day drive through some of this country’s most glorious scenery, an area with ample access to the remains of North America’s oldest inhabitants — dinosaurs.

Designated a National Scenic Byway in 2002, the 500-mile Dinosaur Diamond runs along western Colorado and through eastern Utah. Named because the shape of the trail is similar to a diamond, the drive goes through Arches and Canyonlands national parks, the Dinosaur and Colorado national monuments and along the Colorado and Green rivers. Throughout there are colorful and dramatic vistas of mountain and desert scenery.

Start your trip in Fruita (next to Grand Junction, Colorado) with a visit to the Museum of Western Colorado’s Dinosaur Journey Museum, which has dinosaur bones, robotic reconstructions and skeletal mounts, as well as historical photos of digs from the area.

Then head north (about two hours) to the spectacular scenery at the Dinosaur National Monument. The Quarry Visitor Center, with its 1500 bones embedded in the earth, is being renovated and is expected to open in the fall of 2011. There is a temporary visitor center with exhibits and bones. Nearby is a half-mile trail where walkers can see fossils in the earth and other unusual geographic features. The park is home to both petroglyphs and pictographs from the early human inhabitants.

Field HouseMake your reservations through for nearby Vernal, then visit the Utah Field House of Natural History Museum and the Dinosaur Gardens. Life-sized dinosaurs (including a 20-foot Tyrannoaurus Rex) oversee the garden. Fossils and other exhibits are inside. The area has multiple recreational opportunities, including the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and the Uinta Mountains (where you can see the Fremont petroglyphs) north and west of Vernal.

Back on the Dinosaur Diamond, drive west (on 40/191) to Price to see the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum, which has complete skeletons from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, dinosaur tracks, eggs and other fossils.

South of Price is the Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, where visitors can view a working quarry. The Quarry is open weekends until Memorial Day, when it opens every day through September 6. Further along highway 10 is the Museum of the San Rafael at Castle Dale, which has a fossilized dinosaur egg, a Tyrannosaurus skull and Allosaurus, Chasmosaurus and Albertosaurus skeletons.

dinotrack1Next along the diamond, take I-70 towards Moab, another good stop for the evening.  North of Moab on highway 191, the tracks of a brontosaurus and others are preserved in the ground at the Sauropod Dinosaur Tracksite. Further along 191 there is a self-guided tour to see tracks and fossils at the half-mile Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail (see map.) In Moab, the Dan O’Laurie Canyon Country Museum has dinosaur and geological exhibits.

South of Moab, see a mummified duckbill dinosaur at the Dinosaur Museum of Blanding, as well as other skeletons, footprints and dinosaur sculptures.

(Photos: Courtesy Utah Office of Tourism.)

Note: There are many other scenic drives, hikes and views in this region. Plan plenty of time to enjoy them.

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