Day 22-24 Vernal, Utah   Leave a comment

The guests agreed that our drive from Rock Springs, WY, to Vernal, UT was one of the prettiest and commented that it can’t get any prettier.

 
     
 
     
 
     
 

Every time I say that, the next travel day proves me wrong because it does just keep getting prettier and prettier.

Flaming Gorge Dam has altered the flows of the Green River, converting what was once a wildly fluctuating river with poor fishing to a steadily flowing blue-ribbon trout fishery.

 
     
 

Red Canyon, Depth 1,700 feet – width about 4,000 feet. Indians, explorers, mountain men, hunters, trappers, outlaws, stockmen and ranchers have given the canyons and alleys a colorful history.

Long before and through the Age of Dinosaurs, layers of sediments were deposited in ancient oceans, deserts, and lakes that once covered this land. Heat and pressure over the years compressed the sediments into rock layers called formations. Over millions of years the Green River carved through the rock layers. Then shifts in the earth’s crust bent the formations upward to form the Uinta Mountains. As the gradual uplift of the mountains occurred, the Green River held its place, cutting down through 1,700 feet of Red Canyon.

 
     
 

Those parallel, upturned ridges you can see are actually remnants of resistant rock strata known as hogbacks. The actual rock is more than a billion years old but the Uinta Mountains themselves have been here for only about 60 millions years. The mountains are rising because the soft basins are eroding faster than the hard mountains. Each hogback is all that’s left exposed from a period of erosion that began 65 million years ago. During the period, these horizontal beds of rock were folded, faulted and uplifted to form the Uinta Mountains. The uplifted area is known as an anticline. These rocks tell us that this region has seen a lot of changes over the last 500 million years.

 
     
 

Basins are the geologic low points between mountain ranges and Vernal is in the Uinta basin. Rock layers that are tilted up and exposed on the sides of the mountains are also found thousands of feet directly below the surface.

The Green and Yampa Rivers flow through the mountains, not simply down from them. The rivers were here before the mountains. As the mountains rose, the rivers cut through them. It’s very unusual for a river to flow through a mountain range.

 

Utah House of Natural History State Park Museum sits amidst some of the most spectacular geologic and paleontologic resources on earth. This vast wealth of resources drew scientists from all over the world for research and collection. Most of these priceless fossils were leaving the Uinta Basin for destinations elsewhere. In order to retain these items locally, the Utah Field House of Natural History arose.

Below is a 2.7 billion year old back leg bone from a long-necked, sauropod dinosaur. Our guide encouraged us to all touch something that was older than ourselves.

Below is a photo of the remains of a Haplocanthosaurus, a rare find. It was found near Vernal and is the most complete skeleton of this animal ever discovered, with the exception of its head. They have yet to find the head of a Haplocanthosaurus, but when they do, they will have a lot of unanswered questions.

Below are the Back Claw, Front Claw and tooth of an Allosaurus.

Dinosaur National Monument is an area of rich history, paleontological, exploration, Native American, outlaw, and natural history that marks it as one of America’s last inaccessible regions, a romantic place where the Old West stayed young. In 1909, paleontologist Earl Douglass discovered a 200 foot long sandbar layered with prehistoric plant and animal fossils, now part of Dinosaur National Monument. There are more than 1,500 dinosaur bones left exposed in the sandstone wall. It takes its name from the remarkable deposit of fossil bones in the southwestern corner of the area. Fossilized bones of crocodiles, turtles, and 10 species of dinosaurs, ranging in size from 7 inches to 76 feet, have been brought to view by excavating river sediment in the 150 million year old Morrison Formation. Numerous dinosaur bone fragments are embedded in the rock. Below is a picture of a fossilized vertebrae.

There is a fossil discovery trail that takes you back in time, through millions of years of the earth’s history.

 

Over millions of years, dynamic forces have been pushing and twisting the ground below, revealing past environments. This guide focuses on three past ecosystems that illustrate how our planet has evolved. After walking along the hillside, the trail turns and enters a small canyon. Geologists theorize that the vertical rock layers were once horizontal. During a period of regional geologic unrest, about 65 million years ago, the layers were gradually pushed up into an arch, which eroded into the tilted rock layers you see today.

As we stood on the hill, we looked across and saw a rock that resembled “Crazy Horse.” We found that it’s known as “Indian Chief”

Along the coast of an ancient sea, exploding volcanoes (near California and Nevada border) filled the air with dust, which settled onto the sea bottom giving the Mowry Shale a silver gray color. Scientists believe that at the time the Mowry Shale was deposited (approximately 100 million years ago) this area was an inland sea.

Scientists believe that approximately 150 million years ago, the area was semi-arid, with year-round streams. Ferns dominated the plant life, along with conifers, ginkgo trees, tree ferns and horsetail rush.

The rock layers along this trail represent a time 75 to 163 million years ago. Each rock layer encases clues that reveal the changing environments of nearly 90 million years.

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