Dinosaur National Monument
Welcome to Dinosaur National Monument. The largest quarry of Jurassic Period dinosaur bones ever discovered is the source of the 200,000 acre Dinosaur National Monument’s name. Dinosaur National Monument had its beginnings In 1909, twenty miles east of Vernal, when paleontologist Earl Douglass discovered a 200-foot long sandbar of sorts which was layered with prehistoric plant and animal fossils. About 350 million tons of fossils, including full skeletons and remains of some dinosaur species that were previously unknown, were excavated at Dinosaur National Monument by Douglass and his crew.
Today, a year-round visitor center built over the quarry protects over 2,000 dinosaur bones left exposed in the sandstone wall at Dinosaur National Monument. Beyond the quarry, Dinosaur National Monument stretches east into Colorado. In both the Utah and Colorado portions of Dinosaur National Monument, there are mapped hikes through mountains, plateaus, deserts, scenic drives, and the whitewater thrills of the Green and Yampa Rivers.
The quarry site at what is now Dinosaur National Monument was discovered in 1909 by Earl Douglass, a paleontologist from the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Douglass, whose specialty was fossil mammals, had been working in the Uinta Basin of northeastern Utah since 1907, collecting 40- million-year-old mammal fossils from the Eocene Uinta Formation. In hopes of finding dinosaur skeletons for display at the Carnegie Museum, Douglass was sent north by museum director Dr. W.J. Holland to the flanks of the Uinta Mountains, where uplift had exposed rocks from the age of dinosaurs. Among the layers of rocks exposed here is a rock unit or formation known as the.
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.
The “dinosaur rush” that followed was fueled by a rivalry between E.D. Cope of Philadelphia and O.C. Marsh from Yale University, two famous paleontologists who competed to discover and name the most dinosaurs. Numerous sites, mostly in Colorado (Morrison, Canon City) and Wyoming (Como Bluff, Bone Cabin Quarry, Howe Quarry) yielded abundant remains of Jurassic dinosaurs during the closing decades of the nineteenth century. Utah, however, remained out of the picture, until Douglass’ fateful discovery in August of 1909. Along a hogback (a ridge formed from steeply tilted strata) near Split Mountain, Douglass found a series of eight large vertebrae (backbones) weathering out of a resistant sandstone layer of Morrison Formation. These vertebrae were from the tail of the sauropod dinosaur Apatosaurus, and would prove to be part one of the most complete skeletons of Apatosaurus ever discovered. More importantly, this site would also prove to be probably the most prolific dinosaur quarry of the Morrison Formation.
Douglass conducted excavations at the site, known as the Carnegie Quarry, for about the next fifteen years. Most of these collections were made for the Carnegie Museum, but the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Utah also received material from the site. Dynamite was often needed to blast through the overlying rock layers, and over 350 tons of fossil material was shipped back to the Carnegie Museum. Among the important specimens collected during this period are a number of nearly complete skeletons, including those on display at the Carnegie Museum. The juvenile Camarasaurus is the most complete sauropod ever found. A cast of this spectacular specimen has been returned to Dinosaur National Monument to be exhibited at the Quarry Visitor Center.
The dinosaurs that have been excavated from the site include the plant-eating sauropods Apatosaurus (also known as Brontosaurus), Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, and Barosaurus; the meat-eating theropods Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, and Torvosaurus; and the plant-eating ornithischians Camptosaurus, Dryosaurus, and Stegosaurus. In addition to the dinosaurs, the quarry has yielded the remains of two kinds of crocodiles, two kinds of turtles, a frog, freshwater clams (Unio), and fossil plant material.
The quarry site was declared a National Monument in 1915. During the 1930’s, a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project expanded the quarry face, but no new fossils were exposed or excavated. The monument boundaries were expanded in 1938 from the original 80-acre tract surrounding the dinosaur quarry in Utah, to its present extent of over 200,000 acres in Utah and Colorado, encompassing the spectacular canyons of the Green and Yampa Rivers. In addition to its dinosaurs, the National Park Service manages and protects a variety of other natural and cultural resources within these expanded boundaries.
The Yampa River is the last major tributary of the entire Upper Colorado River Drainage that has not been dammed, and the river system is home to a number of endangered fish species, including the Colorado squawfish and humpback chub. For visitors to the monument, only the dinosaur quarry itself exceeds whitewater rafting in popularity. the scenery, geology, and the plants and animals that make up the natural environment or ecosystem, are also important resources.
Paleontological resources are not restricted to the quarry site. Other Morrison Formation sites have yielded the remains of a variety of plants and animals, including frogs, salamanders, and mammals and have given scientists a better picture of the total Morrison ecosystem. Fossils have been found in many of the other formations exposed in the monument as well. Cultural resources include Paleo-Indian sites that indicate the area was inhabited as early as 7,000 B.C. Abundant rock art and other archaeological sites are derived from the Fremont Indians, who inhabited the area approximately 1,000 years ago. Historic sites include the Ruple Ranch in Island Park, the Josie Morris Cabin near the dinosaur quarry, and Pool Ranch in Echo Park.
In 1953 Dr. Theodore “Doc” White was hired as Dinosaur National Monument’s first paleontologist. With his staff of fossil preparators, the permanent quarry exhibit that visitors see today was created. The visitors center, completed in 1958, was built with the quarry face as one wall. Nearly 2,000 bones are exposed in place on the quarry face inside the visitors center. In addition to enclosing the dinosaur quarry, the visitor center also houses a preparation laboratory, research facilities, a bookstore, and additional exhibits about the monument and its dinosaurs.
Current park paleontologist Dan Chure has directed the monument’s scientific programs since 1979. For more than twenty years, fossil preparators Jim Adams and Tobe Wilkins were almost as permanent a part of the quarry exhibit as the dinosaurs themselves as they worked to expose the fossil bones in place. During this period the only specimens to be removed from the quarry were those whose scientific importance warranted detailed examination, such as the baby Stegosaurus bones excavated in 1977. In recent years the focus of work has moved away from the cliff face and turned to other sites in the monument. Preparators may be seen on the cliff face during the busy summer months, but more often their work involves excavation and preparation of material from other Morrison sites. These may be other dinosaur sites, yielding important data not found at the main quarry, such as the recent discovery of an embryonic Camptosaurus; however, at least as important are new discoveries of other taxa such as frogs, salamanders, mammals, and plant fossils that give scientists a better understanding of the total Morrison ecosystem.
VISITATION: Most people visit the monument in June, July, and August. One of the charms of Dinosaur National Monument is its uncrowded and easy going atmosphere. The best weather is in September and early October.
LOCATION: Dinosaur National Monument is located in northwest Colorado and northeast Utah, straddling the border of these states. About two-thirds of the park is in Colorado. Dinosaur is 210,000 acres in size; plenty of room for you to find solitude, magnificent scenery, hike a wild landscape, and renew your relationship with nature.
4545 E. Highway 40
Dinosaur, CO 81610-9724
OPERATING HOURS: Open 24 hours a day, year-round
Headquarters Visitor Center: Open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays and is closed on federal holidays during fall, winter, and spring months. Open 8 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. on weekends during summer.
Trails, auto tours, campgrounds, and backcountry areas are open all the time except when limited by weather conditions.
CLIMATE & RECOMMENDED CLOTHING: Dinosaur’s climate is semiarid. In the summer it is hot (95 degrees), but the evenings are cool (lower 50s). During the summer, occasional afternoon thunderstorms occur. Elevations within the park vary between 4500 and 9000 feet. Thus, a hot summer day can be pleasantly cool at Harpers Corner, which is at a higher elevation. During winter, most moisture falls as snow and temperatures are often cold.
The arid, often hot summer climate means you should always carry and drink water. During summer it is wise to wear broad-brimmed hat and carry sun screen.
Visitors should wear clothing appropriate for the season and activity in which they are participating. A good strategy is to wear clothing in layers. Suitable footwear for hiking in rough terrain is important.
DIRECTIONS: Locate and travel to U.S. Highway 40.
Monument Headquarters and Visitor Center is 1 mile east of Dinosaur, Colorado, just off US 40. This is the center for information on the canyon country of the park. There are no dinosaur bones in this area.
TRANSPORTATION: There are no transportation services to the park such as a taxi or bus. You must have your own transportation. For private river runners vehicle and passenger shuttle service is available from Wilkins Bus lines (435) 789-2476 and River Runners Transport (435) 781-1120.
FEES, COSTS & RATES: The park entrance fee is $10.00 per vehicle. Special fees for commercial tours and buses apply. Phone (435) 789-8277 for an educational group entrance fee waiver or more detailed information.
Camping fees vary depending on the season and facilities. Be prepared to pay from $6.00 to $12.00 per night. Rates for the reservation-only group campsites at Split Mountain group campground are higher. For more information on campgrounds see the Camping Facilities section.
Fees and noncommercial river permits are required for private white water river trips on the Green and Yampa rivers within the park. For information on fees, equipment and experience requirements, and how to apply for the permit lottery, call (970) 374-2468.
FACILITIES AND OPPORTUNITIES
Visitor Center/Exhibits: Headquarters Visitor Center contains exhibits on what to do, river canyons, and human history of the park. There is a 10-minute orientation slide program and book store.
Trails, Roads: Desert Voices Nature Trail is near the Dinosaur Quarry. It is 1 1/2 miles long and is moderately difficult. The trail is an introduction to issues and management of Dinosaur N.M. and has trail signs for kids, written and illustrated by kids.
Sound of Silence Route is near the Dinosaur Quarry. It is 3 miles long and difficult to hike. You will learn to find low impact hiking routes in the backcountry and how to hike safely. This is a great route to experience silence.
Cold Desert Trail located at Monument Headquarters. It is 1/2 mile long and an easy walk. The trail is an introduction to flora and fauna of the desert shrub community.
Plug Hat Trail is along the Harpers Corner Road. It is 1/4 mile in length and an easy walk. The trail is an introduction to flora and fauna of the pinion and juniper forest community and offers spectacular views of the surrounding landscape.
Harpers Corner Trail is at the end of Harpers Corner Road. It is 1 1/2 miles in length and moderately difficult. The trail is an introduction to dramatic geologic features and leads to breathtaking views of the canyons of the Green and Yampa rivers.
Gates of Lodore Trail is at the end of the campground road at the Gates of Lodore. It is 1 mile in length and an easy walk. The trail offers spectacular views of the river gorge and introduces you to some of the plants and geology of the area.
Lodging and camping facilities: There is no lodging in Dinosaur National Monument. There is, however, camping. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Green River Campground ($12 per night) usually does not fill up during the summer. Limit of stay is 14 days. Vehicles or trailers in excess of 35 feet are prohibited. No RV hookups. Water is turned off in the fall to prevent freeze-up and is turned on in the spring. When water is not available, a camping fee is not charged. Green River Campground has one wheelchair accessible site.
Groups can reserve a group campsite at the Split Mountain Group Campground in the spring and summer months. The group campground contains four sites, water, and modern restrooms. Sites are available only by reservation (fee required). Phone (435) 789-8277 for information and to make a reservation.
Food/supplies: No food, beverage or other supplies are available within the monument. Full services are available in Vernal, Utah and Craig and Rangely, Colorado. Limited supplies and services are available in Dinosaur, Browns Park and Maybell, Colorado, and Jensen, Utah.
Other Concessions/NPS-Managed Visitor Facilities and Opportunities:
The nonprofit Dinosaur Nature Association operates bookstores at Monument Headquarters. To order materials or a catalog phone (800) 845-DINO. We recommend you review the following information before you visit:
Park approved commercial river concessionaires provide one day and multi-day white water river trips down the Green and Yampa rivers. River trips are one of the best ways to experience the monument.
Accessibility: The Monument Headquarters Visitor Center is fully accessible. Primitive accessible toilet facilities are available at Lodore Campground and at the end of Harpers Corner Road. A fully accessible campsite is located at Green River Campground. There is an accessible trail at the Plug Hat picnic area.
RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES & PARK USE: The resources of Dinosaur are so varied and numerous that there is something here to interest and surprise almost anyone. Activities range from bird watching, photography, sightseeing and fishing to general sloth and lollygagging; from sight seeing by car to walking, backpacking, and white water river running.
For commercial concession river trips: Reservations are strongly recommended, walk-ins for day trips are often available.
The following activities require a permit:
Private noncommercial river permit phone (970) 374-2468.
Backcountry camping and horse packing permit phone (970) 374-3000.
Research collecting permit phone (970) 374-3000.
Special events permit phone (970) 374-3000.
Commercial photography or filming permit phone (435) 789-2115 ex 4002.
Commercial activity permit phone (970) 374-3019.
BASIC VISIT RECOMMENDATIONS:
On arrival at Dinosaur you will be disappointed if you do not allow a full day to a week for your visit. Drive the Tour of the Tilted Rocks auto tour which begins near the Quarry. The drive takes 1 to 2 hours and will allow you to begin to appreciate the beauty of the park. To see rugged and spectacular canyon landscapes drive the Journey Through Time auto tour which begins at Monument Headquarters and takes 2 to 4 hours to complete.
Explore for hidden surprises in the Deerlodge area. After the middle of July, the Deerlodge Campground is one of the quietest places in the park. Angling for catfish, visiting the many historic cabins in the area, and hiking into Disappointment Draw are activities to soothe the soul.
Become absorbed by the alternating sun and shadow, calm and wind of Steamboat Rock in Echo Park. Ponder the ancients or a fat trout in Jones Hole. Adventure out the mysteries and unsurpassed views of the primitive Yampa Bench Road.
Spend the night at the Gates of Lodore Campground in Browns Park, a quiet, little-used campground. Lodore and Browns Park are remote areas, often overlooked by visitors. The imposing red, vertical rocks of Lodore Canyon loom on the horizon of the gentle Browns Park valley. Tucked away aloof, and hidden, are petroglyphs, historic copper mine coke ovens, an historic cemetery, a swinging bridge over Green River, Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge, and the reconstructed historic Jarvie Ranch which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
Jones Hole canyon, originally cleft by a geologic fault, is today caressed by a crystal clear, spring-fed creek. A well placed artificial lure or fly could bring a battle (special fishing regulations apply and a Utah license is required). Jones Hole is one of the prettiest spots in the park. A fish hatchery, petroglyphs, waterfall and more await. This is a great place for a family to spend the day.
When you are in the backcountry you are on your own, and that requires some skill and thoughtful planning. Backcountry camping requires a permit, which can be obtained at any park ranger station. Much of the terrain in Dinosaur is rugged. Sandstone breaks easily, and the sand grains can act like ball bearings under boots. Watch your step near cliff edges.
SELECT A CAMPSITE: We like to imagine ourselves traveling through virgin country, and the sight of an obviously used camp destroys that vision. Tent trenches, fire scars on boulders, fire circles, and litter are some of the ways a campsite becomes ghetto-like. Don’t contribute to the problem. Select a campsite well away from developed areas, at least 1/4 mile from roads or cultural sites. During the summer camping in the inner river canyons is restricted. All of the Cub Creek area, and all of Jones Hole Creek except the established site at Ely Creek, are closed to camping.
WATER: Use biodegradable soap, and use it away from water sources. With the exception of the Green and Yampa rivers, never bathe or wash clothes or dishes in a water source. Carry at least 1 gallon of water per person per day in the summer. Water is scarce in some areas of the park. All untreated water should be considered polluted by the microscopic organism Giardia, which causes diarrhea, cramps, and other unpleasant symptoms. The most certain method to treat water is to boil it for 3 to 5 minutes. Chemical disinfectants are not considered effective. Filtering systems must remove particles as small as one micron in diameter to be effective.
WASTE: If you carry it in, carry it out, including cigarette butts and organic material. Apple cores and orange peels do not add anything to the desert environment, they attract skunks and insects, and make wildlife into pests. Eating and food preparation areas are particular concern. Pick up and properly dispose of all scraps you have dropped. Pack out litter that inconsiderate other visitors have left
Human waste decomposes very slowly in the desert and is a major cause of waterborne diseases. In areas without toilets, bury human waste by digging a 6-inch deep hole at least 300 feet from water and frequently used areas. Carry out your toilet paper in ziploc bags. Animals and erosion soon expose toilet paper, giving some areas a toilet-paper-bloom appearance. Burning toilet paper has started wildfires–Do Not Burn It.
FIRE: The remains of fires last for many years. River campgrounds have received enough abuse to require river runners to use fire pans and carry out charcoal. Indeed, firewood gathering and campfires are restricted in some areas at some times. If you build a fire, collect only down and dead wood. Build a small fire, and locate it away from burnable material. Never leave a fire unattended. Trees grow extremely slowly here, and in some areas use has exceeded the available down wood. Jones Hole and Ely Creek are examples of this. For that reason fires are prohibited at the Ely Creek Campsite. Fire charcoal is unsightly. Carry out the residue of your fire to leave your site as if no one had ever camped there.
PETS: Pets can harass wildlife, bite or disturb other visitors, and contribute to the degradation of the backcountry. Pets are not allowed in the backcountry of Dinosaur.
ATTITUDE: We have reports of well-meaning visitors killing snakes near camp. A look at heavily used sites will disclose branches broken from trees and shrubs for fires. Damage and vandalism to archaeological sites and rock art panels continue. Fish entrails and orange peels are common in some places. Some trails show the mark or erosion from heavy use and short cutting switchbacks. How can we reduce or eliminate such impacts? Proper care of the backcountry starts with attitude. Treat the backcountry with respect. Let us know ways you discover to reduce impacts on the park. Perhaps if we follow these rules we can preserve the backcountry in a pristine manner without undue additional regulation.
What? Where? How? Why?
Who wants to know about dinosaurs? Everyone does–especially kids! And Dinosaur National Monument is a great place to learn about dinosaurs:
Q: What kinds of dinosaurs have you found at Dinosaur National Monument?
A: We’ve found Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Camarasaurus, Barosaurus, Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Stegosaurus, Camptosaurus and Dryosaurus.
Q: Why don’t you have Tyrannosaurus Rex?
A: T-rex lived during a different time, during the Cretaceous Period, millions of years after our dinosaurs. Our dinosaurs are almost twice as old!
Q: How many dinosaur bones have you found?
A: At 34 tons, Apatosaurus is the heaviest. Diplodocus is the longest at 85 ft.
Q: How many dinosaur bones have you found?
A: You can see over 1,600 individual bones in the Dinosaur Quarry, but we’ve found hundreds more, as well as several complete skeletons which are on exhibit in museums around the country.
Q: Where did you find the bones?
A: In a place where a river buried the dinosaurs with sand and mud after they died. This burial is what helped preserve the bones as fossils.
Q: Why did the dinosaurs become extinct?
A: We are still not sure. Some scientists think the dinosaurs may have died out because of a large asteroid that hit the earth causing a dusty cloud that blocked out the sun for months. Without enough sunlight a lot of plants and animals-including all the dinosaurs–died.
Q: Are there any dinosaurs living today
A: No, but birds may be related to them. Look closely at a bird foot or footprint and compare it to one from a dinosaur like Allosaurus.
Dinosaurs of a Different Color: No one knows what color dinosaurs were; fossils do not tell us about color of a dinosaur’s skin. We do know that animals living today have colors and patterns that help them hide, attract mates, or warn other animals to stay away. Some have spots, stripes and even bright colors. It is likely that dinosaurs had some bright colors and patterns too. Allosaurus was a large meat-eating dinosaur that once lived here.
Baby Dinosaurs: Fossils from baby dinosaurs are not found very often. Their bones were small and easily broken up. A few have been discovered here at Dinosaur National Monument, however, including a young Stegosaurus the size of a large dog. We have also found bones of a baby Diplodocus which can still be seen on the Quarry wall. Not long ago the tiny skeleton of a Camptosaurus was carefully uncovered. Its small size indicates that this little dinosaur was still inside the egg when it was fossilized. This Camptosaurus embryo, which as an adult could have grown up to 50 feet long, was small enough to fit in the palm of your hand!
Teeth Tell the Tale: The best way to know what a dinosaur ate is from looking at its teeth. Meat-eaters had sharp teeth for cutting and tearing flesh. Plant-eaters needed teeth that could nip off tough leaves and branches.
Living in an Ecosystem: Dinosaurs were just one member of something called an ecosystem that existed 150 million years ago. An ecosystem is an area made up of plants and animals, as well as non-living parts such as sun, soil, and water. Think about the ecosystem you live in. What does it include?
You might have thought of trees, rivers, insects, flowers, rocks, birds or many other things. These are what make up the ecosystem you depend on to live.
A Dinosaur Ecosystem: Dinosaurs were part of an ecosystem that is now extinct-that means it no longer exists. Ecosystems can change over time, and the one the dinosaurs lived in is gone. Fortunately, pieces of that ecosystem, called fossils, are buried in the rocks along with dinosaur bones. Paleontologists at Dinosaur National Monument look for these fossils to learn more about the world the dinosaurs lived in. So far, they have found the remains of frogs, turtles, salamanders, mammals, fish, trees, ferns, snails, and clams- as well as dinosaurs. From these clues, we think the ecosystem of this area was flat, dry and warm, with a wide river winding across the land. One of the reasons we try and learn more about the dinosaurs and how they lived is because the better we understand ecosystems of the past, the better we understand our own ecosystem.
The Web of Life: Animals and plants in an ecosystem help support each other by providing what each needs to live. This is called the web of life. It means all things are connected-just like the strands of a spiders web. Light from the sun and minerals from the soil enable plants to make food. Plants are food for plant-eating animals, and plant-eaters are food for meat-eaters. Some animals eat both plants and meat.
Taking Care of Barosaurus: Did you know that even dinosaurs need protection? That’s right, mighty Barosaurus needs your help! One way that you and your family are helping to protect the dinosaurs is through national parks like Dinosaur National Monument. Part of our job is to take care of the bones and other fossils which are found here so we can learn everything we can from them. That’s why visitors are not allowed to collect a fossil if they find one. Fossils are also protected by law so kids like you can see them-right here-right where the dinosaurs lived!
How to Find Out More: The Dinosaur Nature Association sells books, posters and videos about dinosaurs at the visitors center in DInosaur National Monument. For a free catalog listing informational products on dinosaurs and other resources of the monument, write to the Dinosaur Nature Association at 1291 E. Highway 40, Vernal, Ut 84078, or phone toll-free, 1-800-845-DINO.
As you travel around the Colorado Plateau, you have a great opportunity to discover and learn about the ancient cultures of the region. In the Dinosaur National Monument area, you will find evidence of a group of Native Americans we call the Fremont people, who lived here about 1,000 years ago. The Fremont were not the only early dwellers here; archaeological evidence indicates human occupancy as far back as 8,000 years ago. However, it was the Fremont who left the most visible reminders of their presence, in the form of their rock art.
Fremont rock art includes both pictographs (designs created by applying pigment to the rock surface) and petroglyphs (designs chipped or carved into the rock). Pictographs are relatively rare here, perhaps because they are more easily weathered. Most of the rock art in the monument is in the form of petroglyphs, usually found on smooth sandstone cliffs darkened by desert varnish (a naturally-formed stain of iron and manganese oxides).
The style and content of Fremont rock art vary throughout the region. In the Uinta Basin, in which most of Dinosaur National Monument lies, the “Classic Vernal Style” predominates. It is characterized by well-executed anthropomorphous (human-like figures), zoomorphs (animal-like figures), and abstract designs. The anthropomorphs typically have trapezoidal bodies, which may or may not include arms, legs, fingers, and toes. They are often elaborately decorated with designs suggesting headdresses, earrings, and necklaces, and they may hold shields or other objects. The zoomorphs include recognizable bighorn sheep, birds, snakes, and lizards, as well as more abstract animal-like shapes. Purely abstract or geometric designs, such as circles, spirals, and various combinations of lines, are common.
Among petroglyphs, most designs are outlines, but some are completely pecked to form solid figures, and a few consist of small holes in closely-spaced rows. Some petroglyphs show traces of pigment, and it its possible that many designs originally included both carved and painted areas.
Why did the Fremont create this rock art, and what did it mean? The designs may have served some ceremonial or religious purpose, been related to hunting activities, identified clans, or simply have been artistic expression-or perhaps all or none of these. Some people have attempted to interpret the rock art by comparing it with symbols used by more recent Indians, but basically, no one knows what its true purpose or meaning was.
ROCK ART IS VERY FRAGILE-DO NOT TOUCH IT. Years of weathering and erosion have taken some toll, but far less than the damage from thousands of people touching the soft sandstone. Your fingers leave oils, abrade the rock, and are the most significant factor in destroying petroglyphs. If you want to record rock art, photograph it (cloudy days or indirect light is best) or sketch it. DO NOT TRACE OR MAKE RUBBINGS, OR PUT CHALK ON THE ROCK. If you see someone touching rock art ask them to stop, or tell a ranger.
The Fremont People: Archaeologist first studied and named the Fremont culture along the Fremont River in south-central Utah, and have since traced it through much of the Green and Colorado River drainage’s. The lifestyle of the Fremont people varied considerably throughout that area, reflecting the diverse environments that they inhabited. In general, they lived in small bands or family groups, grew crops to supplement native foods, and did not build large permanent dwellings.
The Fremont People lived in a large portion of what is now Dinosaur National Monument, but few actual house remains are found here. Known dwelling places ranged from natural shelters (such as rock overhangs or shallow caves)to small “villages” in open areas. Probably the most advanced Fremont structure was the pithouse: a shallow, usually circular pit in the ground, into which wooden poles were set to support the mud-and-branch-covered upper walls and roof. It is likely that many dwelling sites were occupied only seasonally, as the people moved into and out of an area according to the availability of water and food.
Like other early people, the Fremont relied heavily on native plant foods, such as pinyon nuts, berries, and cactus fruits, and on wild game, including mule deer, bighorn sheep, smaller mammals, and birds. However, they also grew corn, beans, and squash, sometimes using irrigation techniques. This horticulture gave them, at least seasonally, a more settled life than a purely hunting-and-gathering existence, which in turn may have given them the time needed to create their elaborate rock art.
In the Dinosaur National Monument area, archaeological evidence of the Fremont dates form about 200 A.D. to about 1300 AD Both the origin and the fate of the Fremont culture are the subject of ongoing debate, and the culture’s “disappearance” is especially provocative and controversial. Recent theories suggest that the Fremont did not simply vanish, but that the people’s lifestyle may have changed form the pattern it had held for some centuries. Such a change might have resulted from drought or other climatic factors, dwindling natural resources, or the influence of other cultures, such as neighboring shoshonean people. Whatever the case, it is difficult to trace the Fremont as a distinct culture in the archaeological record after about 200 A.D.-but the Fremont rock art survives as a vivid reminder of these ancient people.
Rock Art in the Monument: The most easily accessible rock art sites in the monument are along Cub Creek, a few miles east of the dinosaur Quarry. Petroglyph panels in this are feature a variety of typical Fremont Designs, but are distinguished by several large lizards figures, not common at other sites.
Other sites are more remote. At McKee Spring, near Island Park, are some of the finest large anthropomorphic designs in the area, as well as many other figures. The Jones Hole trail passes pictographs and petroglyphs at the Deluge Shelter. There are several sites around Echo Park, including a panel of dot-pattern designs above Pool Creek.
BE CAREFUL AROUND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES. Rocky slopes below cliffs are often unstable, so watch your step, and don’t try to climb steep or exposed ledges. Watch out for occasional snakes or scorpions, and parents, keep an eye on your children.
Treat these places as fragile, irreplaceable museums. You would not touch the art of great masters…treat rock art with the same respect. Ponder it, enjoy it. Watch where you place your hands and feet. You may destroy an important page in the record of the past. DON”T BE A THIEF OF TIME.