Dinosaur National Monument
The region provided a relatively stable life for the groups of peoples from earlier times who we refer to as Desert Archaic, Paleo-Indian, Fremont and Ute. Elaborate drawings in the form of petroglyphs and pictographs are preserved within the park.
Exploration & Settlement
The canyons proved to be a barrier to movement and settlement for later populations, and aridity became a limiting factor. Abandoned homesteads dating from the early 1900s dot the landscape. Occasionally settlers, because of geology, soil, water and other factors, were more successful. This can be observed at the Chew, Ruple and Morris homesteads and some of today's ranches adjacent to the park.
The park was created in 1915 for its unmatched deposit of Jurassic dinosaur bones. The unique natural exhibit of over 1,600 dinosaur bones, in their final resting place, were deposited in an ancient river bed turned to stone. Today, remnants of that deposit form one wall of the Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center.
In 1938 the canyons of the Yampa and Green Rivers were added to the original 80 acres. These colorful canyons, carved into spectacular geological formations, expose much of the Earth's history.
Plants & Animals
Dinosaur National Monument is a diverse mix of arid ecological communities. Several factors contribute to this diversity. Four biological provinces -- the Colorado Plateau, the Rocky Mountains, Great Basin and the Wyoming Basin -- meet here. Geological faulting, great changes in elevations, the presence of rivers, and the four adjacent provinces enable Dinosaur to contain diverse plant and animal communities. The diversity provides genetic stability for the monument's biota and a cushion against natural disaster.
The Jurassic Morrison Formation is the rock stratum containing the concentration of dinosaur remains in Dinosaur National Monument. This formation appears in numerous places in the western U.S. and contains fossil remains of many creatures. This formation has, therefore, been extensively studied, but nowhere is the abundance and variety of life forms in the fossil record greater than at Dinosaur National Monument.
Geologists say that 200 million years ago, the monument region was a sandbar in a large stream. They believe that season after season, animals were washed downstream by large floods. Their remains accumulated on the sandbar and became buried by sediment and debris, year after year. As additional layers of sediment from later periods buried, compressed and turned the Morrison Formation to rock (lithification), the Laramide orogeny (mountain building) deformed and uplifted the region near the Monument much more than elsewhere on the Colorado Plateau. Rocks to the south became part of the Uinta Mountains anticline. Erosion by the Green and Yampa rivers eventually exposed the dinosaur boneyard in the Monument.
The geological and climatological conditions that have limited previous attempts at development of the region are still present today. The tilted geological formations create a variety of soils which make construction of facilities and roads difficult and their maintenance expensive. The "cold desert" conditions and the barrier of the east-to-west trending Uinta Mountains create significant snowfall in the higher elevations from December through April.
Paleontology -- Desert Dinosaurs
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