Before we left Flaming Gorge we took a scenic drive to the west and around the Sheep Creek Geologic Loop and an impressive tectonic folding plate.
While mellowing along the almost deserted road we passed a cyclist and I slowed to say hello. He immediately started talking about spawning salmon and told us to pull into Carmel campground just ahead. Sure enough, there in this tiny creek, were scarlet red salmon struggling against the current to make their way upriver.
Back on Hwy 191 south we dropped steeply down into the mining (phosphate) town of Vernal and then detoured east over to Dinosaur National Monument.
We found a site at Green River Campground where they have a few set aside for first come first served. Looked for some hiking trails in order to get the lay of the land and found some clustered together close by. We decided to concatenate a few and shuttle ourselves with the RV. Drove out to the start of Sounds of Silence Trail from where we would transition to the Desert Voices Trail which would take us over to the Green River at the Split Mountain group campground and then follow the River Trail back down to our campground.
The Green River flows through the mountains in the background above. Well it does not flow “through” but rather down Split Mountain Canyon that somehow cuts through the mountain range. Go look at a map and you’ll figure it out.
Next day we explored a bit east and down Cub Creek Road to it’s end at Josie Morris Cabin. On the way there are some petroglyphs along side the road and then two short trails lead off at the roads end.
First was Box canyon where Josie penned her livestock in its natural enclosure and then Hog Canyon where she presumably kept her pigs.
We had been here two days and had yet to visit the main attraction. Right above the visitor center here in the SW corner of the monument is the Quarry Exhibit Hall where the first fossils were found by paleontologist Earl Douglass in 1909. He found a vertebrae exposed on a ridge top.
In very simplistic terms a number of dinosaurs died and then the river systems of the time washed their remains downriver till they were arrested by a blockage. Here they piled up and Wikipedia says “The pile of sediments were later buried and lithified into solid rock.”. Beneath that one vertebrae lay dozens of fossils that were excavated and fueled many of the museum exhibits around the world.
The Quarry Exhibit hall sits over the rock face where you can view the exposed fossils when they stopped excavating in the 1950’s because they had flooded the museum market with their treasure trove.