Travels with Dick and Karen

SouthWest US 2018, Part 2

Glen Canyon
to Dinosaur National Monument

SW US map
US Highway Alt89 runs across the top of the Kaibab Plateau at an elevation of about 7500 feet. As we near its eastern edge, we can look across the lowlands to the face of the Vermillion Cliffs. Hundreds of feet of sediment laid down dust mote by dust mote over millions of years. SW US tour 2018
Then there are a couple of sweeping curves, a plummet and then a double switchback ... and we're down to 5400 feet. This shot is from the first of the curves. Our eventual road can be seen as the straight line slanting through the center of the photo. The most distant plateau on the right is on the other side of the Colorado River. SW US tour 2018

Our first crossing of the Colorado River is at Marble Canyon. This photo is looking south. Grand Canyon Nation Park includes the west wall of this, the Marble Canyon ... but not the east wall nor much of the west's level plain. The river will enter the Grand Canyon about 40 miles downstream. We'll head upriver to Glen Canyon. Those are the Echo Cliffs on the left.

SW US tour 2018

Soon the rock formations become more than occasional as we climb the Echo Cliffs.

SW US tour 2018
The Glen Canyon dam slows the river enough that sediment is building up behind it. Someday future geologists may ask "what happened here to fill up a canyon?" SW US tour 2018
What was Glen Canyon is now Lake Powell.  SW US tour 2018

When we visited here in 2010, we thought the Lake was low. Looking at the numbers, this visit has the level at about 3611 feet of elevation (479 feet deep at the dam). That's 27 feet lower than our last visit, 22 feet lower than last year, and 89 feet lower than "full". For most of this trip (down through Utah and the weeks after this shot) almost all of the rivers we have been seeing have been quite full ... most of them overrunning their banks or close to it. 

For the curious, the numbers are here, and the graphs are here.

SW US tour 2018

The summer houseboating season hasn't really gotten started yet.

SW US tour 2018
This looks like a Joshua tree, which is native to southern Arizona rather than here. It seems to be doing well enough to flower. SW US tour 2018

The power towers march away from the dam

SW US tour 2018
One more look at the Colorado as we cross it at Page Arizona before we drive east to look at the Gunnison river, one of its tributaries. SW US tour 2018

Six miles from the Glen Canyon dam is the Navajo Nation's coal-fired Salt River Project power plant. Due to the lower cost of natural gas, it's scheduled to be shut down after 2019. Coal for this plant comes from a mine 68 dedicated electric railroad miles away. We ended up driving by the other end of that track, without realizing the two ends were connected. The rail line took a different route than the highway for half its length.

The plant's smokestacks were visible 5 photos back in the picture of Lake Powell accompanying the "how full was it?" numbers.

SW US tour 2018
Back to driving through rolling sage-filled terrain as we cross the Navajo reservation. SW US tour 2018
Small monuments along the way...  SW US tour 2018
We stop for the night at Navaho National Monument SW US tour 2018
A very pleasant campground ...   SW US tour 2018
In the morning we took one of the hikes from the monument's visitor center. SW US tour 2018
The trail's signage told us that we were nowhere near the first to walk in this area. The footprint is to the left of the sign. SW US tour 2018
The trail followed the south rim of Betatakin Canyon.  SW US tour 2018
Even here there are lots of flowers SW US tour 2018
blooming cactus SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018

The prickly pear is almost in bloom.

SW US tour 2018
We shared a bridge with the wildlife. Is it thinking "my head is in the shade so you can't see me"? SW US tour 2018
Life's rough on the edge...  SW US tour 2018
The end of the path is a view across the canyon ... SW US tour 2018
... of the ancient Anasazi village Betatakin (Talastima in Navajo), 500 feet below. About 100 people lived in these sandstone pueblo houses from about 1250 to 1300. The alcove faces south, so it was warmer in the winter. Its overhang kept off the rain, and drinkable water seeped out on the layer beneath the Navajo sandstone. It's 458 feet wide. SW US tour 2018

They farmed this and the adjacent Tsegi Canyon's floor. Nowadays, the river allows aspen to grow down there, whereas here on the rim it's pinyon and juniper. 

The village was abandoned at the end of a 20 year drought ... a sign that it was time to move on. Food and supplies were left in the storehouses for their possible return.

SW US tour 2018
In the morning we took the access road back out to US 160. SW US tour 2018

Remember the power plant's electric railroad? Here at the highway intesection is its other end. Looking like an absolutely huge grain elevator ...

SW US tour 2018

... fed by a conveyor system that disappeared into the face of the Black Mesa's plateau to the south of us.

SW US tour 2018
The large plateaus with cliff edges mostly give way to rock formations. SW US tour 2018
Monument Valley, used as a backdrop for so many westerns, lies north of us, just over the hill on US 163. We had discussed revisiting it, but felt the urge to continue along on US 160 to places we hadn't been. SW US tour 2018
As we continue across the reservation, there are a few houses surrounded by trees SW US tour 2018
... but mostly it is flat and dry. With distant monuments. SW US tour 2018
And occasional road work SW US tour 2018
Then we entered Colorado (the state) at Four Corners.
Things started looking up.
Very Up.
SW US tour 2018
There's still snow as we cruise through the San Juan National Forest ... we're at about 8000 feet, the mountains are above 12,000 feet. The snow was beside us as we crossed 10,222-foot Lizard Pass. SW US tour 2018
We spot a mountain bluebird at our pricey commercial campsite in Montrose (it is the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. The owners have raised their normal prices -- but they have space and we can do laundry and showers). SW US tour 2018
Out in the morning through fields of cows. SW US tour 2018
The Sprinter climbs the hills to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park SW US tour 2018

Black Canyon is a very narrow gorge cut by the Gunnison River. First it went through softer volcanic rock, then through the harder crystalline uplifted gneiss below. Unlike Yosemite, glaciers didn't widen that path and smooth the walls. Unlike the Grand Canyon, the lower rocks are hard, not softer sandstone. In the river's 9-mile travel through the park it drops about 900 feet. The flow of the water is from the southeast towards the northwest. 

It was established as a National Monument in 1933, and gained Park status in 1999.

SW US tour 2018

Before hitting the hard precambrian gneiss, the river's course wandered north and south as the nearby West Elk and San Juan mountains alternately flooded the area with thousands of feet of lava and ash from 35 to 10 million years ago. Then the underlying rock went through an uplift phase, giving the area its slope. Then came the last two million years of Ice Age glacier melt and rubble to make the final cut into the gneiss. 

The structures on the near left are called "fins".

SW US tour 2018
Some of the viewpoints are out on rocky points.  SW US tour 2018

Karen doesn't like edges...

The rocky points are eroding away under our feet... 

SW US tour 2018

Here the Black Canyon shows its unique topography... over 2000 feet deep, only 1300 feet wide at the top and narrowing to as little as 40 feet wide at the river.

The white bandings are pegmatite dikes... billion-year-old hard crystallized igneous intrusions through the far older gneiss. As the gneiss erodes away, it's the pegamtite that forms the "fins" mentioned earlier. 

SW US tour 2018
... at least, that's what they said...  SW US tour 2018
Karen kept her eyes on the ground... and found blooming Claret Cup cactus.  SW US tour 2018

Ooookay ... now we have the "daisy-like" group.

At first we thought these were "Tidy Tips", but they would have to have white tips on the petals. Karen discovered, and it appears to be "Ives' fournerved daisy" ... maybe.

SW US tour 2018
Karen's voting for "Arizona Mule-ears SW US tour 2018
A buckwheat? (we think we're seeing six petals)  SW US tour 2018
Karen says "a daisy of some sort, very small".  SW US tour 2018

Many many petals... a fleabane of some sort? A cutleaf daisy?  

Admire the plant, shoot the photo, research later...

SW US tour 2018
Spiny Phlox  SW US tour 2018
Lupin  SW US tour 2018
"The Other Lupin"  SW US tour 2018
Ummmm ... ??  SW US tour 2018
Evening primrose??  SW US tour 2018
Larkspur (delphinium)  SW US tour 2018
American Vetch   SW US tour 2018
We like lichen.  SW US tour 2018
The eight-mile-long South Rim Road in the park has thirteen established viewpoints.  SW US tour 2018
Many with the pegmatite across the way, and almost all with what mountaineers call "exposure". SW US tour 2018
See the glint of blue water to the east at the far top of the canyon? SW US tour 2018
From the South Rim, we drove back south and down to US 50. Then took US 50 east ... it follows along in a broad valley beside Poverty Mesa, then climbs it, weaving through splits in the rocky face. SW US tour 2018
Having now crested the south border of the Gunnison's canyon 20 miles east of the viewpoints, we can clearly see what's east of the canyon ... SW US tour 2018
... the Curecanti dam and Blue Mesa reservoir. SW US tour 2018
We crossed the dam ...  SW US tour 2018
Where the river then flows into the canyon. At one time all this was the height of the top of the canyon. The river just happend to get caught cutting into the hardest rock around and carved a canyon while the surrounding hills eroded down. SW US tour 2018
The Gunnison meets the Colorado River in Grand Junction, about 80 miles to the northwest. This reservoir is part of the Colorado River Storage Project.
(Karen didn't notice the local artist's contribution to the sign) 
SW US tour 2018
We're at the middle of the map, where the red line (Colorado 92) on the north edge of the canyon's western section ends at the dam. Its jagged shape is following ("contouring") high on the sides of the tributary valleys. It's going to be a long, but scenic, drive to go a short distance. SW US tour 2018
The jagged path occasionally returns to the Gunnison for views. SW US tour 2018

With name-that-distant-peak explanatory signage.

From the left: Silver Mtn, Sheep Mtn, Uncompahgre, Wetterhorn, Coxcomb, Dunsinane, Engineer, and Courthouse. Storm King far to the right. Unnamed and Cimarron are bordering the Morrow Point Reservoir

SW US tour 2018
Definitely scenic, even away from the Gunnison. SW US tour 2018

At the town of Hotchkiss, we turn on to Colorado 133 to head for Glenwood Springs, to visit one of Karen's cousins.

Twenty miles along, we see signs of mining

SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018
We camp for the night at Paonia State Park. SW US tour 2018
Along a stream with a nice view. The Paonia reservoir is just a bit south of us. SW US tour 2018
The next morning, we detour to the town of Marble. Slabs of white stone are just lying around ... and still being actively mined from the side of the adjacent mountain. The quarry is now owned by an Italian company and exports all over the world. SW US tour 2018
One artist has an outdoor gallery, with more white stone beckoning from above. SW US tour 2018

Back out on the highway, we came across (and U-turned for) an unexpected discovery.

We investigate a long row of old coke ovens at the town of Redstone.

SW US tour 2018
The area 12 miles due west is called "Coal Basin". Over a million tons of coal were brought out. Here the coal was burned (destructive distillation in the abscence of oxygen) to remove volatiles and impurities. There are about 90 ovens still here of the original 200. Each load in the oven took 48 hours to process. Coking actives went on for about a decade, from the late 1890's to 1908. The coal mine itself was re-opened in 1956 and the coking is now done elsewhere. Coke is used to purify steel. 
(More history from Wikipedia)
SW US tour 2018
Here's why they call it "redstone" SW US tour 2018
Colorado has put up wildlife crossings
But the beavers probably doesn't use them SW US tour 2018
To pass the time before Karen's cousin gets home we hop onto I-70 to drive about 16 miles up the Glenwood Canyon of the Colorado River and back. SW US tour 2018
Quite impressive road-engineering in a stunningly scenic gorge SW US tour 2018
Getting two wide roads to fit where only one went before.  SW US tour 2018
With maintenance roadwork.
Weaving our way along the Colorado...  SW US tour 2018
Then back into Glenwood Springs for lunch (and more roadwork). We stayed with Karen's cousin David and his wife Suzy for the night (so busy talking and enjoying each other's company that we forgot to take pictures). SW US tour 2018
The next day we're back on I-70, headed west. We leave the tilted layers of the western Rockies SW US tour 2018
... for the plateaus of far western Colorado. SW US tour 2018
And another national monument SW US tour 2018
Colorado's Colorado National Monument is tucked over near the west central edge of the state, just west of Grand Junction.  SW US tour 2018
It has an intimate feeling that most of our other stops didn't have.  SW US tour 2018
We were brought up close to (or through) impressive structures and layering.  SW US tour 2018
It's quite a drive up to the top of the plateau. The plateau towers 2000 feet above the terrain to the north. It's the northern edge of the Uncompahgre Uplift. SW US tour 2018
Along the 19 mile Rim Rock Drive we're brought to the edges of numerous valleys  SW US tour 2018
interesting rocks and hoo-doos SW US tour 2018
and canyons SW US tour 2018
and erosion   SW US tour 2018
Four miles in from (and far above) the north Fruita entrance is the campground, their nice visitor's center and nature trails. SW US tour 2018
This time some of the flowers have labels SW US tour 2018
... but not always ...  SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018
No labels on the lizards though. SW US tour 2018
Waiting patiently for us to return from a hike.  SW US tour 2018
As the more durable top surface (Kayenta Formation) finally erodes away, the previously-protected understructure (Wingate Formation) erodes in its own special way.   SW US tour 2018

... which is why they're called Coke Ovens.

... a shape we had been recently reminded of in Redstone.  

SW US tour 2018
Most of the canyons had well-used hiking trails ...  SW US tour 2018
.. which, depending upon your direction, started or ended with an interesting steep segment.  SW US tour 2018
In many ways it felt like a mini Bryce Canyon...  SW US tour 2018
.. but far more "up close and personal".  SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018
with the requisite roadwork. SW US tour 2018
We reached the south end of Rim Rock Road, and dropped down to the east Grand Junction entrance ...  SW US tour 2018
... where we made a U-turn and climbed back up...  SW US tour 2018
... to see it all again ...  SW US tour 2018
... as we took the scenic route ...  SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018
... the very scenic route ... back to ...  SW US tour 2018
... our campsite. SW US tour 2018

We noticed that unlike most of the parks and monuments, in this one we had cell reception. The towers are located just to the west, outside the monument.

Colorado National Monument is small... only 32 square miles (that's less than 6 miles square (if it was square, which it isn't)
(too-much editing rumination: it's really kind'a triangular, so you can think of it as half of an 8.5 mile square square)

SW US tour 2018
In the morning the lighting was quite different. SW US tour 2018
The road out was still as squiggly and dramatic. SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018
Just out of the tunnel we came across this big horn sheep family out for a morning stroll. SW US tour 2018
At the bottom of the entrance road is the dinosaur museum in Fruita Colorado SW US tour 2018
... prehistoric trucks apparently had to defend themselves against predators  SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018
The exhibit on the left was one of the nicest displays of a dino's internal musculature that we've ever seen.  SW US tour 2018
As all good research museums do, they had an active fossil extraction laboratory.  SW US tour 2018
Most of the samples in the lab at this time are from 145 million year-old long-necked dinosaurs. They came from Rabbit Valley, 15 miles west of Fruita. (Exit 2 on I-70, a 1.5 mile "strenuous hike" interpretive trail)  SW US tour 2018

"Sooo... what did you do before you decided to try Indoor Sales?" 

Note the plaster-backed fossils he's guarding. When a fossil is dug up at a site, the fossil and encasing rock is wrapped in a thick plaster-and-burlap "field jacket". Removal of that jacket is the first step in the lab. This museum is the first we've seen that sells the hand-sized scraps of discarded jacket in the Gift Shop. What a wonderful idea (and only $1!)

SW US tour 2018
Dioramas and animated dinos lined one wall.  SW US tour 2018
Utah and Colorado are prime sites for finding beasties...  SW US tour 2018
... and revealing new puzzles for the paleontologists to haggle over...  SW US tour 2018
Pachyrhinosaurus catching up on his latest quandry.  SW US tour 2018
Archaeopteryx ... only a dozen examples have been found. This cast showing feathers was made from the Berlin specimen. There's one in Thermopolis, Wyoming.  SW US tour 2018

The "Great Wall of Femora"(*) showing how they change as they grow. The younger ones were longer (compared to body size) than the adults' ... meaning they were relatively more agile and faster. The adults appeared to rely on brute-force ambush.

(*)(that's what they called it...don't blame us (this time))

SW US tour 2018
Back on the road we head north on Colorado 139 heading for the Dinosaur National Monument. Along the scenic way, we encounter... SW US tour 2018
... a short backup for the most impressive roadwork yet. SW US tour 2018
The front end is chewing up the old surface and the back end is a drivable surface again. SW US tour 2018
Turning left (west) on to US 40 in the town of Dinosaur, Colorado, we soon find ourselves back in Utah. That's the Stuntz Ridge of Blue Mountain in the background. SW US tour 2018
As we turn north on to Utah 149 at Jensen, Split Mountain becomes the dominating feature.  SW US tour 2018

Inviting us to the Dinosaur National Monument and its visitor center.

If you wander through all of the monument's areas (including floating down the rivers), you can explore 23 major layers (formations, themselves composed of many embedded thin layers) representing everything from the present to about 540 million years ago.

SW US tour 2018

After looking at the small but well-done display in the initial visitor center/gift shop, we board the tram to get to the main display

(Truth-in-telling-department: First we drove to the monument's campground and secured a site, then we came back to the center)

SW US tour 2018

We had been here before, over 20 years ago. In 2006 they closed this building since it was cracking apart due to being built on clay. It reopened in 2011, but vehicle access is now limited. 

The building covers what's called "The Quarry" ...

SW US tour 2018
... Which is one entire wall consisting of the exposed hillside with its revealed treasure of fossils. SW US tour 2018
On the outside, a "timeline" walks us back 149 million years as we ascend the ramp to ...  SW US tour 2018
... the second floor's mezzanine.   SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018
Our lenses cannot convey the impressive scale of the exposed face and its 1500 "reliefed" fossils still in place.  SW US tour 2018
The brown area on this map is the size of the enclosed wall ... the white is the entire excavated Carnegie Quarry face beyond the building. It yielded "several hundred tons" of fossils that were sent all over the country for studies and museums. Then work on the brown area was stopped to avoid further damaging the original context holding the bones. The Monment was created in 1915, the first protective building in 1936, a rebuild in 1951, and the reliefing was completed in 1991. SW US tour 2018

This charts some of the significant removed fossils from outside the enclosure.

The modern exhibt has interactive computer screens for zooming in and identifying individual fossils.

SW US tour 2018
This display case shows models of the main species found here. The human is only for scale (but far far more modern petroglyphs exist in the Colorado section of the Monument). SW US tour 2018

Why are there so many fossils right here?
(and Why pretty much only large animals?) 

149 million years ago, this was a bend in a river. Animals that died naturally or in floods tended to be washed up here, where they were quickly buried in mud and sediment. Small animals were washed away. The rest of the monument does yield a far wider variety of plant and animal fossils, but here there are only about 10 species despite the wealth of bones.

SW US tour 2018
AND they encourage touching (but not climbing thereon) of a few specific specimens SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018
Exhibits on the side include casts from other sites,  SW US tour 2018
... and assembled examples.  SW US tour 2018
We are thankful for the tram back downhill as it is very hot out. SW US tour 2018
But tomorrow we'll be back to hike the "Fossil Discovery Trail" in the cool of the morning. SW US tour 2018
This afternoon we'll take the park drive... SW US tour 2018
... in the air-conditioned Sprinter.  SW US tour 2018

Helpful signs ... 

(John Wesley Powell quotations appear throughout the monument's signage)

SW US tour 2018
Like the Gunnison canyon, the Green River started wandering on relatively flat land, then dug itself a trench that it couldn't escape as the land lifted and it encountered harder layers.  SW US tour 2018
Karen really really likes Split Mountain...  SW US tour 2018
In addition to the split talked about above, an earlier river cut meanders before the layers were tilted up, spilling the river out. SW US tour 2018
The Monument's Sprinter-accessible campground. Our campsite is out of view below the close edge of the cliff at our toes (...and first to get shade). SW US tour 2018
We raised an eyebrow at the holes in the dirt (like the one under the slanted tree trunk, the three between the shrubs,...). SW US tour 2018
Sure enough, the next morning we were entertained by this ground squirrel (chipmunks have striped faces) SW US tour 2018
Taking a commanding view of the area...  SW US tour 2018
As planned, after breakfast we hiked the fossil path down from the Quarry building. It doesn't follow the tram road, instead it sweeps out and around the ridge the Quarry is on top of. SW US tour 2018
We're finally up early enough that the lizards are too cold to move. SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018
Do lizards dream dinosaur dreams?  SW US tour 2018
Several critters had left prints in the sand SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018
This primrose was one of the few flowers open this early SW US tour 2018
Fourteen million years older than the Quarry's collection, this area was under an inland saline sea. Belemnites are squid-like and leave the equivalent of cuttlefish bones.  SW US tour 2018
See the lumps in the very center? Those are the clam fossils. SW US tour 2018

Here we're in the same formation (layers) as the Quarry, but a million years older. 

According to the trail guide, this cliff has not been worked on to make the fossils easier to see.

SW US tour 2018
The holes are casts of clam shells SW US tour 2018
a bit of bone SW US tour 2018
and a much larger one. SW US tour 2018
Only 100 million years ago... these fish are almost fresh!  SW US tour 2018
We love the layering...  SW US tour 2018
A nice healthy lichen, not a fish scale. SW US tour 2018
No sign on this hole and path so it is probably critter-related, rather than a human artifact. SW US tour 2018
The petroglyphs ... 1000 year old art on 90 million year old beach sand. SW US tour 2018
get a standardized fancy sign which boils down to: Don't Touch! SW US tour 2018
We leave the monument in search of lunch in nearby Vernal, Utah. SW US tour 2018
And discover another (unexpected) dinosaur museum!
(without blatantly pink ones, we think)
SW US tour 2018
This is the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum.
(and one third of the lobby display... we'll be back) 
SW US tour 2018
Like the Fruita museum, this one had a number of displays and techniques that we found absolutely charming and informative.  SW US tour 2018
Some dinos were presented in a fairly active and lively format..  SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018
...and some were not. (his bones are lying in the foreground of the above photo)  SW US tour 2018
The sign (and many of the Monument's) says that Allosaurus were very common.  SW US tour 2018
This museum did an excellent job of connecting the past to the local area. The map stays the same with the emphasis changing with the era being discussed in that room. They really work at tying what they show to what you can see on your own in the surrounding area. SW US tour 2018
Most fossil finds are fragmentary... usually all you get are single (sometimes chewed and broken) bones. From very scattered clues, and modern animals as examples, entire creatures are described. Until more evidence is found.  SW US tour 2018
Karen being entranced by the fossil plants in slate.
(there's another ten feet off to her right...)
SW US tour 2018
These dog-sized plant eaters probably ran in herds, since many speciments are found close together.  SW US tour 2018
More touchables... 45 million years ago, so it's a mammal.  SW US tour 2018
As mentioned, this museum groups by time ... such as the Eocene (35-55 Mya).  SW US tour 2018
Gallinuloides Wyomingensis ... yup... an early (49 Mya) chicken from Wyoming.  SW US tour 2018
Who and what was around then ... and which examples still exist now.  SW US tour 2018
Somebody was looking in from outside the window...  SW US tour 2018
Even mammoths have bad hair days...  SW US tour 2018

Time, that's the key... this sign informs us of the fact that US 191 (heading north from Vernal, our planned path) passes up and down through many of the layers presented in the museum... and that the layers are signed along the highway.
But... due to lifting and tilting, Vernal's basin layers are younger than those higher in the mountains. 

This sign also introduces us to the quite long hall mural ... the layers of rock (thus time) painted on one side, with many small themed galleries on the other side presenting items and concepts of those time periods.

Join us on our walk... (we were getting a bit fried, so it was somewhat of a stagger)

SW US tour 2018
Cenozoic is recent... (now to 65 Mya)  SW US tour 2018
Mesozoic is middlin'... (65 to 252 Mya)  SW US tour 2018

... and Paleozoic is pale in the far past... (252 to 541 Mya) 

(the "zoic" in all of those refers to "life", each Era is delineated by a significant change in the life found in the rocks. Mass extinctions.)

SW US tour 2018

The hallway's mural, with handrail for scale.

The colored bands are the named layers and formations, the triangles point out events (such as extinctions and Era changes) or notable strata (such as the Morrison Formation being what the Quarry at the Monument featured).

SW US tour 2018

Helicoprion is a (roughly) 260 million year old shark with the weirdest jaw and tooth arrangement that we've ever heard of. 

Since sharks are cartilaginous (no bones), these teeth whorls are all the direct evidence we have to go on. Modern (true) sharks are continuously losing their old teeth, which is why individual shark-tooth fossils are very common. Helicoprion appears to have kept his old teeth as the inner part of the whorl, which classes him as a "ghost shark" ( chimaera), not a true shark. There's still quite a debate on where the whorl was (its current popular position is the lower jaw) and what the upper jaw had to match it (grinding teeth are the current thought, in line with its chimaera classification).

SW US tour 2018

The 3 Big Ideas are: 

  1. It began with the "Cambrian Explosion" ... in only 10 million years all of the basic animal groups evolved.
  2. Animals and plants moved out of the sea and onto land.
  3. It ended with the largest extinction in Earth's history: the Late Permian Extinction wiped out over 90% of all species.

290 million years from boom to bust...

(During this time Utah was at the equator, and "mostly" underwater)

SW US tour 2018

... and before the Cambrian Explosion was the Precambrian era ... taking us all the way back to the formation of the planet 4.5 billion years ago. 

The Precambrain rocks we'll meet on US 191 are "only" 2.7 Bya

SW US tour 2018

The hallway leads us back to the Diplodocus in the lobby. Under his feet is another rendering of the "80 mile" map as an inlay on the floor.

SW US tour 2018
This museum also has a prep lab ... note the field-jacketed specimen to the rear.
The large letter "A" at the window's workstation keys to...
SW US tour 2018
.. this "what's being done to whom and where did they come from" list in the window. (the field jacket is "C")
  1. Brontothere Jaw (Rhino, Uinta Formation)
    Dinosaur Bone (Morrison Formation)
  2. Amynodon partial jaw (Uinta Formation)
    Turtle Shell (Uinta Formation)
  3. Apatosaurus "Bronotosaurus" excelsus cervical vertebrae (Morrison Formation)
  4. Columbian Mammoth Tusks (Pleistocene (1.8 Mya))(Craig, Colorado)
SW US tour 2018
Outside is a garden full of replicas. SW US tour 2018
and signs ...  SW US tour 2018
Don't worry, they're plant eaters...  SW US tour 2018
Er, he's not...  SW US tour 2018
He may know what they did to the Stegosaurus that's inside the building...  SW US tour 2018
(we still seem to have avoided any pink ones)  SW US tour 2018
?? What are they both looking at in the parking lot ??  SW US tour 2018
Back on the road we look for the rocks in the "80 mile map" SW US tour 2018

They even have handy signs:

Cretaceous, Cedar Mountain Formation, "Where raptor dinosaurs hunted"

(kind'a hard to catch at 60 mph)

SW US tour 2018
A few miles north of Vernal the road steeply climbs via switchbacks in the vicinity of a vast phosphate strip mine operation. SW US tour 2018
The ore is mixed with water and piped about 60 miles north to Rock Springs Wyoming.  SW US tour 2018
Heading north, we cross the Uinta Mountain and start to descend. We decide to take (yet another) scenic detour... turning left to head west on Utah 44 and then north on Wyoming 530 ... this will swing us around, and close to the shores of, the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. SW US tour 2018
We drop in at the visitor center for views and information (and use of the toilets). John Wesley Powell, in a typical fit of naming originality, called the southern stretch "Red Canyon". You'll never guess the predominant color of the rocks. SW US tour 2018
Today had been one of contrasts: hot and sunny in Vernal, cool with a tad of drizzle at the forested visitor center, and then this kind of grandeur as we rounded a corner.  SW US tour 2018
Let's talk about layers... at many of the sites we've visited, the layers of rock are stacked neatly like pancakes. Here they're not. Underlying magma or other processes has pushed up and bent the layers, then erosion took its own sweet time wearing away the less-resistant rocks. The Uinta Mountains were pushed up between 40 and 58 million years ago.
Today the Sheep Creek Geological Area has a 25-mile fairly level road that cuts through many uplifted layers. Our geology guidebooks consider it a must visit!!
SW US tour 2018
So we did ... there's a campground at its southern (paved) entrance.  SW US tour 2018
As we drive along, signs point out the surrounding rocks. SW US tour 2018
Scenery intervenes...  SW US tour 2018
The funny symbols are what's used on geology maps of the area.  SW US tour 2018
"The light-colored swath running across the hillside is the North Uinta Fault Zone, separating Uinta Mountain Group sandstone on the left from Mississippian Madison Limestone on the right. The limestone cliff is called the Palisades."
(we discovered we'd duplicated one of our Roadside Geology book's photos, so we thought we'd duplicate the caption, too) 
SW US tour 2018
The speed limit is 15 mph ... but we're not in a hurry.  SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018
  SW US tour 2018
(no, the top layers aren't blue... that's the Sprinter's tinted windshield having fun...)  SW US tour 2018
There are a couple of short incursions of private land (where the pavement was interrupted)... and we noticed that the "Cattle" image was a bit shaggier than usual. SW US tour 2018
Yup... the Yaks on us... SW US tour 2018
Passing north into Wyoming, the land gets flat... to our left are Black Mountain and Devil's Playground, to the right are a couple of miles of flat plateau at 6600 feet ... which usually hides the reservoir which is 500 feet below the edge.  SW US tour 2018
They did try to reassure us it's out there...  SW US tour 2018
... somewhere ...   SW US tour 2018

They tried to make it interesting... they really did.

On this 43 mile stretch of road they had this one pull-off, with a bunch of signs (but no toilet).  

SW US tour 2018
The "towers" were small monuments in the far distance.  SW US tour 2018

After passing the (we're not kidding) "Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport"(*), we dropped off the plateau into the town of Green River.  

(*) A 5800 by 130 (more-or-less) gravel airstrip with one fixed item: a windsock. In a year ending in April 2016, it had 300 operations (take-offs or landings), no aircraft (nor spaceships) are based at the airport. Apparently the airstrip is bent (higher in the middle), so you can't clearly see if there are obstructions (animals) when you're at either end preparing for take-off. It went by too quickly (and invisibly) to photograph. AirNav entry.

SW US tour 2018
This may look like the frequently-used symbol of Utah, but we're in Wyoming. We turned west for 7 miles to camp in James Town for the night. SW US tour 2018

Back to Travel Page

Part 1: Seattle to Grand Canyon
Part 3: Grand Tetons to Seattle

Patterns for Inspiration


all text and images copyright Karen and Dick Seymour 2016,
and may not be reproduced without written permission

Back to the Seymour Stained Glass website:

Home Show
DIY Book &
FAQs, Links
Info., etc.
Contact &
About us
Ordering Gallery