Chasing the Totality

Day Five: Rainbow Park

Having cruised straight through Nine Mile Canyon, we were now a full day ahead of schedule. We had reservations at the Green River Campground in Dinosaur National Monument ‐ the only reservations we made for this trip. What to do until then?

Of course we decided to visit the visit the Quarry Exhibit Hall. Six years before Dinosaur National Monument was created in 1915, paleontologist, Earl Douglass, discovered a large saurapod vertebrae sticking out of a mountain in 1909. Over the next 13 years an enormous cache of dinosaur bones was excavated and sent to his employer, The Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. The hillside containing today's display of 1500 late Jurassic skeletal artifacts looked quite different before scores of feet of overburden and other fossils were removed. Douglass suggested many years before the creation of today's display that an in-situ wall be maintained for viewing to demonstrate the magnitude and variety of the site fossils. The 150-foot-long wall contains complete spinal columns of large vertebrates, both monstrous and delicate bones as well as near-invisible minutiae that swirled to a final resting place under the rush of a great water flow. Staring at the dense mosaic of remains created by nature 150 million years ago leaves one without words to adequately appreciate the experience.
I bet 90% of visitors to the Monument never get any farther than the Exhibit Hall. But there's much more to see! Dinosaur National Monument is huge — nearly 330 square miles — and straddles two state: Utah and Colorado. And no matter what Siri tells you, you cannot drive across it! A canyon and several mountain ranges separate the east and west sectors. Taking advantage of good internet near the Visitor Center, we pulled up a map of the park and got curious about Island Park Road, a 30-mile long gravel road that actually makes a loop outside the park to a primitive campground along the Green River.
Rainbow Park

The road was in good shape, and we found ourselves all alone at Rainbow Park just as a powerful thunderstorm moved in. We made dinner and tucked in for the night.

Sunset at Rainbow Park
Sunset at Rainbow Park (scroll for panorama).

We woke to a canyon completely shrouded in dense fog. We raced up the hill and took a gazillion photos. Absolutely stunning!

Fog at Rainbow Park
When the fog lifted, we ventured out to a peninsular overlooking an area known as "Island Park."
Island Park Panorama

Island Park panorama.

Last up was a short hike to visit McKee Springs petroglyphs — some of the best we've ever seen.
We followed a jeep track to the top of a formation known as "The Reef" — a tortured sandstone ridge that marks one ragged edge of the giant mountainous whorl that is Dinosaur National Monument. To the north, endless dry, buff-colored mesas.

Next stop: Green River Campground. We were looking forward to a hot shower, doing laundry and a quiet night along the river.

Next: Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument