Quarry at Dinosaur National Monument closes

Quarry Visitor Center: The famous dinosaur site is on shaky ground. Photo courtesy Mark Ryan
Quarry Visitor Center: The famous dinosaur site is on shaky ground. Photo courtesy Mark Ryan

I was sorry to learn that the Quarry Visitor Center at Dinosaur National Monument has been closed indefinitely because of safety concerns. The center houses a large and active fossil quarry where visitors can see dinosaur remains preserved in a massive and tilted slab of rock in the Morrison Formation.

Dinosaur bones litter the quarry wall: Photo courtesy Mark Ryan
Dinosaur bones litter the quarry wall: Photo courtesy Mark Ryan

I visited the monument for the first time a couple years back, and I have to admit, it wasn’t the easiest place to get to. The park is located in the extreme border region of northern Utah and Colorado, and expands for 210,000 acres through both states, although the visitor center sets on the Utah side. But despite its isolated location, the trip was well worth it, especially for someone with my fascination in all things dinosaur. Besides the quarry containing literally hundreds of dinosaur bones, the center contained a preparation laboratory, exhibits, and a bookstore. And the geology in the surrounding park area was spectacular.

But structural problems, dating back to before the visitor center first opened in 1958, have finally shut the building down. Even as the site was under construction cracks had begun appearing in the parking lot, and over the years, the center’s support beams became flexed under stress, and gaps more than a foot wide appeared as the building shifted away from the quarry wall.

Throughout its nearly half-century of existence supplemental supports were added to help anchor the structure and reinforce the gallery deck, but recent inspections revealed new safety and health concerns, and the decision was made to close it indefinitely.

That’s too bad, as the center presented a very unique opportunity to see an active dinosaur quarry. I just hope it doesn’t take too long to reopen it.

Exhibits, fossils, and programs presented by park rangers will still be available at the outdoor entrance building near Jensen, Utah. But the Quarry Visitor Center was definitely the main attraction, and local officials fear that tourism will suffer from the closing.

Further Information
A history of Dinosaur National Monument
Maps of Dinosaur National Monument

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

My experience with Dinosaur National Monument was very similar. By the time I got there, I was beginning to wonder if it would be worth the trip. However once I arrived, I found it fascinating. I thought the layout of the visitors center was fantastic ... all those dinosaur bones in a wall of rock, left exactly as they were found, mere feet away. The best part was that they encouraged you to touch the bones. That is a rather rare experience. I was so impressed with the park that I planned on revisiting, and still will eventually, but will wait until the Quarry Visitors Center is reopened or rebuilt.

posted on Thu, 09/14/2006 - 10:31pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Can anyone comment on whether the park is worth visiting without the Center being open? Are there dino bones elsewhere that one can see in situ (like up in Canada's park?) Is the geology and the canyon itself worth it?


posted on Wed, 11/15/2006 - 4:59am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

ABSOLUTELY worth visiting!

You can discover dinosaur bones on your own along the 3/4-mile Fossil Discovery Trail. A guide book, signs, and park rangers can help you identify them.

Besides....there are abundant rock art sites, petroglyphs and pictographs, within easy access by car or trail. Not to mention amazing river running on the Yampa and Grand rivers, from day trips to several days. The park is not limited to the famous fossil quarry, but encompasses 200,000 acres of dramatic scenery from river to rim, from red rock to evergreens. Camping under the brilliant starry skies or fool moon is unsurpassed.


posted on Mon, 02/12/2007 - 10:11am
mdr's picture
mdr says:

The geology in and around Dinosaur National Monument is absolutely fantastic. The park is fairly large (200,000 acres) and there are four paved routes for driving into the wilderness area. There's also a number of hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty (both loops and non-loops), indian petroglyphs, and river rafting. No other "official" fossil sites exist, but it's certainly possible to stumble across some on your own. Of course it's illegal to collect any vertebrate fossils you do happen across. Getting to the monument was half the fun. My brother and I approached it from the north (Green River, Wyoming) and went through some really wonderful geological formations in northern Utah, such as the Flaming Gorge, and Sheep Creek.

posted on Wed, 11/15/2006 - 11:00pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

It looks like the visitor center might not reopen for several years.

posted on Mon, 02/12/2007 - 4:50pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

it will be open in 1 more day it was on ksl

posted on Wed, 09/28/2011 - 8:57pm

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