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Southern Utah News Front Page: April 24, 2014

National Geograpic Magazine features Utah''s ancient past

The ancient swamplands of southern Utah, known today as the arid Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, is the topic for “Digging Utah’s Dinosaurs” – a feature article in the May 2014 issue of National Geographic Magazine released this week.

The story traces the footsteps of paleontologists on the hunt for fossils in the “lost continent” of Laramidia, a unique ecosystem being pieced together through fossil records in a remote part of Utah.

“It is very exciting to have National Geographic highlight Utah’s rich landscape,” said Vicki Varela, managing director Utah Office of Tourism. We’re known for our Mighty 5® national parks, but few people know that we’re also home to the world’s most comprehensive record of prehistoric life. Utah’s abundance of easily accessible dinosaur-related sites gives visitors a one-of-a-kind opportunity to take a step back in time and explore firsthand, our state’s ancient past.”

Home to more than 15 different dinosaur-specific sites, including national, monuments, state parks, a prehistoric byway, a world-class state museum of natural history and more than half-a-dozen dinosaur-themed museums, Utah offers the world’s most complete exposed record of geologic activity, providing visitors with a window into past worlds that engage one’s sense of curiosity, imagination and wonder.

Great dinosaur sites to visit in Utah include:

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah

Dubbed the “next frontier for paleontologists,” The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is vast and rugged, but with several easy access points off scenic Highway 12. While the excavation sites featured in the National Geographic article are accessible only by professional paleontologists, the Big Water Visitor Center in Big Water provides the best way for amateur paleontologists to begin exploring this remarkable area. 

Natural History Museum of Utah at Rio Tinto Center, Salt Lake City

Begin your dinosaur explorations by visiting the Natural History Museum of Utah to see many of Utah’s dinosaur fossils, including those found at the Grand Staircase excavations, currently on display as part of the Museum’s Past Worlds Exhibition located in the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Gallery. Past Worlds features more than 30 ancient skeletal reconstructions, and the world’s only display of 14 Ceratopsian (horned) dinosaur skulls. The Museum aims to connect visitors to Utah’s diverse history by serving as a “trailhead” to explorations of the many ancient wonders throughout the state.

Dinosaur National Monument, eastern Utah

In 1909, 20 miles east of Vernal, Paleontologist Earl Douglas discovered a 200-foot-long sandbar layered with prehistoric plant and animal fossils. A newly opened quarry visitor center now protects more than 1,500 dinosaur bones left exposed in the sandstone wall. Beyond the quarry, the monument offers trails, tours and activities, which highlight the area’s unique geology, history, wildlife and rugged beauty.

Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, central Utah

Home to more Jurassic dinosaur bones per square yard than have been found anywhere else in the world, this quarry has unearthed 74 individual dinosaurs, of which 66 percent belong to the meat-eater Allosaurus, Utah’s official state fossil. Since 1928, more than 12,000 bones have been excavated, with several thousand more yet to be uncovered. A recent million-dollar renovation makes these treasures even more accessible. The visitor center houses fossil exhibits, and the quarry shelter features upper and lower observation platforms for close viewing.

USU Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum, Price

This is the museum that discovered the Utahraptor, Utah’s adopted state dinosaur and unwitting star of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. The museum’s collection contains eight complete skeletons from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, as well as numerous dinosaur tracks, eggs and other fossils. In addition, the museum currently operates 10 active dinosaur fossil quarries and is a trove of locally dug dinosaur bones.

For more information on visiting Utah’s inhabitants of the distant past, or the Utah Office of Tourism, please visit www.VisitUtah.com or call (800) 200-1160.


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