Looking out across the varied landscapes of the Grand Valley, it's difficult to avoid thinking about how this place came to be. The Bookcliffs jut up from a valley floor divided by a meandering and mighty river. The Grand Mesa casts a shadow over the sandstone monuments and bentonite clay below.
Did it always look this way? What lived here before humans did? These are some of the fun questions answered in the field of Paleontology. At Dinosaur Journey, part of Museums of Western Colorado, Paleontology professionals actively are working to understand what life was like here in the Grand Valley thousands, and even millions, of years ago. Paleontology is significantly linked to the natural world. We are able to understand what life was like in the Grand Valley long ago by the current study of what remains.
Last year, due to the pandemic, the Museums made the decision to keep the Mygatt-Moore Quarry closed. Many significant paleontological discoveries have been made at Mygatt-Moore in Rabbit Valley, which made the decision to keep it closed heartbreaking. It was the first time since 1985 that no one dug in the quarry.
Over the years, the quarry has produced more than 2,300 mapped bones. Radiometric dates have shown the rock layers that make up this large bone deposit are approximately 152 million years old. The sediments also show that the area was a quiet, seasonal pond during the Jurassic Period.
The Museums offer experiences to be part of the action in the quarry. Visitors can register to dig alongside Paleontologists in Mygatt-Moore and be part of uncovering the prehistoric mysteries of the Grand Valley. Predatory dinosaur Allosaurus and the giant plant-eating Apatosaurus remains are common in this quarry. When you join in on a dino dig with the Museum you get a glimpse at what life in the Grand Valley would have been like 152 million years ago.
If the heat and bugs at a paleontology dig are not for you, you can still enjoy a bit of dinosaur history outside in nature at your leisure. Dinosaur Hill is just up the road from Dinosaur Journey Museum and has interpretative signs as well as a historic quarry site you can see from the trails. Fruita Paleo Area, located in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, is a great place to take the family for a hike. The Fruitachampsa dinosaur was first discovered in the Fruita Paleo area in 1975. Riggs Hill is a section of property owned by the Museums of Western Colorado. The Museums, in conjunction with the BLM, developed trails where you can see replicas of where the first Brachiosaurus was discovered in 1900. If you are up for a drive to the Utah border, you can see a dinosaur where it laid down for the last time encased in the rock off the trail on the Trail Through Time.
The paleontological heritage of this valley truly sets it apart. We have incredible access to uncovering ancient life surrounding us, and we invite you to join us in uncovering the prehistoric mysteries of this beautiful valley. Whether you join us for a hike in one of the paleontological areas, or you join us out at the quarry, we want to help connect you with the inspiring scientific heritage of where we call home.