Digging Dinosaurs and Exploring National Monuments in Fruita Colorado
A small boy stares up wide-eyed into the ferocious jaws of the Dilophosaurus. The carnivorous Dinosaur bares his teeth and spits forth a stream of colorless venom, as the boy jumps back with a squeal. Of course, it is a robotic dinosaur and much larger than the actual Dilophosaurus that lived during the early Jurassic period and the venom is only water. However, the boy is delighted to take part in the fun at Dinosaur Journey in Fruita, Colorado.
The Dinosaur Journey MuseumFruita is located in northwestern Colorado and about 11 miles west of Grand Junction. Dinosaur Journey Museum is part of the Western Museum of Colorado, providing visitors with a fun and educational experience. The museum features incredible life-like robotic dinosaurs, dinosaur fossils, hands-on exhibits and a working fossil preparation laboratory; guests are able to watch the museum scientists at work.
Dino DigsIn addition, the museum offers an amazing program to participate in a dinosaur dig. Have you ever dreamed of working side-by-side with a paleontologist on a digging site to discover real dinosaur bones? If Jurassic dinosaurs thrill you or your family, then here is your chance to book an exciting paleontology expedition.
The Dino Digs consists of one to five-day expeditions working with museum scientists to excavate dinosaur bones and locate dinosaur tracks from Colorado and Utah quarries.
For one-day digs, guests are shuttled to Rabbit Valley along the Morrison Formation where they meet with experienced bone preparators at the Mygatt-Moore site. The site was discovered in 1981 and has been worked since 1984. Many Allosaurus and Apatosaurus (what most people know as a Brontosaurus), bones and fossils are found in this site; to date about 4000 have been excavated at Mygatt-Moore.
Paleontologist Dr. John Foster leads most of the expeditions at the Mygatt-Moore site and instructs guests on the correct tools and procedures for dinosaur bone excavation. Foster is a brilliant scientist and one of the top paleontologists in the world. He has published many books and presents all over the globe. National Geographic and the Discovery Channel regularly consult with him and he has appeared on their shows numerous times. Though Foster is highly esteemed, he is unassuming and fascinating. When guests work with Foster, he makes digging for dinosaur bones a great adventure.
Excavating BonesThe tools used for your Dino Dig are a paintbrush, screwdriver, small hammer, bucket and, oh yes, a hat and plenty of sunscreen. After tool procedure and careful instruction, guests work along side one of the scientists at a specific area on the site that is in the process of bone excavation. When you find a dinosaur bone or bone fragment that is millions of years old, it is quite exhilarating to realize that you are the first person ever to see it.
Many individuals, couples and families often find bones and fragments. And, kids are absolutely giddy-happy to dig for dino bones, make discoveries, be allowed to get dirty in the name of science and take back home an exciting experience of a lifetime. The Museum of Western Colorado offers a variety of expeditions and accompanying hikes, such as the wonderful and educational Trail Through Time hike on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) located adjacent to the Mygatt-Moore site. The interpretive trail hike leads visitors past visible dinosaur fossilized vertebras and bones embedded in the rock formations that were to fragile to excavate. The views along the hike are stunning and your guide will talk about the area’s geological formations and point out many fascinating features along the trail. For additional information on the Dinosaur Journey Museum and Dino Digs, visit Museum of Western Colorado
Colorado National MonumentNorthwestern, Colorado offers visitors a plethora of indoor and outdoor activities. The magnificent Colorado National Monument, located in Fruita, is a popular destination for its beautiful red canyons with 20,000 acres of arched windows, rock spires and natural monoliths. There are extensive opportunities for biking, horseback riding and hiking around the monument, as well as taking a leisurely drive and admiring the scenic vistas. Viewing points are located all along the monument roadways and they are perfect for exploring and photo opportunities. The shear scope of the spires and striated canyons is breath taking with views that extend for miles. Perhaps the most striking feature of the National Monument, aside from its beauty, is the quiet and solitude. It is a perfect place to relax or contemplate without the disruption of civilization or urban noise.
If you wish to learn more about the monument, participate in activities or obtain maps and guides, stop by the National Monument Visitor’s Center.
Patrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site Offbeat Travel. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Travel Writers Alliance (ITWA) and the Recording Academy. Her photographs and articles have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger, Seattle Weekly and the Oregonian. As a freelance photojournalist, she has also worked with acclaimed musical entertainers, such as Santana, Billy Joel and Steven Tyler. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure.