Dinosaur monument access free

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Residents seeking a weekend getaway or a local day trip may have to look no farther than Dinosaur National Monument, which remains open even after the National Parks Service quit collecting fees for this season.

The entrance station to the monument is now closed but that hasn't limited access to any of the attractions.

"The only thing that's not happening is we're not collecting the $10 entrance fee," said David Whitman, the monument's chief naturalist.

Whitman said the weather at the monument has been "gorgeous," making it an ideal time for locals to visit the nationally known tourist attraction.

The monument, established in 1915, caters to more than 400,000 visitors a year. It is well known both for its collection of dinosaur bones and the beautiful canyon vistas it offers.

The monument is home to the "greatest concentration and best preserved collection of Jurassic Period Dinosaur bones in the universe," Whitman said.

The current theory for the concentration of bones at the monument holds that a river frequented by dinosaurs dried up, causing many to die on the river channel as it shrank to small pools and then dried up completely.

"The dinosaurs flopped over dead in the river bed," Whitman said.

When the river began to flow again, remains of the dinosaurs were covered by sand and other sediment, entombing and preserving them.

The Quarry Visitor Center at the west end of the monument is still open, with attractions such as a rock wall containing 1,500 fossil bones, a paleontology laboratory, exhibits and a bookstore. Dinosaur talks and occasional geology walks still occur on weekends at the center.

All the roads and trails in the monument remain in good condition. Most of the campgrounds are still open, although the water has been shut off because of nighttime freezing temperatures.

The Headquarters Visitor Center at Dinosaur also is open. Beyond it is Harper's Corner Drive, a self-guided auto tour called "A Journey Through Time."

The tour's paved roads lead visitors through different landscapes, from desert shrubs to pinyon-juniper to aspen and fir groves.

A 1-mile trail off Harper's Corner takes visitors to a point where they can look down 2,000 feet into the Canyon of the Green River.

Whitman said there is a kiosk at the beginning of the road that lists the lookouts and attractions along the auto tour.

Another self-guided auto tour begins at the Quarry on the Utah side of the monument.

The roads and trails will remain open until snow causes them to close, Whitman said. The visitor centers remain open year round. The Quarry Visitor Center is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., seven days a week. The Headquarters Visitor Center is open Monday through Friday during the same hours.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com.

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