Dinosaur National Monument busy during Easter weekend

— On Sunday, the line of cars at the entrance to Dinosaur National Monument reached six deep as Darla Sowell collected the entrance fee.

"Admission is $10 if you don't have a parks pass," said Sowell, a visitor use assistant for the National Parks Service. "We're getting a lot of day visitors, lots of snowbirds touring the park."

Highway improvements haven't slowed the number of visitors heading to the park that straddles the Utah-Colorado state line. The road leading to the park has new shoulders and pavement, and the entrance has new cement leading to the booth.

"We're making lots of improvements," Sowell said. "It'll be worth it in the long run."

Improvements to the monument include upgrading the campsites at Green River Campground, as well as improved signage throughout the park.

Sowell said she thought the price of gas would keep visitors away, but that hasn't happened, and this Easter weekend was busy at the Quarry Visitors Center.

"When we stopped counting visitors on Friday, we were up to 400 people," AnnDee Abplanalp said from behind the counter at the fossil displays. "It's a pretty good mix of people. A lot of big families are stopping."

Between the road construction and the weather, visitors to the park need to stay alert, said Ben Freestone, interpretive park ranger at Dinosaur National Monument. He has been warning park visitors about hazards they might face.

"The Harpers Corner entrance opened on Saturday, and the road into Echo Park is very muddy right now," Freestone said. "We're working on all the roads on (the Utah) side of the monument. They are grading the road into Island Park and putting down some gravel."

Freestone said attendance has been high for April, and the park is seeing a lot of campers already. He estimates that 85 percent of the visitors he's seen are first-timers to Dinosaur National Monument.

Don Bock from Laramie, Wyo., said he's driving a shuttle to pick up rafters that put in on the Yampa River near Deerlodge Park. This is his first trip of the year.

"We have eight boats in the river right now with about a dozen people floating down here," Bock said. "It's nice with the water flowing like it is now."

For information on hiking, driving and rafting trips in Dinosaur National Monument, call (970) 374-3000 or visit www.nps.gov/dino/

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext.207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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