The view from the Harpers Corner overlook on the Moffat County side of Dinosaur National Monument.

Photo by Joe Moylan

The view from the Harpers Corner overlook on the Moffat County side of Dinosaur National Monument.

Dinosaur celebrates 75 years in Colorado

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Beyond the Bones events

■ July 14: cake at Dinosaur National Monument visitors centers

■ July 20: Gates of Lodore guided hike, picnic at Irish Canyon, drive to Vermillion Overlook

■ Aug. 25: Yampa Bench Road driving tour

■ Sept. 28: Harpers Corner guided drive and hike

In 1928, explorers entered the Yampa River Canyon in the northwestern corner of Colorado, paddling through the 2,500-foot stretch of canyon land.

Ten years later, the 210,000-acre area was named a national monument by President Franklin Roosevelt, and became the Colorado side of Dinosaur National Monument almost 25 years after the 80-acre fossil quarry was discovered and preserved in Utah.

This Sunday will mark 75 years since that expansion of the monument into Colorado — an anniversary park officials and Conservation Colorado are celebrating with a Beyond the Bones campaign throughout the summer.

“We are so lucky to have Dinosaur National Monument in our backyard,” said Sasha Nelson, field organizer for Conservation Colorado. “The park itself is amazing. Some people have called it the little Grand Canyon. Everyone knows about the dinosaurs, but it also has over 10,000 years of human existence on display.”

The Utah side of the monument, where the dinosaur fossil quarry resides, is the more well-known portion, but the Colorado side is significantly larger and possesses some amazing outdoor opportunities of its own.

“A lot of people, of course because of our name, associate us with dinosaur bones, but there’s a lot more here than just that,” said Dan Johnson, chief of interpretation and visitor services for Dinosaur National Monument. “When you look at the resources contained within the monument, it is very diverse. There are amazing cultural resources, documenting human living going back at least 8,000 years. The wildlife is extremely diverse, both plants and animals.”

For Beyond the Bones, Conservation Colorado is planning a series of tours and hikes that will highlight the diverse land features and views that can be found in the monument. There will be a guided hike at the Gates of Lodore July 20, along with a picnic at Irish Canyon and a drive to the Vermillion Overlook. A driving tour of Yampa Bench Road will take place Aug. 25.

The monument park staff also has plans throughout the year. It will start off low-key, with cake available at the visitors centers in both Colorado and Utah Sunday.

“People can come out and have a piece of anniversary cake,” Johnson said. “We’ll also be doing programs that highlight the (monument’s) difference resources throughout the coming year.”

According to a report from the National Park Service, Dinosaur National Monument attracted nearly 200,000 visitors in 2010, which brought an economic impact of $6.7 million to the area. It is still a destination for camping, sightseeing, hiking or rafting the rivers.

“One of the big things about the monument is it’s never been declared a protected wilderness site” by the federal government, Johnson said. “It has been proposed but never officially declared. We still manage it that way, though, and it has been a beautiful, diverse area as a result.”

Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 970-875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com

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