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09-18-19 – Jurassic National Monument


Jurassic National Monument, at the site of the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, well known for containing the densest concentration of Jurassic dinosaur fossils ever found, is a paleontological site located near Cleveland, Utah, in the San Rafael Swell, a part of the geological layers known as the Morrison Formation.

Well over 15,000 bones have been excavated from this Jurassic excavation site and there are many thousands more awaiting excavation and study. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in October 1965. The John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, signed into law March 12, 2019, named it as a national monument.

All of these bones, belonging to different species, are found disarticulated and indistinctly mixed together. It has been hypothesised that this strong concentration of mixed fossilised bones is due to a “predator trap”, but any kind of definitive scientific consensus hasn’t been reached yet and debates still continue to the present day.

Unfortunately I arrived only to learn that it was closed for the season, so I explored the surrounding area. I’ll return next year to see the visitor center.

09-17-19 – Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake


Antelope Island, with an area of 42 square miles (109 km2), is the largest of ten islands located within the Great Salt Lake, Utah, United States. The island lies in the southeastern portion of the lake, near Salt Lake City and Davis County, and becomes a peninsula when the lake is at extremely low levels.

The first known non-natives to visit the island were John C. Frémont and Kit Carson during exploration of the Great Salt Lake in 1845, who “rode on horseback over salt from the thickness of a wafer to twelve inches” and “were informed by the Indians that there was an abundance of fresh water on it and plenty of antelope”. It is said they shot a pronghorn antelope on the island and in gratitude for the meat they named it Antelope Island.

Antelope Island has natural scenic beauty and holds populations of pronghorn, bighorn sheep, American bison, porcupine, badger, coyote, bobcat, mule deer, and millions of waterfowl. The bison were introduced to the island in 1893, and Antelope Island bison herd has proven to be a valuable genetic pool for bison breeding and conservation purposes. The bison do well, because much of the island is covered by dry, native grassland.

The geology of Antelope Island consists mostly of alluvial plains with prairie grassland on the north, east and south of the island, along with a mountainous central area of older Precambrian metamorphic and igneous rocks and late Precambrian to Paleozoic sedimentary rocks, covered by a thin layer of Quaternary lake deposits, colluvium and alluvium. The Precambrian deposits on Antelope Island are some of the oldest rocks in the United States, older even than the Precambrian rocks at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

09-17-19 – Timpanagos Cave National Monument


Timpanogos Cave National Monument is a United States National Monument protecting the Timpanogos Cave Historic District and a cave system on Mount Timpanogos in the Wasatch Mountains in American Fork Canyon near American Fork, Utah, in the United States. The site is managed by the National Park Service. The 1.5-mile (2.4 km) trail to the cave is steep, gaining close to 1,000 feet (300 m), but paved and fairly wide, making the caves accessible to most. The three caves of the system, one of which is specifically called Timpanogos Cave, are only viewable on guided tours when the monument is open, usually from May through September depending on snow conditions and funding. There is the standard tour going through the cave system, and an Introduction to Caving tour which teaches Leave No Trace caving and goes further into Hansen Cave.

The three caves of the Monument that are tourable are: Hansen Cave, Middle Cave, and Timpanogos Cave. The three caves are connected by manmade tunnels blasted in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration . The average temperature in the caves is 46 degrees Fahrenheit. Many colorful cave features or speleothems can be seen. Among the most interesting are the helictites, which are hollowed, twisted, spiraling straws of deposited calcite or aragonite. They are formed when water travels through the tube and then evaporates, leaving a trace mineral deposit at the end. Other speleothems found in the cave include: cave bacon, cave columns, flowstone, cave popcorn, cave drapery, stalactites and stalagmites.

09-16-19 – Dinosaur National Monument


Dinosaur National Monument is a United States National Monument located on the southeast flank of the Uinta Mountains on the border between Colorado and Utah at the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers. Although most of the monument area is in Moffat County, Colorado, the Dinosaur Quarry is located in Utah just to the north of the town of Jensen, Utah.

The nearest communities are Jensen, Utah, and Dinosaur, Colorado. The park contains over 800 paleontological sites and has fossils of dinosaurs including Allosaurus, Deinonychus, Abydosaurus (a nearly complete skull, lower jaws and first four neck vertebrae of the specimen DINO 16488 found here at the base of the Mussentuchit Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation is the holotype for the description) and various long-neck, long-tail sauropods. It was declared a National Monument on October 4, 1915. In April 2019, the International Dark-Sky Association designated Dinosaur National Monument an International Dark Sky Park.

The rock layer enclosing the fossils is a sandstone and conglomerate bed of alluvial or river bed origin known as the Morrison Formation from the Jurassic Period some 150 million years old. The dinosaurs and other ancient animals were carried by the river system which eventually entombed their remains in Utah. The pile of sediments were later buried and lithified into solid rock. The layers of rock were later uplifted and tilted to their present angle by the mountain building forces that formed the Uintas during the Laramide orogeny. The relentless forces of erosion exposed the layers at the surface to be found by paleontologists.

The dinosaur fossil beds (bone beds) were discovered in 1909 by Earl Douglass, a paleontologist working and collecting for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. He and his crews excavated thousands of fossils and shipped them back to the museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for study and display. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the dinosaur beds as Dinosaur National Monument in 1915. The monument boundaries were expanded in 1938 from the original 80-acre (320,000 m2) tract surrounding the dinosaur quarry in Utah, to its present extent of over 200,000 acres (800 km²) in Utah and Colorado, encompassing the spectacular river canyons of the Green and Yampa.

The plans made by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on a ten-dam, billion dollar Colorado River Storage Project began to arouse opposition in the early 1950s when it was announced that one of the proposed dams would be at Echo Park, in the middle of Dinosaur National Monument. The controversy assumed major proportions, dominating conservation politics for years. David Brower, executive director of the Sierra Club, and Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society led an unprecedented nationwide campaign to preserve the free-flowing rivers and scenic canyons of the Green and Yampa Rivers. They argued that if a national monument was not safe from development, how could any wildland be kept intact? On the other side of the argument were powerful members of Congress from western states, who were committed to the project in order to secure water rights, obtain cheap hydroelectric power and develop reservoirs as tourist destinations. After much debate, Congress settled on a compromise that eliminated Echo Park Dam and authorized the rest of the project. The Colorado River Storage Project Act became law on April 11, 1956. It stated, “that no dam or reservoir constructed under the authorization of the Act shall be within any National Park or Monument.” Historians view the Echo Park Dam controversy as signaling the start of an era that includes major conservationist political successes such as the Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

09-15-19 – Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area


Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is a United States National Recreation Area located in the states of Wyoming and Utah. The recreation centerpiece of the area is the 91 miles (146 km) long Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

The area was given the name “Flaming Gorge” by John Wesley Powell during his 1869 expedition down the Green River, due to the spectacular, gorgeous red sandstone cliffs that surround this part of the river.

The Flaming Gorge reservoir was created by the 1964 construction of the Flaming Gorge Dam across the Green River.

Flaming Gorge Dam is used to generate hydroelectric power. Three turbines and generators at the base of the dam have the capacity to produce 50,650 kilowatts of electrical power each.

Flaming Gorge National Recreation area is administered by the Ashley National Forest. Activities in the recreation area include camping, biking, rock climbing, paddling, hiking, boating and fishing on the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, and rafting on the portion of the Green River downstream from Flaming Gorge Dam.

The Sheep Creek Geologic Loop is a 10-mile section of road that takes you through the center of the Uinta Crest Fault. Along its course, you will not only see exposed layers of the earth raised in dramatic angles and positions, but will also have the opportunity to pull out at overlooks with your binoculars and scan for wildlife, including those Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.

Red Canyon Overlook is a viewpoint at Colorado National Monument that looks directly down Red Canyon from its head to Grand Junction in the Grand Valley to the northeast. The overlook, fenced by a stone wall, is right next to a small parking area on the north side of Rim Rock Drive.

09-15-19 – Fossil Butte National Monument


Fossil Butte National Monument is a United States National Monument managed by the National Park Service, located 15 miles (24 km) west of Kemmerer, Wyoming, United States. It centers on an extraordinary assemblage of Eocene Epoch (56 to 34 million years ago) animal and plant fossils associated with Fossil Lake—the smallest lake of the three great lakes which were then present in what are now Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. The other two lakes were Lake Gosiute and Lake Uinta. Fossil Butte National Monument was established as a national monument on October 23, 1972.

Fossil Butte National Monument preserves the best paleontological record of Cenozoic aquatic communities in North America and possibly the world, within the 50-million-year-old Green River Formation — the ancient lake bed. Fossils preserved — including fish, alligators, bats, turtles, dog-sized horses, insects, and many other species of plants and animals — suggest that the region was a low, subtropical, freshwater basin when the sediments accumulated, over about a 2 million-year period.

During the Eocene this portion of Wyoming was a sub-tropical lake ecosystem. The Green River Lake System contained three ancient lakes, Fossil Lake, Lake Gosiute, and Lake Uinta. These lakes covered parts of southwest Wyoming, northeast Utah and northwestern Colorado. Fossil Butte is a remnant of the deposits from Fossil Lake. Fossil Lake was 40 to 50 miles (64 to 80 km) long from north to south and 20 miles (32 km) wide. Over the two million years that it existed, the lake varied in length and width.

Fossil Buttes National Monument contains only 13 square miles (8,198 acres (33,180,000 m2)) of the 900-square-mile (595,200 acres (2.409×109 m2)) ancient lake. The ancient lake sediments that form the primary fossil digs is referred to as the Green River Formation. In addition to this fossil-bearing strata, a large portion of the Wasatch Formation, river and stream sediments, is within the national monument. The Wasatch Formation represents the shoreline ecosystem around the lake and contains fossil teeth and bone fragments of Eocene mammals. Among these are early primates and horses.

09-14-19 – Craters of the Moon National Monument


Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a U.S. National Monument and national preserve in the Snake River Plain in central Idaho. It is along US 20 (concurrent with US 93 and US 26), between the small towns of Arco and Carey, at an average elevation of 5,900 feet (1,800 m) above sea level. The protected area’s features are volcanic and represent one of the best-preserved flood basalt areas in the continental United States.

The Monument was established on May 2, 1924. In November 2000, a presidential proclamation by President Clinton greatly expanded the Monument area. The National Park Service portions of the expanded Monument were designated as Craters of the Moon National Preserve in August 2002. It lies in parts of Blaine, Butte, Lincoln, Minidoka, and Power counties. The area is managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The Monument and Preserve encompass three major lava fields and about 400 square miles (1,000 km2) of sagebrush steppe grasslands to cover a total area of 1,117 square miles (2,893 km2). The Monument alone covers 53,571 acres (21,679 ha). All three lava fields lie along the Great Rift of Idaho, with some of the best examples of open rift cracks in the world, including the deepest known on Earth at 800 feet (240 m). There are excellent examples of almost every variety of basaltic lava, as well as tree molds (cavities left by lava-incinerated trees), lava tubes (a type of cave), and many other volcanic features


Random roadside attractions in Wyoming



As I drove through Wyoming I found several roadside points of interest, and a surprise badlands

09-13-19 – City Of Rocks National Preserve



The City of Rocks National Reserve, also known as the Silent City of Rocks, is a United States National Reserve and state park lying 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the south central Idaho border with Utah. It is widely known for its excellent rock climbing and rock formations.

The rock spires in the City of Rocks and adjacent Castle Rocks State Park are largely composed of granitic rock of the Oligocene Almo pluton and Archean Green Creek Complex.

California Trail wagon trains of the 1840s and 1850s left the Raft River valley and traveled through the area and over Granite Pass into Nevada. Names or initials of emigrants written in axle grease are still visible on Register Rock. Ruts from wagon wheels also can be seen in some of the rocks.

The landscape of City of Rocks has been sculpted from granite that was intruded into the crust during two widely spaced times. The granite that composes most of the spires is part of the 28-million-year-old Almo pluton. However, some of the spires are made of granite that is part of the 2.5 billion-year-old Green Creek Complex that contains some of the oldest rocks in the western United States. The granite has eroded into a fascinating assortment of shapes.

City of Rocks was designated a National Reserve, a unit of the National Park Service, in recognition of the nationally significant geological and scenic values of its rock formations and the historical significance of the California Trail. Rock formations in the reserve developed through an erosion process called exfoliation, during which thin rock plates and scales sloughed off along joints in the rocks. The joints, or fractures, resulted from the contraction of the granite as it cooled, from an upward expansion of the granite as overlying materials were eroded away, and from regional tectonic stresses. The granite has eroded into a fascinating assortment of shapes as high as 600 feet (180 m). The upper surfaces of many of the rocks are covered with flat-floored weathering pits known as panholes. The most notable panhole is located on top of Bath Rock and is continuously filled with water from rain or snowmelt.

Source: Wikipedia

09-13-19 – Basin and Range National Monument


Basin and Range National Monument is a national monument of the United States spanning approximately 704,000 acres (1,100 sq mi; 2,800 km2) of remote, undeveloped mountains and valleys in Lincoln and Nye counties in southeastern Nevada. It is described as “one of the emptiest spaces in a state famous for its emptiness.”

The Basin and Range National Monument area has geological, ecological, cultural, historical, paleoecological, seismological, archaeological, and paleoclimatological significance. The area is located in a transitional region between the Mojave Desert and the Sagebrush Steppe of the Great Basin.

Major features within the national monument include: Garden Valley and Coal Valley; the Worthington Mountains, containing the Worthington Mountains Wilderness Area; the Golden Gate Range; the Seaman Range; the Mount Irish Range; the Hiko Narrows; the White River Narrows; and the Shooting Gallery rock art site. Native American rock art at the site is about 4,000 years old.

Fauna of significance in the national monument include desert bighorn sheep, golden eagle, and many species of bat, lizard, and snake.

Source: Wikipedia