Dinosaur National Monument Celebrates a Pair of Long-Awaited "Grand Openings"

The new visitor center and fossil quarry hall as those facilities near completion. NPS photos.

Dinosaur fans and the staff at Dinosaur National Monument are celebrating the long-awaited opening of two key facilities in the park within a six day span beginning September 28: a new visitor center and the Quarry Exhibit Hall.

First on the agenda is the September 28 ribbon-cutting for the new 7,595-square-foot visitor center. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is scheduled to be the keynote speaker for the 10 a.m. public event. The building includes new exhibits explaining the monument and its features, an auditorium for programs and viewing of park films, a monument information desk and the park bookstore.

The celebration continues on Tuesday, October 4 when the new 10,500-square-foot Quarry Exhibit Hall opens to the public. The hall, built over the site of the world-famous Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry, provides close viewing of almost 1,500 dinosaur bones from the Jurassic Period, all exposed on the cliff face where they were deposited about 149 million years ago. The new exhibit hall will also feature information and displays about the Jurassic environment and its inhabitants.

"October 4 is the 96th anniversary of the creation of the original 80-acre Dinosaur National Monument," said Superintendent Mary Risser. "This will be the first time that the public will be able to see the dinosaur fossils in more than five years. What an exciting way to mark Dinosaur's founder's day. The National Park Service and Uintah County invite the public to join us in this celebration."

Exhibits in the new visitor center, which now is located down the hill and separate from the fossil quarry, will introduce visitors to Dinosaur National Monument's natural resources, homesteading history, petroglyphs, geology, paleontology, and rivers. They are designed to stimulate the interest of visitors and encourage them to explore the 210,000-acre monument on their own. Interpretive and educational items also will be available for sale in the Intermountain Natural History Association's bookstore.

The ribbon cutting for the visitor center was scheduled one week earlier than the originally planned October 4 event so that the public can see the new interpretive exhibits as soon as they are installed. "The grand opening of the fossil quarry hall is a week later - still the original opening date - because of the added complexity of that building's construction and additional time needed to install its exhibits and clean the fossil wall," Risser added.

September has seen a flurry of activity at both sites to complete the work in time for the opening ceremonies. You can get a peek at the work and a preview of some of the new exhibits at this link.

Dinosaur's original Quarry Visitor Center was a combination visitor center and exhibit hall at the site of the fossil quarry. It was closed in 2006 because of structural damage caused by the unstable soils on which it was built in the 1950s. Attempts had been made to stabilize the building over the decades, but health and safety concerns led the Park Service to close it for repair and reconstruction.

After Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the Park Service selected reconstruction of the exhibit hall and visitor center as a priority ARRA project. It was originally funded for $13.1 million. Risser said the 18-month project will be completed on schedule and under budget.

You'll find information to help plan a visit on the park website. Updates on the new facilities and the park are also available on Facebook and Twitter.

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Dinosaur also figures prominently in the history of the conservation movement. It was slated to be the site of Echo Park Dam, which would have inundated the canyons of the Green and Yampa Rivers within the monument. The dam was defeated by Congress in 1956 after a campaign by conservation groups. Historian Mark W. T. Harvey tells the story in his book "A Symbol of Wilderness: Echo Park and the American Conservation Movement" (1994, University of New Mexico Press).

Aside from the fossils, Dinosaur is a place of incredible diversity. A place very well worth visiting.

We happened to arrive yesterday just after the opening ceremony. My son was the first Junior Ranger inducted in the new visitors center.
It's a great new visitors center, wish the new Quarry Exhibit Hall had been opened as well. We'll just have to go back.

Made it to Dinosaur in June full well knowing that the new VC would not be opened. All the rangers were nice but still disappointing. To make matters worse, the rivers were all too high for our little ones to be able to safely raft. Still, the visit to Dinosaur was worth the trip. Utah Field House in Vernal is a spectacular dinosaur musuem and NW of Vernal is Fossil Butte where we spent a day digging for fish fossils.