National Parks aren't all about gorgeous landscapes, or American history. Sometimes they chronicle prehistoric history, such as the case withFossil Butte National Monument in southwestern Wyoming.
Here you'll find some of the world's best-preserved fossils in the flat-topped ridges of the region's cold sagebrush desert. Fossilized fish, insects, plants, reptiles, birds, and mammals are exceptional for their abundance, variety, and detail of preservation. The monument was established in 1972 to protect and preserve a portion of the Green River and Wasatch formations which contain a unique fossilized assemblage of organisms that once lived in or around Fossil Lake, an ancient lake of Eocene age. Many other clues to the environment of Fossil Lake and its environs are also preserved in the Wasatch and Green River formations.
The light-colored strata of the fossil-bearing Green River formation is exposed on the steep slopes of Fossil Butte, Cundick Ridge, Ruby Point, and elsewhere throughout Fossil Basin. The Wasatch formation underlies, overlies, and intermingles with the Green River formation, but, to the untrained eye, outcroppings of its colorful dull red, pink, lavender, purple, yellow, and gray strata appear to be scattered at random throughout the monument.
Although best-known for fossils, the monument also is home to approximately 300 elk in the winter. You can often see them from the visitor center.
As for the photo this week, it's a Knightia alta, approximately 12.5 cm long.