Dinosaur, CO, Vernal, UT & Surrounds

Dinosaur Travel Blog

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Some years back the 1990 US National Hang Gliding Competition was held in Dinosaur, CO, not far outside Vernal, UT. The goal was to maybe make a flight. It was a 45 minute drive up to the top of Blue Mountain to the launch point. When we got there the view was spectacular but it was becoming heavily overcast & the winds were squirrely. First from one direction & then another.  That is usually not a good thing to launch into, esp since we were alone & unfamiliar with the area. The locals who were familiar with the area were all tied up that day. We finally decided it wasn't the day to fly it & as we started to drive off a gust front hit from behind us. One of the best decision we ever made.

Dinosaur, CO, is a tiny town left over from the oil & gas well boom days. It has been left in the dust. There is one cafe & two motels left in operation. We stayed at the Terrace Motel, rather than go back to Vernal since we wanted to do more exploring in the area. It is very old & small but very clean & the people are great.  Same with the cafe. The cafe folks feed us after hours. When we drove up they were sitting in the front with neighbors. It's a meeting place of sorts for the community. They just opened the grill back up & cooked for us.

Next morning we visited the State Dinosaur Museum in town.  Small but really nice. Met a woman whose husband, along with the fellow who owned the motel we didn't stay at because it was full, had been the moving force that brought the 1990 US National Hang Gliding Competition to Dinosaur. She said to give her husband a call next time we came to the area & she was sure he would do something with us. We wondered why we couldn't have know that the day before. Oh well, such is life.

Leaving the town we went down the road about six miles to the Visitors Center for Dinosaur National Monument. Lots of interesting stuff. Dinosaur & rock stuff. I would have been more attentive had I seen Echo Park Canyon first. A little bit of dinosaur stuff goes a long way for me.

Back toward Vernal, UT. Hang a right & down into Echo Park Canyon we go. Huge sheer rock walls. Trees of all kinds, changing as we descend. Rock color changing. At the bottom surrounded on three sides by sheer walls with the Yampa River & Steamboat Rock on the fourth. At that point we were grateful for the overcast. I'm sure the heat is murder when the skiess are clear & the sun can bounce light off all that red rock.  Talked to a Fish & Game Person who was back from his day of surveying the health of the endangered Pike Minnows in the Yampa & Green Rivers.  They had caught one that was 16" long. Sounds like a healthy minnow to me. I'm from Oklahoma oringinally & in Oklahoma a HUGE minnow is 4" long. I of course wanted to see it. No deal. They catch them, measure them, turn them loose.

Left the bottom of the canyon after several hours of wandering around & looking at water & rock & just the sheer presence of the scene. Uhhhed & ahhhed all the way back up the windy road we had come down. But it looks different coming from the other direction. So, we had to stop every few minutes & take more pictures going back up. They are really just like the ones, going down, but somehow different. When I was culling pictures after I put them on my laptop I thought it is ridiculous to keep all these pictures that are just more of the same but different & when it was all said & done, I just kept them all.

Now what? Oh yes, Vernal & FOOOOOOOOD! We ate at Vernal at a forgetable place. It was genuine mouth filling food. Vernal has tons of places to choose from but not on Sunday & we were hungry & we didn't weigh what options we had. Oh well. The beer was good. Well, it was cold. Bud Light is Bud Light, if it's cold & you are hungry & thirsty. Now we are fed & watered. Next stop Red Fleet Reservoir. This was totally not on the plan but nothing that was on the plan has worked so, why not.

Redfleet is beautiful. Back when they were daming everything they could find that might fill up with water if they damed it, Red Fleet came into existence. Huge reds & blues & whites & tans in the cliffs in bands of color. Beautiful water. We read that there is fossilized dinosaur foot prints somewhere around the lake. We found a place that gave info about the hike. Three miles of moderate intensity over rocky, broken terrain. I don't think so. I have a pair of sandals & my kayaking, water shoes. (From then til now on I have shoes for every occasion in the car! Mike doesn't even bat an eye about there being six pairs of shoes in the floor of the backseat.)

Declining the hike & putting it on the schedule for next time we go to the area, we continued our way around to the lake. Finally got to the marina & would you believe the dinosaur tracks are directly across the water from the boat ram. A fifteen minute paddle. However, they had someone on the ramp surrounded my four emergency vehicles & people everywhere. No one was allowed down the ramp. We waited & waited & ran out of time. It was Sunday evening & a long way home & both had to work the next morning. Dinosaur footprints still on the list for next time. As we made our decision, the emergency people made theirs & put handcuffs on the person who had earlier been on a stretcher.

But we decided it was okay. Next trip we will paddle over to the footprints then paddle up the canyon which is supposed to be spectacular. I got that information from someone who was also waiting to put in that came to Red Fleet all the time. Going up the canyon is a "no wake" area which is exactly what is needed for a kayak. Motor boats can make kayaking absolutely no fun.

It was one of those trips where absolutely nothing we had planned happened but we had a great time, totally by accident. It's all about going with the flow, staying in the moment & letting it unfold. We went back & forth between going with the flow & trying to make things work but finally just got resigned to having a good time. And it was a great four day trip.

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Dinosaur Hotels & Accommodations review
Only two motels in town
The motel is very small & harks back to the '50s. But it is very clean & the lady that owns it is very nice. You get a bed, bathroom, coffee pot & a m… read entire review
photo by: leistro78