Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Drive
The Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway is a 480-mile loop tour through the heart of that area in Utah and Colorado that has produced more dinosaur fossils than any other area on the planet. You want to learn about dinosaurs? This is the place.
In Vernal is the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum, one of the planet's premier dinosaur bones, fossils, eggs and artifacts showcases. East of Vernal is Dinosaur National Monument, an area where so many dinosaur fossils have been found. South of Wellington is where you'll find the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, another extensive cache of dinosaur remnants.
Steamboat Rock in Dinosaur National Monument
The list below contains only a few of the attractions found in the area of the Dinosaur Diamond. So you can drive the loop in 10 or 12 hours... or spend a couple weeks seeing and visiting everything. It's all up to you...
My exposition on the Colorado section of the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway is here.
Dinosaur bones embedded in the wall at the Dinosaur Quarry, Dinosaur National Monument
Other photos courtesy of the National Park Service
Geologic Time Scale
The K-T Boundary is that white band beneath the upper layer of sandstone
|Subdivisions based on Strata/Age||Radiometric Dates (millions of years ago)|
|Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction Event||65|
|Permian-Triassic extinction event||251-260|
The table to the right gives a rough breakdown of the geological ages of Earth as used in modern Geology texts.
Much of the oil and gas we use comes from vegetative deposits made during the Permian and Pennsylvanian (late Carboniferous) ages. A lot of the coal we use (with its accompanying methane gas) comes from the great jungles and forests of the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian (early and late Carboniferous) ages in the Paleozoic era. Big reptiles and dinosaurs lived out their lives during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods of the Mesozoic Era.
It was at the end of the Cretaceous Age that the Laramide Orogeny was set in motion, the Colorado Plateau uplifted and the Ancestral Rocky Mountains built. That was also during the time when an asteroid impacted near the Yucatan Peninsula and tipped the environmental scale in a direction that wiped virtually all the dinosaurs from the face of the planet. The K-T Boundary is a thin layer of iridium that filled the atmosphere during that explosion, then fell back to Earth during the global fires and the atmospheric upheaval afterward. While there have been plenty of marine, insect, reptile, amphibian, plant and mammal fossils found from times since, there has never been a dinosaur fossil found from the years after that impact. The K-T boundary is accepted as the definitive marker between the Cretaceous and Tertiary Ages, the marker of the Jurassic extinction event.
The Permian-Triassic extinction event seems to have happened in two major pulses about 9 million years apart. During the Permian age many insect orders had grown huge. A rise in CO2 in the atmosphere led to a rise in temperature and to acidification of the oceans. Marine invertebrates with carbon-based skeletons suffered worst but this was also the only mass extinction that affected insects: eight or nine insect orders became extinct and ten more suffered greatly reduced diversity. Insects, however, had generally recovered by the late Triassic, everything but that giant size anyway. The second pulse seems to have occurred around the time of the Araguainha impact, an asteroidal impact in Brazil that was not large enough to set off catastrophic extinction by itself but it occurred in an area filled with oil shale and the resulting sudden rise in global warming from the fires that ignited may have begun the atmospheric cascade that led to ocean surface temperatures around 104°F (40°C). That high an ocean temperature meant it was too hot for many marine species to survive. When it was over, more than 70% of terrestrial species and almost 90% of marine species had died out. Some land ecosystems took 30 million years to recover.