Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum
The Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum
The Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum is a place where you can explore exhibits detailing more geological history than even the Grand Canyon displays. This museum is in the heart of most of the biggest discoveries in regard to prehistory and prehistoric life-forms on Earth. Nearly every other dinosaur museum on the planet has exhibits composed of materials that were found within an 80-mile radius of Vernal, Utah. The Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum is the virtual mother lode of all things "dinosaur." The Museum is a 22,000-square-foot building built to preserve and exhibit a large amount of the wealth of prehistory that has been discovered all across the Uinta Basin.
On the grounds of the Museum is the Dinosaur Garden: a "zoo" filled with 17 full-size replicas of creatures like Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus, Pteranodon, Triceratops, Ceolophysis and others. Inside the Museum you'll find displays covering almost 3 billion years of Earth's history as revealed in the rocks and fossils found in this area. Some of the elements on display are fossilized algae from more than 600 million years ago. But the displays don't stop with the demise of the dinosaurs: there's also displays of fossilized highly advanced mammals. In the anthropology hall you'll find examples of ancient Native American life in the Uintas, everything from the Fremont people (700 CE to about 1250 CE) to the more recent Utes. There's something here for just about everyone.
The Park is open year round from 9 AM to 5 PM daily, and from Memorial Day through Labor Day from 8 AM to 7 PM daily. The Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum is located within the Vernal city limits.
Stegosaurus in the yard at the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum
Reconstructed stegosaurus skeleton at Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum
Stegosaurus photo courtesy of Antonio Cavallo
Lower photo courtesy of Phil Konstantin
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.