After an astonishingly long delay, I'll now return to Dinosaur National Monument, which Jennie and I visited briefly in June of 2012. In today's post, we'll enter the recently rebuilt Quarry Visitor Center, the home to the monument's most famous feature, the steeply inclined bonebed chock full of dinosaur parts. It is a small facility, but rich with paleontological goodness.
First, that quarry wall. I appreciated the focus on the history of paleontology offered by the monument, and this relic of the old Carnegie Quarry offers travelers a rare chance to see dinosaur bones in situ. It's a canny choice; it's easy enough for the layperson to pick out individual bits of anatomy, but it's not a Hollywood version of a dig (i.e. the perfectly articulated, lightly buried Velociraptor from Jurassic Park's opening scenes). Here, you stand on a spot where titans were entombed, and those visitors patient enough to ponder the sight will walk away enriched.
The remodeled Quarry Visitor Center also includes a nice array of interpretive materials, fossil casts, and artwork, all of which come together to give visitors a well-rounded view of this slice of Utah's Jurassic heritage. In concert with the welcome center, this part of the park is well-designed to give the attentive visitor a deeper respect for the science of paleontology as well as its most famous subjects of study. The often back-breaking work required to interpret fossils is given its full due.
I loved watching a short silent movie dating from the twenties, Monsters of the Past, while I waited to board the shuttle to the quarry. The monitor sits amid a historical set piece which displays reconstructions of human artifacts and fossils as well as press clippings.
The materials in the QVC flesh out the story of scientists and dinosaurs on this spot, separated by a vast expanse of time.
Fossil remains and paleontology history aside, one of the most exciting aspects of the new visitor center is the new mural by the Walters and Kissinger team. It is a masterful piece of work by Bob, Tess, and their dedicated assistants. This team included the multi-talented Jenn Hall of Clever Girl and Jeff Breeden, who provides an overview of the entire 86' of the mural at his blog. It is a magnificent sight, and I can hardly do it justice with photos. It must be seen on site, slowly, as tourists and children clatter around you. These details can only serve as an appetizer.
I love the pairing of this mounted Allosaurus displayed in front of its painted counterpart. As if they are hunting partners, stalking the same spot, but separated by a hopeless expanse of time.
For those of us who love the history of dinosaur art, they provide this nod to a classic Charles Knight illustration.
But the work is hardly stuck in the past, as this well-quilled Dryosaurus, menaced by a Torvosaurus, displays.
Nor does the mural gloss over the more gruesome aspects of Jurassic life.
Their work also serves to illustrate didactic panels which flesh out the Morrison ecosystem represented at DNM.
The mural leads visitors to the Quarry Visitor Center's exit. After melting into Mesozoic reverie, imagining the smell of decay in the humid forest and the alien sounds of the saurian menagerie, you walk into the dry sunlight and the contortions of the Morrison and Cedar Mountain formations. If even a small percentage of the monument's visitors are struck by the poignance of deep time and our tenuous walk on its thin skin, the time, money, and effort spent by everyone who built this monument will have been well spent.