Dan Chure spies fossil footprints at Dinosaur National Monument, near the Utah and Colorado border.
Want to feel younger and thinner? Step back to the Jurassic and cavort with the big reptiles at Dinosaur National Monument outside Vernal, Utah, where the Quarry Exhibit Hall and a new visitor center open in October after a major renovation. Paleontologist Dan Chure has spent 32 years exploring the park. (435) 781-7700, nps.gov/dino.
Q Why do dinosaurs still captivate us?
A They’re so different from what we see in the modern-day world, a mixture of science fiction and reality.
Q They actually lived around here?
A They roamed here for 150 million years during the age of dinosaurs. The fossils were exposed naturally because this part of the West is arid, with a lot of erosion and rock exposure.
Q A highlight of the exhibit hall?
A An 86-foot mural shows the entire ancient ecosystem, with more than 60 species of plants and animals that lived when the dinosaurs did. We have tiny lizard skulls and fossils to see under magnifying lenses. You can view a fossil, then see the animal fleshed out in the mural.
Q What else is new?
A You can now get even closer to the massive cliff of fossils discovered by Earl Douglass in 1909. You can actually touch an apatosaurus leg bone much as it was 150 million years ago.
Q A memory from a day at your job?
A After I gave a talk, a woman came up and said she had thought dinosaurs were a fantasy. I can’t remember when I didn’t know about them, and here she is having this epiphany and a whole new world opened up to her.
Photography courtesy of NPS
This article was first published in September 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.