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National Fossil Day: Places Where You Can Study Stories Told in Stone

Hug a paleontologist. It's National Fossil Day.

Fossils are "any evidence of life preserved in a geologic context," according to this useful National Park Service educational resource. Of the 395 units managed by the NPS, 232 contain paleontological resources, from petrified wood to bones, teeth and eggshells.

FossilsAnother website puts a spotlight on 5 NPS units it calls fossil hotspots, including Central Oregon's John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, a colorful patch of land that interrupts a stretch of otherwise semiarid high-desert terrain. Combine a visit there will a stroll or climb at Smith Rock State Park near Bend, Ore. (a hour or so away by vehicle), and from personal experience I can tell you that you've got a nice fall weekend in store.

In other fossil news, paleontologists are debating whether or not a recent find in Nevada reveals evidence of a giant squid-like creature that preyed on other huge "sea monsters." National Geographic reports the story. And if you'd like to test your fossil smarts, the Science Channel (part of the Discovery network) offers a dinosaur quiz.

Posted on at 3:40 PM

Tagged: National Fossil Day, fossils and national parks

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Hey, I know those guys!

The rangers holding the fossil palm leaf worked with me at Fossil Butte National Monument in southwest Wyoming, about 2.5 hours from Salt Lake City, Utah. It is a FANTASTIC park with a modern, wonderful visitor center and great hiking trails and weather in the summer and fall, when the aspens turn golden in the high desert.

I highly recommend that park. It's near other attractions, like the Flaming Gorge area to the south. Passing that way gets you to another AMAZING place, Dinosaur National Monument. They just opened their new visitor center at their famous dinosaur bone quarry, and the park is full of hidden treasures - bighorn sheep, panoramic views from thousands of feet over the Green and Yampa Rivers... Go there as well!

-Ranger Dave (I don't work at either parks anymore, nor am I paid to promote them!)

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T.D. Wood Staff Member

Thanks, Ranger Dave. I visited Fossil Butte NM and agree with you; it's a great spot. Anyone making a trip north from Salt Lake City to Grand Teton or Yellowstone should make the short detour and check it out. The walkway to the visitor center has an interesting, to-scale timeline that helps you envision how much time has elapsed in the planet's geologic history. Definitely worth a visit.


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