If your kids are interested in the world of dinosaurs, you're in luck -- Grand Junction is the veritable belly of the beast ... well, so to speak. In the "Dinosaur Diamond" of eastern Utah and western Colorado, hundreds of dinosaur species have been unearthed, many concentrated in the Grand Junction area.
To learn more about these pre-historic creatures, there are several museums, attractions and programs to explore. Here are several ways to interact with a dinosaur's past:
Take a one-mile walk on the Dinosaur Hill Interpretive Trail. Located in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area and managed by the Bureau of Land Management, here you'll see bones of the stegosaurus, brachiosaurus and other "terrible lizards." Open year 'round, weather permitting.
Experience Dinosaur Journey. This place is anything but a boring museum. It features the latest exhibits and information about the dinosaurs of western Colorado, eastern Utah and surrounding areas, realistic robotic dinosaurs and a working paleontology laboratory.
Get dirty on a Dino Expedition. Dinosaur Journey - operated by Museums of Western Colorado - offers summer dinosaur digs for kids ages 5 and older (and their families) at the Mygatt-Moore Quarry. Who knows? Maybe the next dinosaur will be named after you.
Hike the "Trail Through Time" beginning at the Rabbit Valley Natural Research Area. This 3-mile (roundtrip), self-guided tour offers an array of significant dinosaur specimens still preserved in ancient stream channels on 286 acres of natural terrain. Stop at 21 interpretive sites and get hands-on with dinosaur fossils. Managed by the Museums of Western Colorado in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management field office in Grand Junction.
Explore the Colorado National Monument. No family vacation to Colorado would be complete without visiting the beautiful, 23,000-acre Colorado National Monument. Sheer-walled canyons, towering monoliths, colorful formations, desert bighorn sheep, soaring eagles and a spectacular road reflect the environment and history of the plateau-and-canyon country of the Grand Junction area.
Canyon bottoms have ancient pre-Cambrian rocks covered by Triassic-age Chinle, Wingate, Kayenta, Entrada and Summerville formations, as well as the Jurassic-age Morrison Formation bearing dinosaur fossils. Meanwhile, the Grand Valley floor stretching out into the Bookcliffs is composed of the Cretaceous—age Mancos Formation with the top of the Bookcliffs being topped by the Mesa Verde Group. Be sure to check out the great Independence Monument, a freestanding monolith that rises 450 feet from the canyon floor.
Motor with the family on the historic Rim Rock Drive, a 23-mile paved road that climbs from the Colorado River valley to the top of the Uncompahgre Plateau, then winds along the plateau rim. Interpretive plaques at viewpoints explain the origin and development of surrounding geologic features. For hikers and campers, this road also offers access to a nature trail and 13 Colorado backcountry trails.
Another area of interest may be The Fruita Paleontology Area, which is co-managed by the Museums of Western Colorado and the Bureau of Land Management. This area is a small, one-half-mile square of bentonite just a few minutes from downtown Fruita. This tiny spot between the mighty Colorado River and the soaring uplifts of the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area preserves a diverse piece of prehistoric life from the Jurassic Period, dating back 150 million years.
Interested in doing some digging into the Grand Valley's Geology history and details, then you need to check out the Museums of Western Colorado website to learn more.