Tag Archives: Dinosaur

Welcome Waco Mammoth National Monument as the 408th National Park

A mural of what the Columbian Mammoth herd may have looked like at Waco.  Photo from nps.gov
A mural of what the Columbian Mammoth herd may have looked like at Waco. Photo from nps.gov

Its amazing to think that less than one year ago, there were not any  national parks specifically dedicated to mammoth fossils – and now there are two!  The first is the Tule Springs Fossil Beds near Las Vegas, Nevada, which was established by Congress in December 2014.  The second is the newest unit of the National Park System, the Waco Mammoth National Monument, which was established by Presidential Proclamation under the Antiquities Act on July 10, 2015.  Prior to 2014 there were six national parks specifically dedicated to fossils in the name of the park, but all of them from eras predating the age of the mammoths:

By contrast,  mammoths lived  in North America during the Pleistocene time period, from about 2 million years ago to around 10,000 years ago.  Specifically, the mammoths at Tule Springs died approximately 250,000 years ago and the mammoths at Waco died approximately 68,000 years ago.   The mammoths at both sites are considered to be Columbian Mammoths, a species of mammoth that is related to the smaller, but more-famous, Wooly Mammoths that lived in Siberia and northern North America.  Likewise, both sites would predate the arrival of the first humans to the Americas, which different theories date as occuring anywhere between 12,000 years ago to as much as 40,000 years ago.

In addition to the age of their respective mammoth fossils being hundreds of thousands of years apart, two other things distinguish Waco Mammoth National Monument from Tule Springs National Monument and make them each unique in their own way.  First, Tule Springs is currently almost completely undeveloped.  It has no visitor center, and no displays of exposed fossils, whether in situ (still in the ground) or anywhere else.  Visiting it requires some hiking and some imagination. The second is that the Waco site preserves a nursery herd of mammoths – the only known such fossils of its kind in the United States.  This makes the fossils here especially valuable, as they tell us a great deal about how mammoths reproduced, raised their young, and how they lived with others.

The Waco Mammoth Site features displays of mammoth fossils still located in the ground.  Photo Credit: E. Wilson
The Waco Mammoth Site features displays of mammoth fossils still located in the ground. Photo Credit: E. Wilson

 

Although these are the first two national parks specifically dedicated to mammoth fossils, it turns out that mammoth fossils can be found as a secondary feature at a few other national parks.  Among the most notable is Channel Islands National Park.  Although most visitors to Channel Islands National Park, located off the cost of Los Angeles, California, either go for the scenery, or perhaps for activities like sea kayaking, hiking, or whale watching, 40,000 years ago the Channel Islands were home to the Pygmy Mammoth, a species found nowhere else in the world.

There are also two other national parks that are dedicated to the archeology of the peoples who hunted mammoths.   Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is in one of the remotest corners of western Alaska, and preserves the archeological legacy of the first American settlers who likely followed herds of wooly mammoths across the Bering Land Bridge at the end of the last ice age.   The second is Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument in the panhandle of north Texas, where some of the earliest Americans obtained flint for their spearheads with which to hunt the Columbian Mammoths found at Waco and at Tule Springs.  Naturally, the presence of humans at both sites indicates that they are much more recent than the two new national monuments dedicated to mammoths.

Likewise, it should be mentioned that perhaps the most-famous mammoth fossil site in the United States is not part of the U.S. National Park System.  Mammoth fossils have been found at the La Brea tar pits near Los Angeles, California which is now part of the Page Museum.  The fossils there also date from relatively recent history, from between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago.

Mammoths were also featured by the National Park Service as part of the 2012 National Fossil Day artwork.  According to their info, mammoth fossils have also been found at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve in Colorado,  Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the Utah-Arizona border, and of all places, Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania.

Nevertheless, very few visitors to these Parks would have come away with any deeper appreciation for the way in which mammoth fossils are found, or for the ways in which mammoths lived and thrived in this country, literally for millions of years.   Waco Mammoth National Monument in particular will provide an outstanding opportunity for education about these wonderful creatures.

Its fascintating to think about how sites like Waco Mammoth connect to our present-day world.   Although these were not the Wooly Mammoths of Siberia, its still amazing to think of these giant beasts living in places like central Texas, Las Vegas, and southern California.  In fact, these giant beasts roamed here “only” a few tens of thousands of years, which really puts into context the tens of millions of years that separate us from the other fossil-focused national parks in the National Park System.

Another example of the outstanding mammoth fossils at the Waco Mammoth National Monument.  Photo credit: E. Wilson
Another example of the outstanding mammoth fossils at the Waco Mammoth National Monument. Photo credit: E. Wilson

 

(*) – It should be noted that a single fossil mammoth was found at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in 2002, but mammoths are not the primary focus of interpretation and education there.

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Summer Stamps from the Golden Gate NRA to Badlands National Park

A stamp for the Golden Gate Bridge highlights the new additions this month.   Photo from  2009.
A stamp for the Golden Gate Bridge highlights the new additions this month. Photo from 2009.

 

Due to some extensive travels, I never made a post on the new June stamps, so here in one big post are all the new stamps from Eastern National for June and July – a grand total of 18 over the two months!

June Stamps:

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument | 50th Anniversary 1965-2015

Dinosaur National Monument | 100th Anniversary 1915-2015

Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve | Cave Junction, OR

Golden Gate National Recreation Area:

  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Land’s End
  • Fort Point
  • Presidio
  • Nike MIssile Site
  • Point Bonita Lighthouse
  • Muir Woods
  • Juan Bautista de Anza NHT

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail | Falmouth, VA

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail | Cherokee Removal MEM Park, TN

Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area

  • Highway 61 Blues Museum
  • Birthplace of the Frog

July Stamps

Badlands National Park | White River VC

North Country National Scenic Trail | Lowell, MI

Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail |

  • Fort Monroe, VA
  • Wrightsville, PA

The “year of the anniversary stamps” continued through June with two new additions.  Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument preserves a place where the first Americans dug for flint 13,000 years ago in North Texas.  The history of Dinosaur National Monument is of course much older than that, and I previously wrote about its 100th anniversary here.

The new stamp for Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve reflects its new name and expanded boundaries.   In December 2014, Congress expanded the boundaries to include some of the unspoiled scenery and pristine waterways surrounding the Oregon Caves as a “Preserve.”  Somewhat confusingly, however, Congress did not make this yet another national park that “counts twice,” unlike most of the other “& Preserve” parks in the National Park System.

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area includes numerous parklands and historic sites within the city of San Francisco and its immediate suburbs.   Indeed, this park has Passport stamps scattered across 21 different locations, and all 8 of this month’s locations previously had stamps.  The Golden Gate Bridge Pavillion received its first stamp for the Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th Anniversary in 2012, and so now appears to have a permanent stamp of its own.  Additionally, Fort Point National Historic Site, located below the Golden Gate Bridge, and Muir Woods National Monument, located in nearby Mill Valley, are actually separate units of the National Park System.  They previously had stamps for Golden Gate NRA that read “San Francisco, CA” on the bottom, but now have place-specific stamps of their own for their dual status under the management of Golden Gate NRA.

American painter Gari Melchers' estate, Belmont, is the latest addition to Passport Program for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.
American painter Gari Melchers’ estate, Belmont, is the latest addition to Passport Program for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.

 

The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is one of three national scenic trails that count as national parks.   This new stamp is located at the home and studios of American impressionist painter Gari Melchers, located on the campus of Mary Washington University, outside of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail previously had a stamp at the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park in Meigs County, Tennessee.  This park was essentially a concentration camp where the Cherokee were rounded up rounded up 1838 before crossing the Tennessee River and being deported on the Trail of Tears to present-day Oklahoma.

In November 2014, the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area received its first 18 Passport Stamps, located at the County Visitor Centers for each of the counties in the designated national heritage area.  These two stamps are its first for actual destination locations.   The Highway 61 Blues Museum is located in Leland, Mississippi, as is the Jim Henson birthplace.  Jim Henson, of course, is the famed created of Kermit the Frog and the rest of the muppets.

Badlands National Park includes spectacular scenery and awe-inspiring rock formations.  Photo from 1998.
Badlands National Park includes spectacular scenery and awe-inspiring rock formations. Photo from 1998.

Badlands National Park preserves spectacular scenary in South Dakota.  The White River Visitor Center services the less-visited Stronghold Unit in the southern portion of the national park, and is located with the Oglala Sioux Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  Previously, this visitor center had a non-standard stamp courtesy of the Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority, which operates the visitor center, but this is the location’s first official stamp.

The North Country National Scenic Trail does not count as its own national park, but will run an impressive 4,600 miles (once completed) across the northern United States from Lake Champlain on the New York-Vermont border to Lake Sakakawea in central North Dakota.   Lowell, Michigan is the site of the headquarters offices of the North Country Trail Assocation, which is helping to make this route a reality.

Finally, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trali is the National Park Service’s main program on the Chesapeake Bay.  Officially, it’s a set of water routes that commemorate the explorations of  the Bay and its tributaries by John Smith between 1607 and 1609.  Fort Monroe National Monument is now its own unit of the National Park System near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.  Meanwhile, Wrightsville, PA is at the far northern end of John Smith’s explorations, on the banks of the Susquehanna River near present-day York, Pennsyvlania.

With these new additions there are now 1,915 active Passport cancelations out there, or 1,827 if you exclude the various anniversary and special program stamps.

A parting shot from Fort Point National Historic Site, located underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.  Photo from 2011.
A parting shot from Fort Point National Historic Site, located underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo from 2011.

 

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Happy Anniversary to Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument has released this awesome new logo for their Centennial.
Dinosaur National Monument has released this awesome new logo for their Centennial.

 

For what are surely obvious reasons, even though the Parkasaurus Family lives on the East Coast, this blog has a special place in its heart for Dinosaur National Monument, located in northeastern Utah and northwestern Colorado.

Thus, I just wanted to draw some attention to the visually stunning logo that was just released by Dinosaur National Monument to celebrate their centennial in 2015.  This logo has a little something of everything to love about Dinosaur National Monument – the scenic Green & Yampa Rivers,  a desert landscape, birding and wildflower viewing, animal habitat protection, American Indian petroglyphs, and a pristine night sky.

All of those images are contained within the image of an Allosaurus head, which is one of the common fossils found at this park.   Allosaurus, like the other dinosaurs found at Dinosaur National Monument, lived and died approximately 149 million years ago, near the end of the Jurassic time period.  Tyrannosaurus Rex, Allosaurus’ much more famous cousin, on the other hand, lived and died around 69 to 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous time period.  Yes, that’s right, that means that many of the dinosaurs that starred in the Jurassic Park movies didn’t actually live during the Jurassic.   I guess the name Mesozoic Park (Mesozoic is the time period geologists use to cover both the Cretaceous and Jurassic, as well as the Triassic, time periods)  just didn’t roll off the tongue as much.

From the beginning, the managers of Dinosaur National Monument have always emphasized that there is much more to see at this national park than just the famous fossil quarry where many of the bones have been left in situ, in a rock wall, just as paleontologists would find them.   This centennial logo certainly carries on that tradition in a visually beautiful way.  Its enough to make me wish that a special trip out to northeastern Utah could be added to the Parkasaurus family’s travel plans for 2015!  (Sadly, that does not appear to be in the cards.)  Still it will be worth keeping an eye on what special events will be planned at the park for later this year.

In this design, thought seems to have gone into almost every detail.   At the bottom of the logo, there is a diamond separating the word “Established” from the year “1915.”  That diamond actually represents the cattle brand used by one of the ranches that predated the national monument, and which still hold grazing rights within the monument lands.  A very nice touch!

WIth that year 1915, however, its also interesting to note that Dinosaur National Monument is actually one year older than the National Park Service itself – which is gearing up for its own centennial in 2016.  That will likely mean two years of special events and celebrations at this unique national park.

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The Best Places in Dinosaur National Monument

When starting a blog with a name like Parkasaurus, I immediately began thinking about at what point I would blog about Dinosaur National Monument – which is the only national park site dedicated to interpreting dinosaur fossils.   Fortunately, the folks over at the Destination Isolation Blog have just put up a great post on their Top 8 Sites in Dinosaur National Monument, and it is very much worth checking out.

The centerpiece of Dinosaur NM is the Carnegie Quarry Hall where around 1,500 dinosaur bones have been left in situ, in the rock, just where paleontologists would have found them. Destination Isolation’s post is a good reminder, however, that Dinosaur NM is about so much more than just gazing at dinosaur fossils and exhibits.  This park actually has more than 300 square miles to explore, including petroglyphs, desert peaks, and rafting on the Green and Yampa Rivers.   In fact, the #3 site on their list is the rock art at Echo Canyon, about which they write: “we have seen many rock art sites in our travels but this was our favorite. There are not many but they sure are unique.”   I have to agree, be sure to click on their post to see the photograph.   This will definitely be a site on my “to-do list” the next time I am able to make a return visit to northeast Utah and northwest Colorado.

For those of you in the Passport to Your National Parks program, Dinosaur National Monument has traditionally had two passport stamps to collect:

  • Jensen, UT – at the Quarry Visitor Center on the western side of the park, in Utah; and
  • Dinosaur, CO – at the Canyon Area Visitor Center on the eastern side of the park, in Colorado.

Ironically, despite the name of the town in Colorado, if you are primarily interested in seeing the dinosaur fossils, you need to go to the Utah side of the park at the Quarry Exhibit Hall.  After being closed for more than two years due to structural damage to the old Quarry Exhibit Hall, a brand new Exhibit Hall and brand new Quarry Visitor Center were opened in 2011.

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