Ten people left Kemmerer on June 23 (Wednesday) and headed south on Highway 189. This took us to I-80 which is the main corridor of transportation in southern Wyoming. Highway 189 follows a natural valley created by erosion of an Upper Cretaceous shale. We were traveling in the Overthrust Belt where slice after slice of country has been moved eastward by faults. Quite a lot of oil and gas was found in structures created by this faulting.
After reaching the interstate highway we turned east and drove to the Mountain View exit (Highway 414). This drive took us through the center of the Green River Basin. Between Mountain View and Lonetree are some very scenic buttes and cliffs of the the upper Eocene. Just before driving into Utah, we crossed the Henrys Fork River in the area where white trappers and traders had their rendezvous in the early 1800s. From here also is a grand view to the south of the snowy Uinta Mountains in Utah.
As we continued south and east into Utah we came to the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area with lots of scenery, fishing and boating/rafting in the area. The spectacular drive took us into a narrow canyon carved in thick sandstone beds with a very nice campground and some "flaming" red rocks at the bottom. As we drove north out of the canyon into the Uinta Mountain uplift, the view compelled us to stop and take many pictures on this scenic drive.
The Uinta uplift is at high elevation and, being loaded down with Green River fossil fish, we were going pretty slow up the grade. Once on top we drove through piney woods and Precambrian quartzites. The downhill drive toward Vernal,Utah was noteworthy for the phosphate mines we passed and the many S-curves we negotiated. Vernal is an interesting town with the main theme being dinosaurs including a nice museum, rock shops and statues of dinos. Vernal is the gateway to Dinosaur National Monument which is only 10 miles east out of town. We visited the Monument Visitors Center and bought many necessary things. The new building being built over the dino bones is underway but will not be finished until 2012/2013.
From the Monument we drove east and south, passing through Dinosaur, CO, and Rangely, CO, where a very large oil field was discovered in the mid-1940s. From Rangely we turned south on paved Highway 139. We wound our way up to Douglas Pass, driving through grey sandstone and shale beds of the Upper Cretaceous until very near the top where the light-colored Green River Formation crops out. The pass is at 8,240 feet but to get to our camp we had to climb more and finally made camp in a grove of trees at about 8,900 feet. Everyone liked this campsite where the weather was wonderful, fossils were numerous and living insects at a minimum. We all found many fossil insects, however, along with a few plant fossils. The radar dome area is the place to collect and we found out that most of the plant fossils are in the rocks highest on the hill. Two people even found feathers! On Friday half of our people went south to Grand Junction, CO, to get ice, take showers, and wash clothes and then travel west to the Delta, UT area. Us diehard plant people stayed one more day and collected more insects and leaves. We rejoined our group in Delta and, after a nice dinner in Delta, drove west to our campsite in the House Range. By the time we turned off the paved road it was dark and the road so badly rutted we had to go 10 miles per hour to keep from breaking all our fossils.
The drive west from Grand Junction across eastern Utah on highway I-70 is very impressive. You drive on and around many Cretaceous sandstone cliffs (known as the Book Cliffs) and then up into the San Rafael Swell which exposes thick cross-bedded sandstone sequences forming buttes, reefs, and canyons galore. Another "must stop and take some pictures" experience.
So all-in-all we got our fill of scenery and fossils!
Rescuers: Robert Rosé, Larry Purchase, Jim Schierbeck, Rick & Peg Johnson, Aaron Currier, Dan O'Loughlin, Bob Manley, and Greg & Linda Gentry.