Dinosaurs on the Green

It was a cool day with light rain showers as friends from Salt Lake City joined us for a cold-desert romp outside of Vernal, Utah. Emma and Brendan joined Brent, Catherine, Leighanne, and yours truly for a visit to the fabulous Quarry Building in Dinosaur National Monument (replete with walls of actual dinosaur remains unearthed by paleontologists)followed by a full day of hiking and exploration in remote northeastern Utah.

The beauty and geological complexity of this region found a showcase for us on the “Sound of Silence Trail,” a 3.2-mile loop through a “cold desert” habitat for many wild creatures such as golden eagles, mountain lions, desert cottontails, white-throated swifts, canyon wrens, lizards, and the occasional rock-climber such as ourselves. Brent, Leighanne and I had done this hike on a sweltering day some 20 years ago, but this was more comfortable. We had learned a few things from mistakes we made back then, and were now well-equipped to enjoy the desert solitude offered by a cooler morning and overcast sky.

skull of T. Rex (nay, Allosaurus!)

With our desert hike complete, we traveled in two vehicles to a trail accessing Harper’s Corner look-out, a one to two-mile jaunt along a rocky spur to a point near the junction of the Yampa and Green rivers. The canyon views from Harper’s Corner are simply spectacular. Again it was a second visit for us, although Emma and Brendan, the folks from Salt Lake City, were new to Dinosaur in general and to the Green/Yampa river canyons in particular. For all of us, this high-country wilderness, bringing rushes of time travel to and from the far reaches of geologic history, was a humbling experience.

Sound of Silence Trail began in an arroyo

Back at our vehicles we gathered and lubricated our senses with a slug of cold water and some very tasty Scotch (I think it was) that Brendan happened to unearth. A Clark’s nutcracker, a black-and-white jay-like bird of the timberline regions first described by William Clark on the expedition of 1805, chattered and flew about the pines and junipers. After an excellent meal with local brews in Vernal, Utah (yes, the Mormon state does have such delights if you know how to find them), we said goodbye to our western friends and, next morning, Brent and Catherine began their own tour by revisiting Colorado.

on the trail of Silence

Leighanne and I (not yet dinosaurs ourselves) departed from the vast national monument in search of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the famous tail waters of the Green. Armed with a new fishing license and an old desire to fish the mighty Green (sans guide and drift boat), I descended the steep canyon stairs and started off along the anglers’ trail down-river. Lucky for me, the sky was overcast and lightly raining.

petroglyph at Dinosaur

I had just broken the “flip-focal” device that attaches to my fishing hat, so I couldn’t see well enough to tie on a small BWO to match the vigorous hatch that was occurring. I went the other way, casting a large dry fly and (more successfully) a #10 Pheasant-tail Nymph. While the violet-green swallows and white-tailed swifts were busy with the olive hatch, golden eagles were at play above the canyon, and an osprey, nesting on the nearby cliffs,  carried a large fish (probably a trout) low across the river’s edge.

eagle/owl petroglyph

I decided I did pretty well for a first visit to the Green, catching several wild trout from the wide, deep waters of the canyon– a small brown trout, a “cut-bow” hybrid, and a 17-inch rainbow that fully exercised the Orvis Superfine rod and brought shouts of encouragement from anglers in a passing drift boat.

drift boat on the Green

It was a good way to bid farewell to Utah and to prepare for the wide open spaces of Wyoming.

my Green River ‘bow

[Next: Alpine, Wyoming; Idaho’s Henry Fork; and Yellowstone!]

my son climbs the slickrock

L. makes an inspection

the Green down there…

looking down from Harper’s Corner Lookout


About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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16 Responses to Dinosaurs on the Green

  1. Brent says:

    This portion of the journey is replete with some humorous writing (“not yet dinosaurs!”) and great shots of the canyon. I will correct you on the skull identification, as the quarry site and the area in general are only home to Jurassic-era fossils. That fearsome critter is an Allosaurus, versus the Cretaceous-era T. Rex.

  2. plaidcamper says:

    Utah is a fascinating state once you get past the obvious (I have to admit that a beer consumed in Utah always tastes particularly good – childish, I know…) and the landscapes are simply spectacular. Your canyon photographs are wonderful, as are the descriptions of all you experienced on rivers and hikes. The owl/eagle petroglyph is beautiful.
    This old fossil says “thanks, Walt!”

    • Speaking fossil to fossil, Plaid, I’d say that a Utah brew (once you dig your way past the overburden of 3.2 stuff) is like a guilty pleasure or a stolen hour and hits the pleasure button– like so much of the outer beauties in this state. I’m glad you like the petroglyph and canyon shots and all. As always, thanks so much for being here!

  3. Bob Stanton says:

    Wow! Those last three pics really give the impression of the size and scope of the Green River canyon. Magnificent!

  4. I’ve never had the obvious pleasure of visiting the Green or surrounding area but I’ve always been amazed at the beauty that abounds. Those petroglyphs are simply unbelievable and have survived all these years. Looking forward to the next adventure.

    • It’s beautiful semi-arid country, and even the petroglyphs are surviving despite the efforts of some modern-day graffiti artists trying to litter and deface them. Thanks for the appreciation, Howard.

  5. loydtruss says:

    Wow, quite a feat landing that 17” rainbow on the Superfine, absolute gorgeous scenery looking forward to the next adventure, thanks for sharing

    • Bill, Yeah the rainbow took a lot of line quickly in that fast water before I could get the upper hand. After a quick photo, back it went. And, of course, the scenery made it special.

  6. What a great vacation and anything with dinosaurs is awesome.

    • Kevin, I kind of underplayed the dinosaur theme here, but I’ll concur– it was a great vacation. You and the kids would have really enjoyed the dinosaur displays at the Visitor Center at the national monument. Thanks, and hope all’s well.

  7. ROSS says:

    Walt, looks like a great vacation, beautiful locations and some fine fishing. The pictures of the Green are amazing. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Jet Eliot says:

    I really enjoyed this unique adventure, Walt. Dinosaur NM sounds truly lovely, and as I read I imagined the beautiful canyon wrens serenading. Your writing is a pleasure. The many habitats and geological wonders of Utah here were magnificent, and as I continued to read and scroll, I heard myself gasp when I came to the first photo of the canyon valley. wow. Terrific photos, thanks for sharing this magical experience.

    • Thank you for the very kind words of appreciation, Jet. Dinosaur is an understated wonder, a Utah treasure and reward for any student of nature and geology. Canyon and rock wrens punctuate the silent trails with periodic song, and the sights are truly humbling. You would like this special locale!

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