Before the movie or even the book, the United States dedicated a park specifically to Jurassic dinosaurs. Dinosaur National Monument straddles the border between Colorado and Utah, a national park stuffed to the canyons with fossils from dinosaurs that roamed long ago.

The Original Jurassic Park

Hoplosuchus the armored crocodile from the late Jurassic is missing the very tip of its nose. Image credit: NPS

The Original Jurassic Park

Back in the Jurassic, this part of the country was a savannah. Broad rivers carried water from the highlands in the south down to the north. Unlike modern savannah grasslands, the dinosaurs' savannah was dominated by ferns and conifers. Along with dinosaurs, the park also has fossils of amphibians, mammals, and even molluscs.

The Original Jurassic Park

Jones Hole trail in Dinosaur Monument Park. Image credit: Jake Frank

I have an unrepentant love affair with the national parks system. I just can't get what a brilliant idea it is to keep these beautiful places in the public trust, protecting them for future generations. Dinosaur National Monument is open any time day or night, just as long as the roads are clear. So yes, this is an unabashed photo-post of glorious images from around the park, tempting you to add it to your list of vacation destinations.

The Original Jurassic Park

Plants can fossilize, too! Petrified wood in the park. Image credit: NPS

The Original Jurassic Park

Earl Douglass was on the staff of Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when he went prowling the Uinta Basin for fossils in 1908. He found Carnegie Quarry, and starting packing it up to bring home to the museum.

After collecting loads of samples, he started advocating leaving a few bones in place for people to admire in-situ. Image credit: University of Utah

On the Utah side of the park you can visit a wall of dinosaurs in the Gallery. As a park structure, it has actual hours of operation.

The Original Jurassic Park

Partially-excavated camarasaurus skull in the park gallery. Image credit: Rob Glover

The Original Jurassic Park

This Camarasaurus fossil is the jewel of the Dinosaur National Monument collection. It's the most complete sauropod skeleton ever found, including that most prized of dinosaur-treasures: a full skull. Image credit: NPS

The Original Jurassic Park

Geology is on full display at Mitten Park fault. Image credit: NPS

The Original Jurassic Park

Dr. Brooks Britt carefully revealing an Abydosaurus mcintoshi humerus. Image credit: NPS

President Woodrow Wilson intervened to establish the park in 1915, calling it, "an extraordinary deposit of Dinosaurian and other gigantic reptilian remains of the [Jurassic] period, which are of great interest and value …" In 1948 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt added in another few hundred thousand acres.

The Original Jurassic Park

The park isn't formally a Dark Sky park, but has beautiful night skies and a stargazing program to help you find your way. Image credit: Jacob W. Frank

For nocturnal visits, the park has six campgrounds ranging from free to $25 per night with various amenities.

The Original Jurassic Park

The park staff insist their dinosaurs are very knowledgeable. Image credit: NPS