Visitors to southwest Wyoming’s Fossil Butte National Monument, when they get out of their cars at the Visitor Center, are treated to a walk back in time: interpretive signs and markers along the deck and sidewalk point out different geological epochs and the creatures that inhabited the Earth at the time. Eventually, as the path approaches the Visitor Center, one reaches the early Cenozoic Era—after the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago—and the time period from which the area’s famed plant and animal fossils derived.
Today, the landscape at Fossil Butte resembles a semi-arid desert, with few tall trees amid the scrubby and windswept terrain. But this was once part of the vast 1,500-square mile “Fossil Lake,” which gave life to a variety of species. Quarrying in the area, which ran from the late 19th century to today produced a bonanza of spectacularly-preserved fossils, some of which are on display in the Visitor Center today.
In addition to viewing the fossils, visitors to Fossil Butte National Monument can hike to the historic quarry—which unfortunately has no fossils to view—and/or complete the 5.5-mile one-way Scenic Drive. The latter climbs sharply to a high plateau overlooking the park and the many canyons of the surrounding area. The national monument makes for a pleasant ½-day visit, situated just off U.S. Route 30 between Kemmerer, Wyoming and Bear Lake, Utah. See below for a selection of photos from a trip to the park.