LOCAL NEWS

Utahraptor State Park North Of Moab Will Open In 2022

May 13, 2021, 6:15 PM | Updated: 11:45 pm

MOAB, Utah – In its heyday the Utahrapaptor probably did not need much protection but these days the bones they left behind in southern Utah need that protection.

Utahraptor State Park will open next year in Grand County north of Moab and it was created in part to stop people from stealing the fossils that dot the area’s landscape.

Jim Kirkland can’t tell you how many times he has hiked up the many hills in the park.

There’s no way to know for sure. 

However, he will tell you every lung-busting stop has brought him joy. 

“It’s kind of like a good fishing hole,” he said with a smile.

Kirkland is Utah’s state paleontologist, and the Dalton Wells quarry just north of Moab is one of the best places in the world to find dinosaur bones. 

“Every time I go out, I find new dinosaurs,” said Kirkland. “We aren’t even close to the end of this.” 

Kirkland has named 22 dinosaurs from Utah, including the Utahraptor, which was discovered in this area. 

“The real star of Jurassic Park,” said Kirkland. 

However, this spot isn’t really a secret anymore. 

People camp, hike and ride in the area. 

Even with warning signs, some people who come here don’t care for the land the way Kirkland does. 

“It’s been vandalized so much,” he said. “It’s been vacuumed. A lot of people come up here now.” 

That’s why Kirkland was excited when Utah legislators recently announced this area will become a new state park. 

The designation means all the bones yet to be discovered will be better protected. 

“It’s really important,” said Megan Blackwelder, who is the southeast region manager for Utah State Parks. “I mean, it’s a part of our heritage, really, it’s a part of Utah and it’s definitely something that I really important to preserve.” 

There are those who said making it a state park to preserve it will only bring in more people. 

However, Mary McGann, who is a Grand County commissioner, said this spot needs more protection. 

“Everywhere you look, you see trailers and such and lots of people. We have huge amounts of tourism, which is our lifeblood, but it’s also creating a huge amount of problems,” she said. 

McGann said vandalism of sites continues to be a problem, as well as people who don’t clean up after themselves. 

“There are a lot of people who respect the land and know how to use it and take their human waste out,” said McGann. “But there are a lot of people, I have pictures of people dumping their sewage on the ground.” 

McGann feels turning the Dalton Wells area into a state park will be a way for managers and rangers to offer more protection to this piece of land. 

The state expected to begin work this coming fall with an information center, established campsites, and picnic areas with shade. 

The plan is to have Utahraptor State Park open at about this time next year. 

“It’s exciting. It really is,” said Kirkland. “This site is a unique place to tell the story.” 

Kirkland is just happy all those bones yet to be discovered will be waiting as they have for millions of years.

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Utahraptor State Park North Of Moab Will Open In 2022