Dinosaur Land aka Vernal

I have now been to all corners of Utah with my adventure to Vernal. I wanted to make this trip mainly to see the Vernal Temple making my collection of photos of the 13 current Utah temples complete (look for info on a calendar soon), so I took my brother-in-law and drove 150 miles up US 40 to the small Utah city.

Since it is a three hour drive from Provo, I decided to make more of the trip. If you look up Vernal on Google, you will find a lot about dinosaurs because the is the closest city to Dinosaur National Monument and the Morrison Formation, America’s most concentrated collection of dinosaur remnants. This is also how Vernal got its nickname, Utah’s Dinosaur Land.

Our first stop was the Vernal Temple but we got distracted by the free museum across the street owned and operated by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. Basically this museum was a depository for all things Vernal and area artifacts including lots of photos, a Wurlitzer organ from the old theater, an old doctor’s pharmacy cabinet (pretty cool), furniture, household objects and appliances, etc.

Across the street is the main reason for this adventure, the old Vernal Tabernacle now Vernal Temple. The building was completed in 1907 as the area’s main meeting house and 90 years later was dedicated as a temple after changes to the inside and the addition of an annex. It is a simple brick building that has an elegant pioneer feel to it. Some cool features include the new tower with the Angel Moroni and the beautiful stained-glass window of Jesus Christ under that tower, which used to be behind the pulpit area of the tabernacle. Visit the temple’s website to find out about sessions and more.

For lunch we sought out something that looked delicious and local. We drove past a barbeque trailer and smelled deliciousness so that’s where we stopped. This is the Smokey D Barbeque trailer that we found at 700 West and US 40 or Main Street. They serve pulled pork and beef sandwiches, ribs and more with traditional BBQ sides like coleslaw and baked beans. The taste was just as good as the smell. I don’t know if this is the permanent home of this restaurant or if they travel or have another location. If it’s there, it’s a good choice.

With Dinosaur National Monument being another 45 minutes away and the visitors’ center being under construction, we decided to check out the dino-side of things in Vernal itself at the Utah Field House of Natural History Museum. It is a great little museum that takes you through different geologic eras. You begin with a video that explains the rich fossil collection in the Vernal area and why it is there, then you enter the exhibits. There may not be as many fossils on display as at other museums I’ve been, but it is very well presented.

One of my favorite displays is a wall of shale pocked with fossilized plant and animal materials. Another fun feature is the garden with its life-size sculptures of dinosaurs and a mammoth. After walking through a time portal and through different periods of time, eventually you end up with a little human history and some animals that currently live in Utah. Overall, this is a great little museum and worth a visit if you’re in Vernal or really like ancient reptiles and other stuff.

Vernal is a small city with a lot to see in and around it. Someday, I will probably return to visit Dinosaur National Monument.

Now go have your own adventure.

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