By day, visitors to Dinosaur National Monument can see fossils of ancient reptiles — but by night, they can see views of the sky that city folk miss.
The monument that straddles the Utah-Colorado border near U.S. Highway 40 has been designated an International Dark Sky Park, meaning the nighttime overhead views have “an exceptional quality of natural darkness,” according to an announcement by the monument and the International Dark Sky Association.
The designation also means people working at the monument have made efforts to reduce artificial evening light and preserve dark views.
“We’re committed to continuing to work with surrounding communities to uphold the high standard set by the IDA in order to protect the magnificence of the night sky in our region moving forward,” Paul Scolari, the monument’s superintendent, said in a statement.
The monument is the 13th Utah location, and the fifth in Colorado, to receive the dark sky designation. It’s the second in Uintah County, the other being Steinaker State Park, north of Vernal.
Urban dwellers usually can’t see the Milky Way across the night sky, because light from streetlights, buildings and traffic obscures the view.
Dinosaur National Monument, maintained by the National Park Service, has scheduled 35 events for visitors to check out the nighttime views. A special presentation is set for Saturday, May 4, from 9 to 10 p.m., outside the Quarry Exhibit Hall near the monument’s west entrance, about 3 miles north of Jensen, Utah. Rangers and volunteers will lead a tour of the night sky, and let visitors conduct “citizen scientist” measurements of the dark sky.
For details of this and other events, go to the National Park Service’s website, at www.nps.gov/dino.
In January 2018, Torrey became the first Utah town — and one of 22 worldwide — to be recognized as an International Dark Sky Community. Torrey, in Wayne County, is at the gateway to Capitol Reef National Park, which was named a Dark Sky Park in 2015.
Other Dark Sky Parks in Utah are: Antelope Island State Park; Canyonlands National Park; Cedar Breaks National Monument; Dead Horse Point State Park; Goblin Valley State Park; Hovenweep National Monument (which also crosses into Colorado); Natural Bridges National Monument; Weber County’s North Fork Park; and Rainbow Bridge National Monument.