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Wild About Utah: Find a story

Wooden Utah raptor figure on display
Shannon Rhodes

In their picture book “Everywhere, Wonder,” Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr challenge readers to
find a story in places and phenomena both ordinary and extraordinary. Black ants marching in a line
have a story just as interesting as red-rock canyons and a footprint on the moon. Sunlight patterns
through a window are just as beautiful as Brazilian jungles and wildebeests in Kenyan savannas. They
remind us to keep our eyes open and weave the stories of our noticings. As I wander among Utah’s wild
wonders, it’s easy.

This spring I realized the fun of finding my wonder story as I stumbled upon the sign for Fossil Point in
the San Rafael desert near Green River, Utah. The odds were pretty good, I suspected, that I could find
fossils there, but I didn’t know exactly what I was hunting. My eyes are always drawn to the fact-filled
stories on interpretive signage, even if I’ve read them before, but at this spot all I knew was the title. No
kiosks with hint-filled maps and tips for discovery or guardrail paths making it obvious where to walk.
Just a pile of boulders.

 Rock formation with blue sky and clouds in the background
Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Although I wouldn’t consider myself a dino-fanatic, I have been a frequent visitor throughout my life at
the Dinosaur National Monument and other Utah fossil museums as well as more dinosaur trackways
and quarries not housed in buildings. I’ve read hundreds of dino readers and scanned even more
dinosaur books, but here I was without many clues to what I might find.

Resisting the urge to look up internet hints, I started up the Fossil Point slope. Was it trilobites the size
of dimes and quarters or prehistoric swamp ferns? I will not reveal what I found at Fossil Point so that
you can discover the wonder yourself, but it motivated me to catch up on Utah’s contribution to the more
than one hundred characters in the dinosaur story, as depicted beautifully in the Dinosaurs of Utah tools at
the Utah Geological Survey website.

So many students I’ve met have been fascinated by the T-rex and Utah state fossil Allosaurus, and they
know all sorts of theories about how the Utahraptor, our state dinosaur since 2018, might have had
feathers and hunted in packs. Fossils provide hints to the size and shape of prehistoric life, but they
leave a lot of the colors and textures to the imagination.

Tucked in the back corner of the Geology Museum at Utah State University I found another story, this one
titled “Percy.” While the stories of Percy’s relatives are preserved in the nine-ton Utahraptor Megablock extracted
from the area that is emerging as Utahraptor State Park, this story took sculptor Justin Tolman an astounding
350 hours to create. This incredible replica sports colors resembling my grandbabies’ Easter egg-dying hands as
they toddled along the base of Fossil Point with me hunting evidence of a Mesozoic story. It is a story I’m
glad I found almost all on my own.

For Wild About Utah, I am Shannon Rhodes.


Images: Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Friend Weller,
Text: Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading
Bureau of Land Management. Fossil Point trailhead.
Rodgers, Bethany. Governor Spencer Cox signs bill to create Utahraptor State Park near Moab. 2021.
The Salt Lake Tribune.

Sidwell, Owen. University student sculpts Utahraptor for USU Geology Museum. 2018. Utah Public
Swanson, Matthew. Everywhere, Wonder. 2017. Imprint: New York.
USU Museum of Geology. Come meet Percy the Raptor.
Utah Geological Survey. Popular Geology: Dinosaurs and Fossils.