Public lands in Washington County preserve important chapters of the history of life on Earth: paleontological evidence of distinctive life forms, some that flourished for millions of years; others that only survived for a geologic instant; and archaeological evidence of past human cultures, some more successful than others at adapting to their environments.
Washington County has only recently been recognized as having a rich fossil record, including an abundance of dinosaur trackways, dating to the early Jurassic Period, approximately 190 million years ago. Then, the climate was warm and wet, with a large lake and tall forests covering the St. George Basin. Today, the fossil remains of plants and animals from that period can be observed at interpreted sites managed by the St. George Field Office. At the Warner Valley Dinosaur Track Site, visitors can see the tracks of Grallators and Eubrontes, both meat-eating dinosaurs. In the Red Cliffs Recreation Area, other dinosaur track sites can be visited within and near the campground.
More than 10,000 years of human history is also preserved in archeological and historic period sites in the Washington County area. Visitors can hike to an interpreted Virgin Anasazi site in the Red Cliffs Recreation Area, where prehistoric Ancestral Puebloan farmers lived and grew corn in small garden plots along Quail Creek, around A.D. 1000. Nearby, the 1860’s era Orson Adams farmstead, with its extensive irrigation ditches, terraced fields, and rock-walled livestock corrals, show how farming methods had changed in a thousand years. Ironically, neither the prehistoric farmers nor the late 19th century Mormon settlers were able to permanently sustain an agricultural lifestyle at this location.
For information and maps to these and other heritage resource sites that are open for public visitation, stop by the St. George Field Office
or click on the links to Public Use Sites and Heritage Day Trips.