One of the last great treasure troves of untapped dinosaur fossils in the continental United States lies within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The President proclaimed the Monument in 1996. It is part of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) National Landscape Conservation System.
Grand Staircase-Escalante was set aside in part to protect the rich fossil resources within its borders. Another reason was to promote the study of the fossils. Much of the entire age of dinosaurs (Mesozoic) is represented by fossil-bearing rock layers. However, it is as the great dinosaur chapter draws to a close (Late Cretaceous), that the Monument’s fossils literally become world class. There are over 7,000 vertical feet of Late Cretaceous strata or layers of rock. They have yielded hundreds of species of fossil vertebrates. Over 100 come from the top layers alone. It is a 30 million-year-long terrestrial rock record. It has no known rival in North America.
Scientists have documented fascinating creatures in the Monument over the last ten years. Among them are T-rex sized crocodiles ( Deinosuchus ), new kinds of tyrannosaurs, giant toothless raptors, and giant hadrosaurs. Researchers have found several new kinds of rhinoceros-like horned dinosaurs, including one armed with fifteen menacing head spikes. Even more remarkable are the over four dozen instances where scientists have found skin, claws, tendons, and other soft tissue still faithfully preserved with the bones. The BLM has supported the research.
The finds are literally reshaping scientists' view of the dinosaurs and their world just prior to its catastrophic end. Researchers in the Monument have concluded that the fossil resources have actually exceeded their expectations.
All of this fossil bounty comes from the Kaiparowits Plateau. The almost one-million acre plateau remains virtually untapped for fossils. To date, scientists have surveyed only about 90,000 acres of these rugged badlands. The vast area and remote nature of the Kaiparowits Plateau insure that the Kaiparowits will remain a frontier for scientists for decades to come.