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Theme camping is a wonderful way to combine camping and learning, seeing the world in new ways. Whether it’s you alone, as a couple or with kids-in-tow, theme camping is frosting on the cake for any camping adventure. The great thing about theme camping is that it allows you to discover many new campsites while pursuing the same theme. Fossil Camping *Never remove fossils as it is often illegal.
Fossil Camping involves choosing campsites near to fossil beds that are preserved in national monuments, parks and museums (public and private). So how do you decide where to start to explore pre-history? Many monuments and parks have websites so you can explore them first (some even have on-line museums and virtual tours). Agate Fossil Beds National Monument “During the 1890s, scientists rediscovered what the Lakota Sioux already knew - bones preserved in one of the most complete Miocene mammal sites in the world. Yet, Agate is a landscape that reflects many players – from early animals roaming the valleys and hills, to tribal nations calling the High Plains home, to explorers and ranchers passing through or settling in the American West.” Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park About 12 million years ago, a volcano in southwest Idaho spread a blanket of ash over a very large area. One or two feet of this powdered glass covered the flat savannah-like grasslands of northeastern Nebraska. Most of the animals which lived here survived the actual ashfall, but as they continued to graze on the ash covered grasses, their lungs began to fill up with the abrasive powder. Soon their lungs became severely damaged and they began to die. The smaller animals died first (smaller lung capacities) and finally, after perhaps three to five weeks, the last of the rhinos perished. Their bodies were quickly covered by the blowing and drifting ash. Undisturbed except by an occasional scavenging meat-eater, the skeletons of these animals are preserved in their death positions, complete with evidence of their last meals in their mouths and stomachs and their last steps preserved in the sandstone below.” Dinosaur State Park “We are one of the largest dinosaur track sites in North America. Beneath our geodesic dome, you will find an exceptional display of early Jurassic fossil tracks that were made 200 million years ago. Surrounding our Exhibit Center are more than two miles of nature trails and the Dinosaur State Park Arboretum, containing more than 250 species and cultivars of conifers, as well as katsuras, ginkgoes, magnolias and other living representatives.” Dinosaur Valley State Park “Dinosaur Valley State Park contains some of the best preserved dinosaur tracks in the world. The dinosaur tracks are located in the riverbed, so please call ahead to check on river conditions. There are two fiberglass models; a 70foot Apatosaurus and a 45-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex. They were built, under commission of the Sinclair Oil Company, New York World's Fair Dinosaur Exhibit of 1964 - 1965. Other activities include camping, picnicking, hiking, mountain biking, Equestrian use in a separate 100-acre area (no horses furnished), river swimming and fishing, and wildlife observation.”
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument “Beneath a grassy mountain valley in central Colorado lies on one of the richest and most diverse fossil deposits in the world. Petrified redwood stumps up to 14 feet wide and thousands of detailed fossils of insects and plants reveal the story of a very different, prehistoric Colorado. Online Museum” Fossil Butte National Monument “Some of the world's best preserved fossils are found in the flat-topped ridges of southwestern Wyoming's cold sagebrush desert. Fossilized fish, insects, plants, reptiles, birds, and mammals are exceptional for their abundance, variety, and detail of preservation. Most remarkable is the story they tell of ancient life in a sub-tropical landscape.” Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument “Largest concentration of Hagerman Horse (Equus simplicidens) fossils in North America - 30 complete horse fossils and portions of 200 individual horses. Internationally significant Monument protects world's richest late Pliocene epoch (3 - 4 mya) fossil deposits: over 220 species of plants and animals! Glimpse life before the last Ice Age and view earliest appearance of modern flora and fauna.” John Day Fossil Beds National Monument “A visit to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is like taking a journey into ancient Oregon. Whether you tour the museum at Sheep Rock, hike a trail at the Painted Hills, or picnic at Clarno, Oregon's exciting past will be revealed. Learn about the park before you visit by exploring our new virtual tour!” Mississippi Petrified Forest *Privately owned. “Take an unforgettable journey back in time... 36 million years to an ancient log jam deposited by a river from halfway across our young continent. You'll enjoy the many points of interest along the six block long shady paved trail. From there you'll enter our Earth Science Museum where you can browse among the most outstanding collection of fossils, petrified wood, and minerals from nature, Petrified Forest National Park “With one of the world's largest and most colorful concentrations of petrified wood, multi-hued badlands of the Painted Desert, historic structures, archeological sites, and displays of 225 million year old fossils, this is a surprising land of scenic wonders and fascinating science.” Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite “At BLM's Red Gulch Dinosaur Track site, you can imagine yourself walking along an ocean shoreline 167 million years ago with dozens of other dinosaurs, looking to pick up a bite of lunch from what washed up on the last high tide. The ground is soft and your feet sink down in the thick ooze, leaving a clear footprint with every step you take. The discovery of rare fossil footprints on public lands near the Red Gulch/Alkali National Back Country Byway close to Shell, Wyoming, could alter current views about the Sundance Formation and the paleoenvironment of the Middle Jurassic Period.” The Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis “This museum has an extensive display of Wyoming Dinosaurs and other related material. There are also observation points for watching restoration of
fossils. During the summer there are tours of the dig sites and "Kids Digs". Journey back in time with dynamic displays featuring dinosaurs from all around the world. See the entire paleontological process, from excavation to preparation. Open daily year round.” Once you decide which places you want to visit first, simply look for campsites near that region, then see which have campsites on site or nearby. A Google search is often all you’ll need to find campsites nearby. You can also find reports of great camping sites, for example: Top Sleeping Bags report on the top five secluded campgrounds Western Trails Camping Western Trails Camping involves choosing campsites which allow you to explore the trails used as pioneers moved West during the development of the United States. The most historic are the Bozeman, the Cherokee, the Oregon, the Overland, the California, the
Mormon Pioneer, and the Pony Express Trails. Because all passed through Wyoming and Wyoming is filled with open spaces, Wyoming is a great place to start. More about the trails can be found at the Alliance for Historic Wyoming.
While exploring these trails will fill you with the same sense of determination and “can do” attitude which propelled the western movement, you might also consider exploring what happened to those on the other side of that equation who’s heroic determination to preserve their tribes made their defeat so palpably tragic, such as the Trail of Tears, which forcibly relocated the Cherokee people, the epic 1,700 mile Nez Pearce retreat led by Chief Joseph across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek Massacre, Once you decide which places you want to visit first, simply look for campsites near that region, then see which have campsites on site or nearby. A Google search is often all you’ll need to find campsites nearby. Astronomy Camping Astronomy camping is probably the easiest theme camping to pursue. All you need is a campsite away from the light pollution of cities and the night sky above becomes your theatre. From asteroids, constellations, meteor showers, comet fly-bys to eclipses, the universe will spin above you. One great source is the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Space Calendar, which lists when the events overhead will occur. Once you decide which astronomy events you want to witness, find a great campsite near you that is away from light pollution, then head there! A Google search is often all you’ll need to find campsites nearby. Cave Camping Cave camping is something that will amaze you because the majesty of caves has remained hidden underground because of the nature of caves. But once you discover the world of caves, you’ll become a cave camper until you’ve explored them all.
While some caves are well known such as the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky or the Cave of the Winds in Colorado, a quick search on the Internet of U.S. Caves, and you’ll find some near you. Once you decide which caves you want to visit, find a great nearby campsite and off you go! A Google search is often all you’ll need to find campsites nearby. Brought to you by: Top Sleeping Bags.
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