Utah Is Getting Two New State Parks

Utahraptor State Park will be located on land nearby Arches National Park, pictured here.
Utahraptor State Park will be located on land nearby Arches National Park, pictured here. / mmac72/iStock via Getty Images

Utah’s more than 40 state parks, from Antelope Island to Goblin Valley, are a testament to the region’s fascinating and diverse landscapes. Now, as Travel + Leisure reports, the state is adding two more to the mix: Utahraptor State Park and Lost Creek State Park.

The bill, signed into law by Utah governor Spencer Cox in mid-March, didn’t only make the designation official—it also allotted $36.5 million for the parks’ renovation and development. Both places are already pretty popular spots. Lost Creek State Park will be located around Lost Creek Reservoir, where people like to fish for rainbow and cutthroat trout. And Utahraptor State Park, near Moab in eastern Utah, is frequented by hikers and campers.

Utahraptor State Park in particular could benefit from its newly acquired state park status (and funds). The area includes the Dalton Wells Quarry, where the first fossils of an unknown velociraptor-like dinosaur were unearthed in 1975. The creature wasn’t named until the early 1990s, when paleontologist James Kirkland excavated more bones and realized they belonged to an as-yet-unidentified species. After briefly toying with the notion of naming it Spielbergi—hoping that a certain Jurassic Park director might take an interest and shell out some cash for research—they settled on Utahraptor ostrommaysi. The name paid homage to paleontologist John Ostrom, who helped establish the connection between birds and carnivorous dinosaurs; and Chris Mays, president of a dinosaur robotics company called Dinamation International Corporation.

An illustration of what the Utahraptor may have looked like.
An illustration of what the Utahraptor may have looked like. / Emily Willoughby, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Utahraptor ostrommaysi, which became Utah’s official state dinosaur in 2018, is far from the only prehistoric species found in Dalton Wells Quarry. According to Utah Friends of Paleontology representative Lee Shenton, making the quarry part of a state park will hopefully help secure it against vandalists. “We would especially like to see not only that these paleontology resources get protected and preserved, but that there is an opportunity to provide some sort of display in the future that can show these many very significant fossils that were found here,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune in February.

Utahraptor State Park harbors vestiges of more recent history, too. In the 1930s, some of the land was used for a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp, part of a New Deal program that employed young men to maintain the nation’s parks. The camp closed in the early 1940s, and in January 1943 it was reestablished as a prison camp known as the “Moab Isolation Center.” There, the War Relocation Authority incarcerated several dozen Japanese Americans whom it had deemed “troublemakers” after a riot at another prison camp in California. The WGA then relocated them to a larger prison camp in Arizona a few months later.

There’s a marker at the site with a little information about both the CCC camp and the prison camp; whether state park officials will budget funds for a different memorial remains to be seen.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]