Mike & Joyces Travel logs

Home ** 2006 Travel Logs**


Places Visited: Wyoming: I-80 from Rock Springs to Little America, US-30 from Little America to Kemmerer and Diamondville, and Fossil Butte National Monument near Kemmerer then I-30 from Kemmerer to the Idaho state line.

July 21, 2006: Riverside RV-Park Kemmerer, Wyoming. N41° 47.825' W110° 32.085 $25.00 Full hookup 307-877-3416. Gravel interior roads and pads beside the Green River.

July 22, 2006: Rendezvous RV-Park Montpelier, ID. N42° 19.698' W111° 17.999 $19.20 Full hookup. Gravel interior roads and pads. Nothing fancy, in fact the owner said that they were making a lumber mill out of the park in three years and they were just getting income until the lumber mill. Still, the KOA in Montpelier was $27 plus tax for 30-amps and water with ------- no sewage at the site. We will take this place any day.


We left Rock Springs heading west on I-80. The ride along I-80 through Rock Springs is at the bottom of a huge cliff.


Most of the time I-80 just hugs the cliff but at one point a few miles west of Rock Springs the road builders blasted a tunnel through this imposing cliff instead of winding around it. It is an impressive tunnel going through that huge rock formation.





The rock formations continue until we get to the west side of Green River.





We turned north on US-30 about 20-miles west of Green River. We are heading to the small town of Kemmerer, Wyoming.


Not far north of I-80 on US-30 we passed through a large gas field.



For 10-miles or more all we saw on both sides of US-30 was sagebrush and gas well equipment, pipes & tanks.


Gas fields are evident on both sides of the highway




A closeup of a gas well & associated equipment.






We stayed in an RV-Park in Kemmerer that was on the Green River.

A block down from where our RV was in Kemmerer we spotted this osprey platform with a parent and several chicks. Daddy was purched on something not far away.







This is the Green River that flows by our RV-Park and where the osprey get their fish.






Kemmerer is knows for having the first J.C. Penny store. The J.C. Penny store is still there on the corner. The home that James C. Penny lived in when he operated that store is just a block away from the store and it is maintained to this day by the J.C. Penny Company.






We stopped by the Kemmerer Historical Museum not long after arriving in Kemmerer. One of the items in the museum that fascinated us was the "clothing" worn by a man that was struck by lightening and lived to tell about it.


These clothes were worn by Bert Sandberg when he was struck by lightening in 1928.

Bert narrowly escaped death during the same electrical storm that claimed the life of one and injured others. He was badly injured and hospitalized.

During the storm Sandberg was riding a horse just north of Kemmerer. A bolt of lightning struck the horse which he was riding killing the animal and freakishly treating the rider. Sandberg's hat was torn and thrown fifty feet away. His clothing was split from shoulder to heel in several places. His watch chain was melted and welded onto the watch that he carried in his left shirt pocket. The watch was not damaged except for the crystal being broken. This left a black spot over Sandberg's heart. His head seemed to be injured, in fact his body was half paralyzed for a while.

Unconscious for only a moment the badly injured Sandberg set out to find help. Covered with blood from his nose, he partly walked, staggered and finally crawled for nearly a mile to the highway where he was found by a passing motorist who first carried him to a ranch house then to the hospital in Kemmerer.

Mr. Sandberg lived another thirty six years in good health but carried the black spot over his heart all his life. He was reported to be very nervous during thunder storms after that experience. Well duh! I guess thunder storms would make most of us nervous after that.



Later that day we headed a few miles west of Kemmerer on US-30 to Fossil Butte National Monument. That is Fossil Butte in the picture on the left.



Fossil Butte and several other buttes in the area are rich in fish fossils. The rock layers topping the high ridges of those buttes formed from sediments deposited on the bottom of Fossil Lake about 50-million years ago.

The lake and its encircling mountains basked in sub-tropical sunshine and bathed in torrential rainstorms. Sometimes the lake overflowed. When its waters returned, loaded with organic nutrients, the algae bloomed.

These abundant crops of algae furnished the food essential to sustain the lake's species-diverese food chain.


The layer that contains the fish fossils is about 18" thick and located near the top of several buttes in the area such as the one in this picture.

The fossil fish of Fossil Lake may have been known to Indians and they may have been noticed by fur trappers and early missionaries, but there is no record of this. The first records of fossil fish in the Green River area of Wyoming were made by United States Government sponsored scientist-explorers.

The scientific exploration of the west began with Lewis and Clark and continues today. During the nineteenth century scientists - naturalists, geologists, and paleontologists - were part of military mapping expeditions, railroad surveys, and geologic surveys of the territories. Their reports, published in Congressional Records and scientific journals, describe in detail expanding knowledge of western geology and fossil discoveries.

It was the work of these first scientist-collectors that brought the attention of the world to the Green River Fossil fish.



On the left is a large slab with an entire school of small fish while on the right is the fossil remains of a large crockadile.









Everyone can recognize this palm frond.

To the right a worker is using a very small air driven jack hammer with a chisel point that is at most one eighth of an inch in width. The operator has her eyes in a microscope with two eye pieces. The surrounding rock is not as hard as the fossil itself. The object of the worker is to chisel away the soft white rock thus exposing the darker fossil.


Fossil Butte National Monument purchases fossil rocks from local quarries then employees and interns spend time demonstrating how the fossil is chipped out of the surrounding rock. It is one of the best demonstrations I have ever seen. There is a television monitor just above where this lady is working that gives the view from the microscope that the worker is using.

The rock layer containing these fossils is about 18" thick. In the quarry they dig over burden away to expose the top of this 18" layer. Then the top of the layer is inspected. They are looking for bumps indicating backbones or possibly the outline of a fish. That is how they can tell if a fossil is contained in a piece of rock.

The next step is to take a power saw like the one most of us use to cut a 2X4 piece of lumber except the saw has a different blade. With the saw they cut a pattern around the suspected fossil about 1" deep. With the cut all the way around the fossil the next step is to use several thin but rigid pieces of metal about 2" wide as a wedge to pry the 1/2" slab containing the fossil from the 18" thick mother layer. The sediments went down in layers and it is relatively simple to use these thin wedges to separate the 1/2" piece from the mother layer. All it takes is those wedges and a hammer, and of course a steady hand.



This is another picture of Fossil Butte that is protected by the National Park Service.









Almost all we know of life in Fossil Lake came from Quarries on Cundick Ridge, Fossil Butte, Fossil Ridge and other nearby sites.

Commercial fossil fish mining began in the last decades of the 19th century. Some specimens were sold as souvenirs, and others -- the spectacular, the rare, the unusual -- went to museums throughout the world.

A great body of knowledge about life in Fossil Lake accumulated in these museums, much of which would never have come to light had it not been for the collectors and their quarries.

Even today anyone wishing to can visit one of these quarries and for $55 per-hour locate and extract the fossil of their choice. That would certainly be an outstanding thing for a family to do with children interested in fossils.



Fossil Buttes National Monument is not all fossils. The property not on that butte is sagebrush country as can be seen from this picture. On the right is a close-up picture of a large silver sagebrush plant.






Between the National Monument and Kemmerer we spotted this huge dragline operating in what appears to be a coal mine. There were no signs indicating what type of operation was going on and the gates were locked on the dirt road leading to the mine. It will just have to be one of those things we might not ever know, but this is coal mining country.




Trains, trains and more trains. They are everywhere we are.

We have seen deer crossing signs before but never one with blinking caution lights. This area is obviously serious deer country although we did not see any within the six miles that the sign was warning about.



As we headed out of Kemmerer on US-30 on our way to Montpelier, Idaho we passes some odd and rapidly changing geology.



One minute we are looking at roadcuts through red Triassic sandstone then around the bend is a roadcut through yellow sandstone or possibly limestone from strata millions if not hundreds of million years apart.










US-30 between Kemmerer and the Idaho border drops into a broad valley that is bright green with irrigated alfalfa fields.




Ranchers are making hay while the sun shines so they say. We understand that ranchers/farmers are able to get two cuttings of alfalfa before the water runs out sometime in August.


Until next time remember how good life is.

Mike & Joyce Hendrix






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