The Phoenix Nest

Riverside RV Park, near Kemmerer, Wyoming

Riverside RV Park, near Kemmerer, Wyoming

A Stop on the Phoenix's Grand Fossil Tour

By Jim Fulton

I spent a week at Riverside RV Park in Kemmerer, in the southwest corner of Wyoming, in order to visit the Fossil Butte National Monument.

Arrival Day of Tour Nights Departure
GFT GFT 2
2019/5/28 525 28 7 2019/6/4
Mileage Elevation
Odometer Map Actual Local Accumulated   Feet Meters
52,996 137 316 62 GFT 34,479 Actual 6,946 2,117
GFT 2 1,469 Δ 2,720 829
Page Contents

The Phoenix has revised the appearance of new entries in his journal of his Grand Fossil Tour: The various sections are sometimes collapsed under their respective titles. Click on the + to expand any section you choose; click on the × to collapse it.

Often the structure of the page will be so obvious, that the Page Contents section won't be shown at all.

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Kemmerer, Wyoming

KemmererWikipedia is nestled among the folded hills of southwestern Wyoming. Fifty million years ago, the tops of those hills were at the bottom of Fossil Lake. The lake dried up, tectonics pushed the whole region to a higher elevation, erosion gradually dug out the valleys, and nature covered them with grass, spotted widely with sage and occasionally with aspen.

Kemmerer is one of the Wyoming towns that feed those long trains of coal cars that service power plants all over the country. The town is small and, according to the campground owner, shrinking due to the withering demand for its coal, a fact of great concern to the locals, as to all who "live when the gods begin to change".Phoenix Popup

The Journey to Kemmerer

It was a short (130 mile, 2 1/2 hour) drive from Salt Lake City to Kemmerer, and to a geology fan like me, it was a beautiful, though gray and rainy trip.

Immediately east of SLC, I-80 begins its steep climb into the Wasatch Mountains. The road winds through steep ravines of sharply folded, rust-red sandstone, until it finally levels out onto a deeply rolling plateau. The grade remains generally upwards as it passes from the Wasatch to the Uinta Mountains in eastern Utah. The bones of the mountains are frequently on display: here pitted, weathered, red sandstone; there the light tan of limestone emerging as a thick layer beneath the sandstone.

A few miles into Wyoming, the route turned north through a valley, formed by broken layers of uplifted rock. In places the tilt of the strata continued from west to east, with an apparent separation between the layers of 1000 feet to nearly a mile. In other places, the strata on opposite sides of the road tilted in opposite directions, indicating that the fracture had been right in the middle where I was driving, the rubble having been swept away by erosion.

I learned later that the last snow of the season had been only the week before, so the land was well-watered and lush with green, a welcome change from the sere slopes I remember from earlier trips through the state.

Maps and Photos

Maps and photos of the Phoenix's journey to Kemmerer.Phoenix Popup

Previous Location: Salt Lake City KOA, Salt Lake City, Utah
Route of Journey to Kemmerer, Wyoming, from Salt Lake City, Utah
Route of Journey to Kemmerer, Wyoming, from Salt Lake City, Utah
Current Location: Riverside RV Park, Kemmerer, Wyoming
Route of Journey from Kemmerer, Wyoming, to Vernal, Utah
Route of Journey from Kemmerer, Wyoming, to Vernal, Utah
Next Destination: Fossil Valley RV Park, Vernal, Utah
Route of Journey from Kemmerer, Wyoming, to Vernal, Utah
Journey from Salt Lake City to Kemmerer, Wyoming
Route of Journey from Kemmerer, Wyoming, to Vernal, Utah
Journey from Salt Lake City to Kemmerer, Wyoming
Route of Journey from Kemmerer, Wyoming, to Vernal, Utah
Journey from Salt Lake City to Kemmerer, Wyoming
Route of Journey from Kemmerer, Wyoming, to Vernal, Utah
Journey from Salt Lake City to Kemmerer, Wyoming
Route of Journey from Kemmerer, Wyoming, to Vernal, Utah
Journey from Salt Lake City to Kemmerer, Wyoming
Route of Journey from Kemmerer, Wyoming, to Vernal, Utah
Journey from Salt Lake City to Kemmerer, Wyoming

Around Kemmerer

Kemmerer is one of the smallest towns I've visited on this Tour. Its dependency on the coal industry, and its out-of-the-way location, make it highly vulnerable. It is the natural place to stay for visitors to Fossil Butte.

Moreover, and the sale of fossils provides a good business for several locals. Fossils can be harvested with relative ease in the region, unlike some of the dinosaur digs you might have seen on TV. The long, slow sedimentation of Fossil Lake created layer upon layer, each laden with its generation of organisms, mostly fish. Fossil hunters need only lift up a slab, cut out the sections with fossils, sand-blast away the soft covering of the fossil, put it up for sale and go back for another slab. Over the past few decades, millions of local fossils have been sold this way.

I saw in a shop several slaps of this kind prepared as wall displays (for very stout walls!) One five or six-foot slab was priced at $30,000! I found them quite attractive, but out of my comfort zone. Sorry, Grandkids, it ain't gonna happen.

Whether this will keep the town alive remains to be seen.

Photo Gallery for Kemmerer

Kemmerer, Wyoming
Kemmerer has a Triangle instead of a Square.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Downtown Kemmerer.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
The Local Museum that was Never Open.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Along the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming
Kemmerer above the Ham's Fork River.
Kemmerer, Wyoming

Fossils at Fossil Butte National Monument

Fossil Butte National MonumentWikipediaPhoenixGoogle Maps is located on Fossil Butte, the most obvious remnant of three Eocene lakes — Fossil Lake, Lake Gosiute, and Lake Uinta — that straddled what is now the corner border between Wyoming and Utah, and on east into Colorado. Though long dry now, those lakes lasted for millions of years, catching generation after generation of flora and fauna in the sediments of their bottoms, leaving a fossil legacy of profound richness, known collectively as the Green River Formation.Wikipedia

Here's a selection of of the photographs I tookof the fossils on display at the museum.

Photo Gallery for Fossils at Fossil Butte

Fossil Fish
Arecaceae
Eocene Plant
Fossil Butte National Monument
Arecaceae
Bechleja rastrata
Eocene Invertebrate
Fossil Butte National Monument
Bechleja rastrata
Odonata
Eocene Invertebrate
Fossil Butte National Monument
Odonata
Diplomystus dentatus + Knightia eocaena
Eocene Fish
Fossil Butte National Monument
Diplomystus dentatus + Knightia eocaena
Amia pattersoni
Eocene Fish
Fossil Butte National Monument
Amia pattersoni
Asineops squamifrons
Eocene Fish
Fossil Butte National Monument
Asineops squamifrons
Atractosteus simplex
Eocene Fish
Fossil Butte National Monument
Atractosteus simplex
Crossophalis magnicaudatus
Eocene Fish
Fossil Butte National Monument
Crossophalis magnicaudatus
Cyclurus gurleyi
Eocene Fish
Fossil Butte National Monument
Cyclurus gurleyi
Hiodon falcatus
Eocene Fish
Fossil Butte National Monument
Hiodon falcatus
Lepisosteus bemisi
Eocene Fish
Fossil Butte National Monument
Lepisosteus bemisi
Mioplosus labracoides + Knightia eocaena
Eocene Fish
Fossil Butte National Monument
Mioplosus labracoides + Knightia eocaena
Phareodus testis
Eocene Fish
Fossil Butte National Monument
Phareodus testis
Asterotrygon maloneyi
Asterotrygon maloneyi
Eocene Ray
Fossil Butte National Monument
Saniwa ensidens
Eocene Reptile
Fossil Butte National Monument
Saniwa ensidens
Tsoabichi greenriverensis
Eocene Reptile
Fossil Butte National Monument
Tsoabichi greenriverensis
Borealosuchus wilsoni
Eocene Reptile
Fossil Butte National Monument
Saniwa ensidens
Apalone heteroglypta
Eocene Turtle
Fossil Butte National Monument
Apalone heteroglypta
Hummelichelys guttata
Eocene Turtle
Fossil Butte National Monument
Hummelichelys guttata
Boavus idelmani
Eocene Snake
Fossil Butte National Monument
Apalone heteroglypta
Gallinuloides wyomingensis
Eocene Bird
Fossil Butte National Monument
Gallinuloides wyomingensi
Primobucco mcgrewi
Eocene Bird
Fossil Butte National Monument
Primobucco mcgrewi
Pseudocrypturus cercanaxius
Eocene Bird
Fossil Butte National Monument
Pseudocrypturus cercanaxius
Apatemys chardini
Eocene Mammal
Fossil Butte National Monument
Apatemys chardini
Hyopsodus wortmani
Eocene Mammal
Fossil Butte National Monument
Hyopsodus wortmani
Icaronycteris index
Eocene Bat
Fossil Butte National Monument
Icaronycteris index
Onychonycteris finneyi
Eocene Bat
Fossil Butte National Monument
Onychonycteris finneyi
Protorohippus venticolus
Eocene Horse
Fossil Butte National Monument
Protorohippus venticolus

Walking around Fossil Butte National Monument

Fossil Butte itself stands out from the surrounding ridges, buttes, and mesas. It's not particularly taller: the tops of all of them were once the bottom of Fossil Lake. But it presents a more rugged face to the visitor from Kemmerer: layers upon layers of limestone, like many I've seen across the West. This one is unique in another way: it contains one of the richest troves of Eocene fossils of anywhere in the world.

Here are some photos of the beautiful countryside and trails around the museum. Remember: they had a couple inches of snow only the previous weekend. That accounts for the lush green.

Photo Gallery for Fossil Butte National Monument

Fossil Fish
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte
Close-Up of South Face
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument

Riverside RV Park

The Riverside RV Park is small and old-fashioned, having been built by the owner's grandfather back in the 60s. It's located on the wrong side of the tracks, literally (I had to cross a long bridge that was under major construction, a bumpy ride for my trailer) and figuratively (the neighborhood was poorer and seedier); but it was satisfactory for a week’s stay, and seems the best camper's option for visiting Fossil Butte.

The office was not staffed when I arrived (I'm not sure it ever is). There was a note telling guests to park and put an envelope with their money in a slot. I picked one of the remaining pull-through sites and set up. I called and left a message with the manager, but apparently that message got garbled (the local cellular service was unusable), but she stopped by later and accounts got settled.

My asphalt-paved site was wide and long enough to be easily accessed, but the placement of the hookups made me park so far forward that I had to park my truck beside the trailer. The space between sites is covered in river rock, with a table and a small tree, not an inviting picnic area, but eating outside is not my lifestyle.

Guests are expected to be self-sufficient. The campground is not a resort; it provides no swimming pool, no playground, no store for supplies, not even propane. You're on your own in a small town with limited resources. With poor cellular service, I expected as well to be in another internet black hole for the week, since my wifi hotspot depends on that connection. However, it turned out that the campground does provide a good wifi system; it's unsecured, but my virtual private network worked, and (I think) kept my system safe. Moreover, the $185/week rate was welcome after the exhorbitant fees at the Salt Lake City KOA, and my visit to Fossil Butte definitely made it worthwhile.

Photo Gallery for Riverside RV Park

Riverside RV Park
Riverside RV Park
Riverside RV Park
Riverside RV Park
Riverside RV Park
Riverside RV Park
Address 216 Spinel St.
Kemmerer WY 83101
Home Page https://www.facebook.com/
Phone 307) 877-3416
Associations  
Rate (net US$) $26
Features
Amenities
Sewer Fire-Ring
Picnic Table   Paved Patio
Pull-through   Back-in
  Paved Gravel
 
Site Type
Lane Surface
Site Surface
Paved   Gravel   Grass    
  50 30   20
  Playground   Swimming   Golf
  Tennis   Waterfront   Other
Power
Play Areas
 
Reviews (as of 2018/10/25)
Reviewer
 
Rating Out of
Campground Reviews 6.7 Good 10
Good Sam 5.5 10
KOA n/a 5
Tripadvisor 3.5 5
Phoenix 6 10
Attractiveness 4 10
Friendliness 8 10
Tree Cover 2 10: Dense - 1: Treeless
Site Length 7 10
Site Width 6 10
Ease of Access 7 10
WiFiPhoenix Popup 8 10
Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Seemed best choice in area
  • Good free wifi
  • Nearby river walk
Cons
  • Poor cellular service
  • Rather seedy in appearance

Onward

My next stop after leaving Kemmerer was Vernal, Utah, where I visited Flaming Gorge, Dinosaur National Monument, and the Utah Field House of Natural History.

Happy Trails!

Comments and Conversation

Readers of the Phoenix Nest have sent me comments about this page, which I include below, arranged by topic, along with any replies I have made.

Conversation 1: TOPIC1

COMMENT1

COMMENT1

Route of Journey from Kemmerer, Wyoming, to Vernal, Utah
Next Destination: Fossil Valley RV Park, Vernal, Utah

Revisions to This Page

This panel describes the significant revisions made to the appearance and function of this page. It ignores corrections of spelling, grammar, and other clerical problems, as well as debugging of the underlying code, and style changes that apply to all of the Phoenix Nest.

Preface to Revision of 2018, December

The Phoenix has revised the appearance of this itinerary and of new entries in his journal of his Grand Fossil Tour: The various sections are sometimes collapsed under their respective titles. Click on the + to expand any section you choose; click on the × to collapse it.

Often the structure of the page will be so obvious, that the Page Contents section won't be shown at all.

What do you think of the new look? Send him an email:

Earlier Revisions

Preface to Revision of 2019, MMMM D

 

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I have always embedded Google Maps™ of my routes from place to place. These maps not only gave you a general overview of where I was, they allowed you to open that route in Google Maps itself, to zoom in and out as you willed, in order to look more closely at the geography of my travels.

I am sad to report that I can no longer show you Google Maps™ of my routes. Google, in its infinite corporate wisdom, now charges a fee to embed such"advanced" features, a cost which a pro bono site like this cannot endure.

From now on, I will only show you Google Maps™ of the previous, current, and next locations where I stay (at least until Google gets even greedier, and puts a price on those too). In addition, I will show you non-interactive images (screen shots) of maps of my routes. All maps will be included in the Journey section of the blog (rather than having the next destination map at the end).

Nonetheless, you can still view my route, in Google Maps™, at no cost to either of us (yet). On either the Current Location or the Next Destination map:

  1. Click on "View larger map" to open the map in Google Maps™.
  2. Click on the "Directions" button.
  3. If you opened the Current Location map, replace"Your location" with "Salt Lake City, Utah".
  4. If you opened the Next Destination map, replace"Your location" with "Kemmerer, Wyoming".
  5. Hit Return.

Of course this procedure doesn't show you which among alternative routes I took, or what side trips I ventured on, or what strange adventures my phone's GPS might have sent me down, but I will give you an approximation of my route.

I seem to recall a passage similar to this from the movie Hawaii, based on the book by James Michener. However, I've been unable to confirm that memory by searching for a quotation online.

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