Canyon Country Discovery Center
Utah’s southeast corner is known for its red rock spires, wide open spaces and archeology sites. A scenic drive or a hike won’t disappoint; there are also places to slow down, spend some time, and learn more of the history, function and context of the landscape.
The Canyon Country Discovery Center in Monticello welcomes visitors to engage with hands-on exhibits that demonstrate concepts of natural science. The center’s mission is to promote outdoor education and love for the Colorado Plateau region. In addition to onsite exhibits, the center guides educational programs and “edventure” trips exploring the region’s terrain and ecosystems.
Guest Services Associate Mark Culbreath uses the “Augmented Reality Sand Table” to show how landscapes can change over time in response to human activity or natural forces. The “Ferrofluid” demonstration uses a liquid fuel substitute to allow visitors to see magnetic fields. “It’s fun to watch it ooze slowly down as the magnets drift further apart,” Culbreath said.
For more in-depth or more adventurous learning, programs and trips for groups can be booked in advance. Trips might be multiday river or backpacking trips, or shorter day-long hikes that highlight natural features and archeology of the area. Summer camps and corporate retreats are also offered. 435-587-2156.
The Dinosaur Museum
The Dinosaur Museum in Blanding features models of reconstructed dinosaurs and dinosaur skeletons. It also includes a collection of original film posters from dinosaur movies through the decades. These classic B-movie escapades got many paleontologists started on their careers.
Allison Yamamoto-Sparks, visitor services specialist for San Juan County, said her nine-year-old son really enjoys the Dinosaur Museum.
“They have a lot of movie memorabilia, so it appeals to a wider audience than your typical dinosaur museum would,” Yamamoto-Sparks said. “For anyone who likes movies, there’s something that you’ll recognize. It’s kind of a unique spin on dinosaurs.”
The museum was founded in the 1990s by artist and self-taught paleontologist Stephen Czerkas. Czerkas was born in California and established a profession sculpting dinosaurs and other creatures for the movie business. In the 1980s he started creating dinosaur sculptures for museums, and was known for his dedication to accuracy. Czerkas passed away in 2015, but the museum continues to display his work and celebrate the intersection of two fascinating worlds: the age of the dinosaurs and the silver screen.
The museum is closed in the winter, but will open in April 2022. 435-678-3454.
Glamping Canyonlands opened in October of 2020. It offers rustic lodging in one of five furnished platform tents. The camp is located along Highway 211, the route to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. It sits amid rolling sage brush hills and sandstone domes. Guests can enjoy hikes from the property or drive to one of several nearby national parks and monuments including Arches, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, Monument Valley, and Bears Ears. The campground has a common bathroom area with showers and flush toilets, as well as a communal outdoor kitchen area The tents have boutique furnishings and curated décor.
Husband and wife Erik and Keshia Joot opened the glampground after living in Las Vegas for 10 years; Keshia worked for Tesla and Erik was a tour guide in the Grand Canyon. Keshia Joot said they had fallen in love with southern Utah when they spent their 2012 honeymoon backpacking in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. The glamping idea just fell into place.
Joot said that even though they opened during the pandemic, the launch went well. The closure of many leisure activities prompted more people than ever to get outdoors. That has kept them booked for much of the spring, summer, and fall. They are closed during the winter.
The Joots have partnered with Moab-based guiding company Clapper Adventures so guests can book guided hiking or canyoneering tours. There are also yoga classes on site. This past fall they hosted a small community music concert and invited people from nearby towns in San Juan County and southern Grand County. Joots said they hope to have more events of the kind in the future.
“We’re a small operation,” Joot said, adding that she and her husband run all aspects of the business. They’re always onsite to help guests and offer recommendations, particularly hikes in the Needles.
“We tell them about the amazing hikes out there,” Joot said. “They end up loving it more than anything they’ve done on their trip.”