Green River Rocks 2024 Recap

Temple Mountain field trip with Benjamin Burger. Photo courtesy of Mike and Gia McCue.

Led by “the brains behind the fest” Alison Jean Cole, our 6th annual Green River Rocks festival was held April 5-7, 2024, in direct collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management (Price & Moab Field Offices), the official co-host of the event.

The Friday night opening lecture was by returning lecturer and annual field trip leader Greg McDonald (retired Regional Paleontologist for the Bureau of Land Management) on tar pits around the world and Utah.

When you say tar pits most people immediately think of the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles with the remains of saber tooth cats and mammoths. But tar pits have been found around the world including South America, the Middle East and even in the Caribbean and many of them also preserve the remains of other types of animals. While we often think of these tar traps as only happening in the past, there are many places today where oil comes to the earth’s surface and are trapping animals to become future fossils. One place where this is happening is in Utah, near The Great Salt Lake. Studying the conditions on how animals can become trapped today can help paleontologist understand the entrapment of extinct species in the past and better understand the fossil record. The talk will present tar pits from around the world, the different animals they preserve and how the study of the modern tar traps in Utah are helping paleontologists to better understand the secrets of past tar pits.

Our field trip leaders continue to be the cream of the crop and experts in their field including the one and only Jim Kirkland known for many things including his naming of the Utahraptor, the Utah state fossil and the dinosaur that the “velociraptors” in Jurassic Park are modeled after.

During this year’s event, 17 expert-led, free, and educational field trips were taken to sites including Jurassic National Monument, Sego Canyon, Fossil Point, and Mygatt-Moore Dinosaur Quarry. As well as participating in the amazing field trips, participants were also able to shop at a unique vendor market, full of rocks and minerals, as well as Green River local vendors showcasing their unique arts, crafts and trades.

John Wesley Powell Museum Director Janet Smoak said: “Wild weather moved the vendor fair inside the museum, but we made the most of it and folks still had a great time. The Green River Rocks crew work so hard to offer one of a kind experiences for dedicated adventurers and for the general interest of us all. The geology and paleontology themes are a great fit for the museum mission. We look forward to hosting the festival and it kicks off our spring season.”

Maria Sykes, Epicenter Director, and one of the organizers of this event said: “Huge shout out to Janet Smoak (Director of the John Wesley Powell River History Museum, our host) for suggesting we move the vendors indoors this year; without that hospitality, our event would have suffered. And also thank you to the local residents of Green River; we had more participation this year than ever before!” Sykes continued, “Despite the bad weather— including 60mph gusts and a brief blizzard— hundreds came to Green River for our opening lecture, the 24 unique vendors both local and regional, and to get onto one or more of this year’s 17 field trips.”

With over 350 people yet again in attendance, we expect this event to continue for years to come! In fact, we’ve already set the date for 2025: April 4-6 — RSVP here.

Fossils found during the Cretaceous Ash Disaster field trip with John Foster.

This year’s event was made possible with support from the Bureau of Land Management, Emery County Travel Bureau, the Utah Office of Tourism, the John Wesley Powell River History Museum, the City of Green River, Rocky Mountain Power, Holiday River Expeditions, Colorado River & Trails Expeditions (“CRATE”), Magnuson Lumber, Shelby Menzel, and all of our event volunteers!

Green River Rocks, an annual event by Epicenter since 2017, brings awareness to and fosters appreciation of rural places, wilderness, sacred sites, and overlooked histories. The festival specifically highlights the town of Green River and the stories of this remote place, its people, and cultures, as well as nearby significant geological, paleontological, and archaeological sites.