Fossil Butte National Monument is a United States National Monument managed by the National Park Service, located 24 kilometres west of Kemmerer, Wyoming, USA. It centers on an extraordinary assemblage of Eocene Epoch (56 to 34 million years ago) animal and plant fossils associated with the smallest lake - Fossil Lake - of the three great lakes which were present at that time in what are now Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. The other two were lakes were Lake Gosiute and Lake Uinta. Fossil Butte National Monument was established as a national monument on October 23, 1972.
Fossil Butte National Monument preserves the best paleontological record of Cenozoic aquatic communities in North America and possibly the world, within the 50-million-year-old Green River Formation - the ancient lake bed. Fossils preserved - including fish, alligators, bats, turtles, dog-sized horses, insects, and many other species of plants and animals - suggest that the region was a low, subtropical, freshwater basin when the sediments accumulated, over about a 2 million-year period.
During the summer, lab personnel prepare fossils in public. Summer activities also include ranger programs, hikes, paleontology and geology talks, and participation in fossil quarry collections for the park.
A Junior Ranger program can be completed by children aged 5-12 (with exercises scaled to the child's age) in 3-4 hours. A highlight is hiking 3/4 mile up the butte to the dig, where interns from the Geological Society of America talk about their excavation and let children help them flake apart sedimentary deposits to discover fish fossils and coprolites.
The Visitor Center is open year-round but with shorter winter hours. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Martin Luther King Jr., and President's Day.
Monument grounds are open sunrise to sunset. The entrance road gate is closed only during severe winter storms. The upper road accessing the picnic area, Nature Trail, and scenic drive closes November 1st until the snow melts, usually by late May.
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