Saturday, May 21, 2016

Colorado National Monument (5/19/2016)

Seventy miles north of Montrose, Colorado National Monument is another park that flies under the radar of most people, particularly those who live in the eastern half of our country.  Annual visitation is estimated to be nearly 600,000 people, but that may not count everyone.  My visit, for example, started around 5:30 pm when the entrance kiosk wasn't staffed.  So, was my visit counted?  And what about all those locals who routinely arrive later in the day, after work, to hike the many trails in the park or bike the 23 mile Rim Rock Road.  There were many of both evident during my two-hour drive through the park.

Called "The Monument" by locals, this park consists of a series of canyons in the Colorado Plateau, created by our old friend erosion.  There are four main canyons, but numerous side canyons.  In addition, outside the park but accessed through the park, Rattlesnake Canyon (what an inviting name) has more sandstone arches than any area outside of Arches National Park.  I've saved that canyon for a future visit.

On my first visit here, almost twenty years ago, I immediately thought this place should be a National Park, rather than just a National Monument.  I learned that a man named John Otto, the first European to explore this area, had lobbied long and hard to gain National Park recognition.  Congress has never passed the required legislation, but Otto's efforts finally led to President Taft designating the place as a National Monument in 1911.  In recent years, efforts to gain National Park status have been renewed.  With minimal investment, I feel, the park could offer all the amenities and outdoor opportunities of our largest national parks and help attract visitors away from the most popular ones that are currently overcrowded.

Rim Rock Road, which can be driven in either direction, offers twelve official overlooks with parking areas and maintained trails.  However, there are many unofficial pullouts where people can park and just walk onto the  rim of some canyon. Views from the rim include the city of Grand Junction and the town of Fruita, plus Grand Mesa (the largest flat-topped mountain in the world), the Book Cliffs and the Colorado River.  Oh yeah, there are the canyons themselves and the many sandstone formations in the canyons.

There are many colorful plants to enjoy while walking, and several varieties of wildlife (although I saw very little this trip).

The unusual rock formations are part of the unique characteristics of Colorado National Monument.  I forget the names of most of them, but that's not important.



On the drive down from the rim, one pullout provides a great view of the road twisting below.

Colorado National Monument is just one of the many attractions available to visit on the "Western Slope" of Colorado.

No comments:

Post a Comment