About now snow-bound gardeners welcome even a cyberspace escape to sites not covered in white so, with winter holding a firm grip on most outside garden activities, let’s take a photo-journey through a one of the national parks in our vast, amazing country.
Here’s the Colorado National Monument as it appeared through the lens of my camera last October.
Entering the park from Grand Junction – the East Entrance – the 23 miles of Rim Rock Drive skirts through native grasses, cacti, Utah juniper and pinyon pine growing in and around rock formations of all shapes.
We entered the park at 10:30 in the morning expecting to stop here and there to grab some photos.
At each stop and around every turn we found yet another phenomenal view of the sandstone walls and red rock canyons.
At the canyon within a canyon overlook we had a bird’s eye look at how canyons form.
As the sign explains, there’s the larger, wider U-shaped canyon plus a smaller, narrower V-shaped, tree-filled canyon being carved by water. With time – a lot of time – this smaller canyon will grow deeper and wider. At the same time the sandstone walls of the U-shaped canyon will continue to erode.
This year, 2011, the park celebrates its Centennial. It became a national park with President Taft’s proclamation on May 24, 1911.
As the road winds from Grand Junction to Fruita, close-up and distant views enthrall.
If not for the vision and passion John Otto had for this region, the Colorado National Monument might not have been preserved. He fell in love with the region during his travels and, in 1907, decided to stay and promote the area as a national park. Can you imagine exploring this area on horseback?
Otto encouraged the residents of Grand Junction to petition politicians in Washington, D.C. to protect the region’s geologic treasures. The result is the protected 32 square miles of the Colorado National Monument.
John Otto served as caretaker for the park until 1927.
Rim Rock Drive, the road through the park, and many of the park’s structures were built by local men and members of the Civilian Conservation Corp, one of the New Deal programs spurred by President Franklin Roosevelt.
The canyon looks rugged, but it’s actually quite fragile. Soils are often covered with a biological crust consisting of moss, lichen, green algae, cyanobacteria, and tiny fungi. This crust holds sand grains in place and gives seeds a place to sprout and grow. Just one human footprint can destroy this crust and undo what took decades to form.
Forces of weather, time, and seismic activity can alter these views at any time.
We expected to spend just a couple of hours driving through Colorado National Monument but it’s views and riches captured our attention for a full six hours. As we reached the West Entrance overlooking Fruita, w had left multiple trails through this semi-desert area unexplored – waiting for a future trip.
If considering a trip to the Colorado/Utah area, don’t miss this beauty. It’s truly a national treasure worthy of thoughtful exploration.