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Colorado National Monument-Photos, Information, and Why You Should Visit
Several years ago I lived in Western Colorado not far from Colorado National Monument. The Monument was one of the places I used to take relatives I had not seen in many years, and who came from all over the country to visit me (once they learned I was living in Colorado) and to stay in what I eventually deemed The Colorado Hilton West (mine and my husband’s apartment).
We never took any of the hiking or biking trails, but stayed pretty much to the road that goes around The Monument, which is called Rim Rock Drive. The Drive is about 23 miles all the way around and it is packed with things to see.
There are several “pull outs” along the way if someone just wants to get out of their vehicle and look out across the vast Independence Valley below, or take pictures.
All along the way there are amazing views featuring spires and domes several thousand feet high as well as sheer-walled canyons and cliffs with natural rock sculptures everywhere. The rock layers that have been carved by erosion over time are obvious in almost every rock formation -- and there are many rock formations.
Rim Rock Drive includes winding hairpin curves, narrow road shoulders, tunnels, and sometimes fallen rocks on the roadway, so it is usually a good idea not to be in a hurry.
Amazing Views in Colorado National Monument
Local Right of Passage? Or Just Crazy?
In spite of the sometimes dangerous driving conditions, when I lived in Western Colorado, it was a common activity for some young people in the area to have parties inside The Monument grounds at night, get wasted, and then see how fast they could drive around The Monument canyon road successfully.
Sadly, it was sometimes necessary to fish some of them and their vehicles from the bottom of the canyon, on average, according to local police at the time, about 3 fishings a year.
There are places along the Drive that are challenging even in daylight, and at night it is far more so. There are no streetlights, and as I said, there are a few hairpin curves; the road is narrow, and the shoulders narrower so that they barely exist.
If one is reasonable in their night drive, taking extreme caution, there is an incredible view to be seen atop the cliffs at night looking down on the city of Grand Junction. Most of The Monument area rises over 2,000 feet above the Grand Valley of the Colorado River.
Breathtaking Views All Along Rimrock Drive in Colorado National Monument
Flora and Fauna
All along Rim Rock Drive there is plant life in the form of cactus, wildflowers, pinyon pines, juniper trees, and other desert plants, most of which I never learned to identify. Flowering season for cactus begins in mid April and continues into mid July.
The wildlife is varied, including desert bighorn sheep, rock squirrels, chipmunks, coyotes, collared lizards, scorpions, jays, ravens, wrens, golden eagles, and more. The Colorado National Monument is part of the National Park Service and they say a determined golden eagle can even take down a bighorn sheep or a mule deer!
Every year on July 4th, Independence Day, local rock climbers scale Independence Monument and raise an American flag on the top.
Western Colorado has some of the most scenic terrain I have had the good fortune to view. Every state in the U.S. has it’s own unique beauty, but Western Colorado is bursting at the seams with interesting and unusual scenery that is great from the highways and even better if you have time to stop and take a closer look.
For more information: http://www.nps.gov/colm/photosmultimedia/index.htm
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A quick look at Colorado National Monument
Colorado Park Service Information and Photos
Colorado National Monument
© 2012 C E Clark