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Colorado National Monument Celebrates 100 Years

Updated on February 28, 2013

Visit The Colorado National Monument

Colorado National Monument has begun the countdown to it's 100th anniversary. The monument's centennial was celebrated all throughout 2011 with a wide variety of public events, exhibits, contests and other activities. Now is a great time to start planning a family vacation or adventure to this amazing place.

Colorado National Monument was established by presidential proclamation on May 24, 1911 by President taft, under authority of the Antiquities Act. One man, John Otto, worked tirelessly to protect the extraordinary geology, ancient canyons and towering monoliths and make sure that the Monument be preserved as it is today. Otto built the first trails into the rugged landscape of the park, to reach the glorious red rock canyons. He also climbed the steep monoliths and placed the American flag on the highest vantage points he could reach. He surveyed the first road, Trail of the Serpent - four miles with 52 switchbacks and once called it 'the crookedest road in the world.'

Visitors throughout the decades have come to the monument to explore its vast landscape and timeless beauty. After reading this page, I hope that you will discover and enjoy some of that beauty and perhaps become inspired to visit the monument for yourself.

"There is nothing little about Colorado National Monument, I am sure we will get to the front someday and all the people of the country will be talking about it, and the travelers of the world will want to come and see it, and none of them will be disappointed" - John Otto 1911, first park custodian

Photo Gallery of The Colorado National Monument

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Plan Your Visit To The Colorado National Monument

Visitor Center: A quick stop at the visitor center will get you all set up with maps, books, information and free handouts which show the trailheads and ammenities throughout the Monument. Also within the visitor center you can explore the exhibit room, access three hiking trails and enjoy scenic views. There are also two 12 minute video presentations about the park which are shown upon request. Visitor center hours are 9 am - 5 pm in winder and 8 am - 6 pm in summer. The visitor center is close don Christmas day. Set aside around 45 minutes for a stop here.

Ranger Programs: During the summer, guided walks and talks are offered daily. Topics include geology, wildlife, ecology and history. program schedules can be found at the visitor center and at the park website

Camping: 80 first come first served campsites can be found at the Saddlehorn Campground located near the visitor center. The camping is $10.00 per night with 2 cars, three tents and a 7 person limit per site. The campground has flush toilets and drinking water. Camp sites include picnic tables and charcoal only grills. There are no electric hookups or showers and no wood fires are allowed.

Backcountry Camping: A backcountry permit is required for all camping in the backcountry. These permits are free and available in the visitor center. Note that NO water exists in the backcountry so be sure to pack enough!

Rock Climbing:Otto's Route is one of the best easy desert tower climbs anywhere, and lots of other good hard free and aid routes exist on the towers in the monument. The monument also hosts many splitter crack lines and some slab climbing on the endless canyon rim walls. Many first ascents are awaiting climbers with a sense of adventure.

Each Independence Day, local climbers scale the iconic Independence Monument in Colorado National Monument and raise an American flag on top. This tradition dates back to early park promoter John Otto, whose route up Independence Monument climbers still follow.

Get What You Need For Your Visit To The Colorado National Monument

The Landscape Tells A Story

A spectacular landscape of steep red rock, high walled canyons, towering monoliths and a wide variety of plant and animal life await you on your trip through Colorado National Monument. The secret to all of this magnificent scenery lies in the geology; the underlying rocks and the processes that formed, then deformed them, combined with the constant forces of water, freezing and thawing, and wind that continuously erode the rocks away.

Erosion, over a long period of time in the canyons is slow and steady but at the same time violent and fast. Imagine the hot summer sun heating the lands surface unevenly causing massive thunderheads to form overhead. Suddenly two inches of rain dumps over a few square miles in an hour's time. The water level builds up and large chunks of sediment on a streambed start moving, exposing the bedrock below. The result is like a giant wet abrasion machine grinding away at the bed of the stream. More sediment is added to the mix as banks cave in. As the storm passes, the water stops, stream levels drop, and erosion processes then reverse as sediment is deposited. Sediment begins to build up and again covers the bed of the stream. Preserved throughout the monument is the evidence of such storms.

The domes and spires throughout the monument were built by the forces of wind and water, freezing and thawing, acting over vast spans of time. Small tributary streams of the grand Colorado river to the north cut through thick sandstone layers and gradually widened the chasms to reveal the colorful red cliffs that you can enjoy in the monument today. Remnants of the sandstone walls make up fascinating monoliths, such as the 450 foot high Independence Monument, Kissing Couple, and Coke Ovens.

During the summer months, average temperatures at the Colorado National Monument range between the mid 80's and 90's and in winter range from 20 to 45 degrees F. Annual precipitation in the park is 11 inches.

Plants And Animals Of The Colorado National Monument

The semi arid environment at the Colorado National Monument is challenging and as a result, the plants and animals have had to adapt. Preserving moisture within their bodies in a variety of ways is a prime example of a desert adaptation that most animals in the monument employ. Being outside mostly during the early morning hours or late in the evening when temperatures are cooler and there is just enough light to forage for food is another common adaptation. You may be lucky enough to see Hopi chipmunks, rock squirrels, golden eagles, or desert bighorn sheep at the monument.

The most conspicuous animals seen in the park are the reptiles. There are nine species of resident lizards in the monument and nine species of resident snakes as well. The snakes, being most active at night are rarely seen. The midget-faded rattlesnake, a nonaggressive subspecies of the western rattlesnake, is the only poisonous snake found in the monument and avoids human contact.

Pinyon and juniper trees provide an essential habitat for a wide diversity of birds. At least 54 breeding songbird species and nine breeding species of raptors have been identified in the monument. if you listen, you might hear the mellow whistle of a Say's phoebe or the laughing call of a raven. You might see a turkey vulture float on an air current high above or a Gambel's quail scurry across a trail.

Thanks For Visiting - All Comments Welcome and Appreciated!

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Yes, a wonderful place to visit! Terrific information in your lens, thank you!

    • drs2biz lm profile image

      David Schroeter 

      8 years ago from St Kilda, Victoria, Australia

      An interesting lens with some great photo's in it, LPY. You obviously enjoy the "great outdoors" and this lens shows us why.


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