Colorado Monument

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The Colorado Monument, located in western Colorado (the aqua marker), displays some of the most rugged and awe inspiring rock formations millions of years old. 

The official name is the Colorado National Monument.

Sitting in the Uncompahgre Plateau, geologists have found that the monument was formed by at least two events.

The first one, some 300 million years ago, pushed the plateau skyward some 10,000 feet and eventually, over millions of more years, receded back to sea level.

Then when the Rocky Mountains were formed, around 70 million years ago, the plateau was shot upward again, and finally rested to present day.

Rain and flooding on the mesas of the Uncompahgre ran down to join the Colorado River and canyons and erosion were formed in the Colorado National Monument.

The first humans to arrive in this area were the ancient Native Americans, around 1700 A.D.  Later the Ute Indians settled this area beginning in 1300 A.D. and there they lived until around 1881 when they were moved to reservations in Utah and other parts of Colorado.

And again, the first explorers were Dominguez and Escalante who were searching the western part of the territory for gold in the name of Spain in 1776.

As usual, anywhere there is a river, fur trappers arrived and in 1839 a trapper named John Roubdeau set up the first trading post.

More settlers arrived and realizing the proximity of water and the lush grasses, named the area the Grand Valley.

In October, 1881, newcomer George Crawford built a house in the valley and helped found the town of Grand Junction.

When towns are established the railroad isn’t far behind, especially to lay tracks to the Pacific.  In 1882, the Denver and Rio Grande railroad arrived and set up a train depot.

The first conservationist to the area was John Otto in 1906.  He marveled at the beauty and ruggedness of the land and decided to build trails up and around the monument area.

His love of this wild piece of Colorado, sent him to Washington to lobby for the area to become a national park.  However, this was not to be.  President William Taft signed into being the Colorado National Monument instead, on May 24, 1911.

The trails that Otto built were hiking trails and fairly treacherous for wagons.  In 1912, a wagon road was establish called Trail of the Serpent.

With the coming of automobiles, the government decided to have a road constructed through the monument called Rim Rock Drive. 

The building started in 1933 and finally was finished in 1950.  The lull in construction was because of World War II from 1942-49.

Protection of the monument as been ongoing for a century plus.  Many of the trails and rock formations keep the names that John Otto gave them.

Otto re-introduced buffalo to the area in 1926 because they were killed almost to extinction by settlers and the railroad for meat. 

As with the mountains of Colorado, other wildlife such as bear, mountain lion, elk and mule deer can be found here.

Also, the monument, which is downstream from Dinosaur National Monument, held the fossilized remains of dinosaurs outside the area.  The discovery was made by Dr. Elmer Riggs in 1900.

Many canyons exist at the monument.  Wedding Canyon and Monument Canyon hold some of the most interesting rock formations such as the Pipe Organ, Kissing Couple, Praying Hands and the Coke Ovens.

Hiking is permitted at the monument but you must stay on the designated trails.  The Rock Rim Drive gives a panoramic view of the canyons and rock formations with overlook points along the way.

Driving to the monument is fairly easy, located at the central western border of Utah.  Take Interstate 70 west to Grand Junction, continue west to Fruita and follow the signs to the Colorado Monument. 

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