Monday, June 17, 2013

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

This past Saturday I took the opportunity to visit a never place I'd never been but wanted to for a while -- Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. About 15 miles west of Woodland Park, it's less than a two-hour drive from my house. But not a place you hear too much about.

Florissant National Monument
The area is best known for its almost unparalleled fossils.  Not dinosaurs, but insects, plants, fish and mammals extraordinarily well-preserved from an ancient lake.  And like you'd expect from the site of a former lake, quite flat.

Big Stump, Florissant National Monument
A ginormous petrified redwood stump -- unimaginatively but aptly named "The Big Stump" -- is the signature attraction.  Its textures and colors are indeed interesting.

Wild Iris, Florissant National Monument
A patch of blooming Wild Iris provided a shocking splash of vibrant color on the Hornbek Wildlife Loop.

Indian Paintbrush, Florissant National Monument
An industrious ant -- and really, what ant isn't? -- had an intense interest in this Indian Paintbrush.

Common Ringlet, Florissant National Monument
The body of this Common Ringlet nearly blends in with the vegetation on which it rests.  Only its bright orange wings betray its location.

Prairie Dog, Florissant National Monument
This place must be paradise for coyotes and hawks.  It was covered with prairie dog villages.  This fellow was keeping a wary watch from a hole ...

Prairie Dog, Florissant National Monument
... while this guy apparently couldn't decide whether to bolt to safety or finish his succulent blade of grass.

The monument boasts a great new visitor center with many fossils excavated from the area on display.  Most of the hiking trails are short and the whole area is fairly flat as I mentioned earlier, making a walk a less daunting prospect than it can be in much of the state.  A stop for lunch still makes the whole trip only about eight hours in all for Denverites.  So if you're looking for something to do with the family some weekend, I'd encourage you to consider a day at Florissant!

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