Magazine article Sunset

The Red Rocks of Roxborough ... New State Park 25 Miles Southwest of Denver

Magazine article Sunset

The Red Rocks of Roxborough ... New State Park 25 Miles Southwest of Denver

Article excerpt

Like the spiny backbones of half-buried dinosaurs, brick red fins poke up through the landscape in Colorado's newest state park, less than a 1/2 hour drive from Denver. Officially opened May 15, Roxborough State Park is also protected as a national natural landmark and a state natural area the only place in Colorado given both designations.

When you visit this vividly contoured terrain, you'll see why conservationists fought so hard to save it. Our favorite time is in the warm light of late afternoon.

Rising mountains and tilting slabs form a remarkable landscape.

Nestled in foothills at 6,000 feet, Roxborough's sandstone ridges are part of the same geologic structure, called the Fountain formation, that contributes to the beauty and popularity of Red Rocks Park (Denver's outdoor amphitheater) and Garden of the Gods, in Colorado Springs.

The Fountain formation was part of a great apron of debris that sloughed from the east rim of the ancient Rocky Mountains some 300 million years ago.

About 70 million years ago, the Rockies thrust up into their present position, tilting the sandstone steeply. Wind and rain then began the process of carving the rocks into the saw-toothed walls visitors see today.

Early Indians, called the Archaic people, lived in this region around 5000 B.C.; more recent Indians preferred the less harsh lowlands. A homesteader's cattle ranch operated here until the late 1930s, and its owners once planned to build a resort among the rocks (you can still see the old brick kiln built to turn out construction materials.

Rescued from large-scale development, park now offers walks, hikes, sights.

Land for the state park was acquired almost too late; quick action by the Colorado State Parks and the Trust for Public Land secured the first parcels in 1975. Now the park encloses some 1,512 acres - almost half of the largest exposed portion of the Fountain formation in Colorado. Still, the acquisition did come too late to prevent the rest from being developed; a golf course and subdivision wrap around the north section of the formation and of the park.

The park's new visitor center is cradled unobtrusively among the rocks. …

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