Week 2: A trip to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

My week was highlighted by a trip to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument (FLFO), the first NPS site I have visited since coming to Colorado. FLFO is a small park located about 2 hours south of Denver. On Wednesday, July 20 I drove to the monument with Isabel and Julia, other interns in our office. There were many small pastures of farmland in the valley on the scenic route through the mountains. The river was flowing and changed directions as we reached peaks.

A petrified Redwood stump embedded in the ground.

A petrified Redwood stump embedded in the ground.

The monument itself is home to petrified Redwood tree stumps (above) and the world’s only petrified Redwood Trio. There are also areas where volcanic mudflows from the Guffey Volcano created lakes that later formed fossils of plants and animals preserved in the volcanic rocks and sediments. What interested me most about this national monument was the intense legal battle that established the monument itself. In 1969 an act of Congress named the Florissant Fossil Beds an official national monument, both preserving the delicate fossils from collectors and preserving the land from planned housing developments that would have all but destroyed the park’s delicate resources.
Ranger Granger leads a 1 mile hike along the loop trail at FLFO. The trail features petrified Redwood stumps along with exposed lakebed shale where fossils still remain untouched.

Ranger Granger leads a 1 mile hike along the loop trail at FLFO. The trail features petrified Redwood stumps along with exposed lakebed shale where fossils still remain untouched.

After being shown the operations of the visitor’s center and learning some of the history behind the monument’s establishment, we went on a 1 mile hike along the loop trail. Ranger Granger (above) put on demonstrations of how the fossils were formed in the delicate shale with visitors and Junior Rangers who volunteered to participate. Junior Rangers also helped to identify layers of rock formations along with native plant life that had begun to grow atop some petrified stumps.
A landscape view of FLFO.

A landscape view of FLFO.

The trip was a great way for us to learn about the internal workings of a smaller NPS site while also getting to enjoy what the experience of a visitor at FLFO would be like. As far as the centennial celebration plans for FLFO, the park plans on holding a birthday celebration on August 25 with cake and “guest speaker” Theodore Roosevelt.

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