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Rocky Mountain National Park  


Introduction

Park History

Mountain Peaks

Animals

Creeks, Rivers, Lakes

Weather

Vistas and Views

References

Rocky Mountain National Park preserves some of the Rocky Mountains' most spectacular scenery. Located in the central portion of the state of Colorado the park contains some of the highest peaks in the Rocky Mountains, 150 lakes and 476 miles of creeks and streams including the headwaters of the Colorado River, miles of backcountry trails, and Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the U.S. which reaches 12,183 feet.




The park is one of the most well known and most popular parks in the national park system. It was the tenth national park to be established, on January 26, 1915, and is one of the 5 most visited parks in the United States (based on 1993 figures), annually attracting nearly 3 million visitors.


Park History

The area within the park has been in use since prehistoric times. Before the arrival of trappers and American explorers both the Ute and Arapaho tribes lived in the area. Following use of the park area for trapping, lumber, irrigation, recreation, and residence, a number of individuals began to see the potential of preserving the area from private development. H.M. Wheeler first recommended preservation of the area as wildlife preserve, and Enos Mills, a disciple of John Muir, envisioned a national park from Longs Peak in the North to Pikes Peak in the south. Following a campaign by Wills and others, Rocky Mountain National Park was established by an act of congress on January 26, 1915. In 1975, the park was named as the 21st world biosphere reserve by the United Nations.


For potential visitors, ParkVision recommends "Story Behind the Scenery" guides and "Trails Ilustrated" maps.



Mountain Peaks

Rocky Mountain National Park lays along the Front Range, one of more than 100 mountain ranges which comprise the Rocky Mountains.



The park contains 113 peaks over 10,000 feet and 78 exceeding 12,000 feet in altitude. These peaks are steep and jagged, sculpted by glaciers. The Continental Divide runs in a northwesterly direction through the park.



The silhouette of the Rockies provides a spectacular backdrop inside and outsdide the park.



The highest mountain in the park, and one of the highest mountains in the contiguous 48 states, is Longs Peak at 14,255. The peak is named after Major Stephen Long, leader of an exploratory expedition who glimpsed the peak in 1820.



Long's Peak is pictured below, along with its companion Mt. Meeker, only a couple of kilometers away.



Mt. Meeker itself stands 13,911 feet.



Animals

The park contains a wide variety of animals, including deer, moose, bighorn sheep, black bear, cougar, coyote, beaver, marmot, muskrat, procupine, and other mammals. Among the largest animals are the wapiti (elk), which although largely nocturnal may easily be seen throughout the park. An adult male may weigh as much as 100 pounds. Below a small herd is shown relaxing just beyond the eastern borders of the park near Estes Park.



More elk are shown below.



Creeks, Rivers, and Lakes

The park abounds with small creeks and lakes in the backcountry. Some of the lakes, such as Beaver Pond on the left below, result from dams built by beavers, as can be seen in the picture below.



Here, a partially frozen Bear Lake can be seen during an early season snow storm.



Even before the deep snows arrive small creeks like this one below Beaver Pond are covered by a thin sheet of ice.



This is another view of Bear Lake in late autumn. Bear Lake valley was the site of a large fire in 1910, the traces of which can still be seen. It is one of the most visited places in the park and lays at 9,475 feet.



In the picture below Glacier Creek flows over rocks and through the forest in the eastern portion of the park.



Weather

As much of the park is at extremely high altitude, the weather changes often, and it can change radically in only a few minutes. One moment, the sun can be shining in a clear sky; the next, clouds or fog roll in; and the next, the temperature has dropped 20 degrees and a blizzard has begun. The park is one of the windiest places on earth; winds on Long's Peak have been recorded as high 173 miles per hour.



Snow surrounds a lake in the picture below.



Clouds obscure the snowcapped peaks, below.



In this view clouds and fog roll in late in the day near the park's Beaver Meadows entrance.



Vistas and Views

The park abounds with wonderful views of mountain silhouettes, meadows, and forest from almost every trail, overlook, and turn-off.



The term "park", is used to describe a grassland or sheltered valley. Below is a view of Horseshoe Park in the eastern section of the park.



Below is another one of these "parks."



A mountain ridge and valleys are visible here.



There is yet another view across a ridge at the end of a Rocky Mountain day.


 


References

Information about Rocky Mountain National Park has been drawn from personal experience, data available in the park itself, and a number of other sources, including:



  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

  • Commercial use of the images contained in this document without express written consent is strictly prohibited.

  • Comments and other remarks can be sent via e-mail to parkvision@shannontech.com