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Rocky Mountain National Park is located west of Estes Park and north and east of Grand Lake. This is a fee area of the National Park Service, and costs $30 per vehicle. This fee is covered in the Rocky Mountain National Park Annual Pass, the Rocky Mountain National Park/Arapaho National Recreation Area Annual Pass, and the America the Beautiful Pass. Please see the following website (visit link) for the entire fee schedule. The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Road and Trail Conditions and Closures can be found at: (visit link) Recorded information for the condition of Trail Ridge Road can be found by calling (970) 586-1222. Please remember that all geologic features within the borders of Rocky Mountain National Park are protected by law, as are all natural and historic features. Please do not disturb, damage, or remove any rocks, plants, or animals.
This is a 2-part EarthCache, with the first stage in the middle of the valley, and the second at the Colorado River. Parking is at the Bowen/Baker Trailhead at N 40 21.292, W 105 51.444.
Site 1. N 40 21.382 W 105 51.632 The Kawuneeche Valley
Looking to the north and west, you will see evidence of the glacial episodes that have shaped this landscape. You are standing in the Kawuneeche Valley, the north/south route of the Colorado River just a few miles from its origin. To the west, the wide U-shaped Baker Gulch cuts into the Never Summer Mountains.
A fault zone runs down the valley, splitting the relatively young Never Summer Mountains from the ancient mountains on the east side of the valley. The Never Summer Mountains are the remnants of volcanoes that erupted about 24 - 29 million years ago, and have since been eroded through various processes (primarily glaciation) to their present form. The rocks on the east side of the valley are mostly granite, schist, and gneiss, and are aged to about 1.4 - 1.7 billion years old.
Much of the surface rock you see on the sides of the valley is glacial till from the Pinedale Age of glaciation (from the upper Pleistocene). The Pinedale Glaciation lasted for about 20,000 years, and took place from about 10,000 to 30,000 years ago. The primary period of Pinedale Glaciation within the park lasted from about 18,000 to 20,000 years ago.
1. Looking north up the river valley at this location, estimate the width of the base of the glacier that once filled this valley.
2. Which direction was this glacier moving as it flowed down the valley?
Site 2. N 40 21.291 W 105 51.493 The Colorado River
While heading back to your vehicle, you will have the chance to stop on the bridge over the Colorado River. The river begins about 9 miles north of here near La Poudre Pass, and runs for about 1450 miles to the Gulf of California. On its journey, the river drains portions of 7 states and provides water for irrigation, drinking, manufacturing, and countless recreational activities. Here, though, it provides water for the plants and animals of the valley and takes but a few steps to cross.
3. At this location, measure the width of the Colorado River.
To log this EarthCache, send me an email with the answers to these questions:
1.) Look up the Colorado River Valley at this point. Estimate the width of the base of the glacier that once filled this valley.
2.) What direction was this glacier moving as it flowed down the valley?
3.) Measure the width of the Colorado River at the second location.
Please consider posting photos of yourself, or the local geology, when you log this EarthCache. Photos can be an additional rewarding part of your journey, but posting them is not a requirement for logging this EarthCache, and is strictly optional.
The above information was compiled from the following sources:
2004. Rocky Mountain National Park. In Harris, A.G. et al., editors. Geology of National Parks, Sixth Ed. P. 337-356. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.
Colorado Geological Survey. 2003. Messages in Stone. Matthews et al., editors. Denver, Colorado.
Hopkins, R.L., and Hopkins L.B. 2004. Hiking Colorado’s Geology. Seattle, Washington.
Cole, J.C., and Braddock, W.A. 2009. Geologic map of the Estes Park 30’ x 60’ quadrangle, north-central Colorado: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3039, 1 sheet, scale 1:100,000, 1 pamphlet, 56 p.
Raup, O.P. 2005. Geology Along Trail Ridge Road. A Self-Guided Tour for Motorists. Estes Park, Colorado: Rocky Mountain Nature Association.
Rocky Mountain National Park. Online at: (visit link)
Rocky Mountain National Park was most helpful in the background discussion, aid in the choosing of sites, and review of this EarthCache. My thanks to the Park for allowing the placement of this EarthCache!
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Last Updated: on 6/23/2018 9:25:03 AM Pacific Daylight Time (4:25 PM GMT)
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum