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Colorado Discoveries

In keeping with our theme of discovery this week, here are some discoveries made in Colorado. Colorado was founded in 1876 but its rich story starts long before that. Colorado is filled with wonder and beauty and lots of history. There have been many exciting discoveries made in Colorado and there’s sure to be many more.

The Rocky Mountains 

Human presence in the Rocky Mountains has been dated to between 10,000 and 8,000 BCE. Once the home of indigenous people such as theRocky Mountains in Colorado Apache, Hopi, Sioux, Crow, Ute, Cheyenne, Blackfoot, and Pueblo tribes. The Rockies were one of the last regions in North America to be explored by Europeans, due to the inaccessibility and ruggedness of the terrain. In the 1540s, Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado became one of the first Europeans to set foot in the Rocky Mountain region. The Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804–06 was significant to the discovery and exploration of the Rocky Mountains. Now Colorado is home to the Rocky Mountain National Park, for all to be able to discover the beauty of this mountain range.

Colorado Gold Rush

Rumors of gold had trickled out of the Rockies since the sixteenth century. In 1807 explorer Zebulon M. Pike met trapper James Purcell and learned that Purcell had found gold in the area now known as the Pikes Peak region. Later, the discovery of gold near present-day Denver in 1858 lead prospectors by the droves to venture to present-day Colorado. This significantly contributed to the formation of Colorado as a US territory and eventual state. In the last 160+ years, mining operations in Colorado have produced an estimated 45 million troy ounces of gold. However, there is still plenty of ore to be found within the state, with many opportunities for the general public to find some for themselves. So, grab yourself a gold mining pan and make your own Colorado gold discovery.

Dinosaur Ridge

Colorado is home to the 7th most dinosaur bones among U.S. states. One of the most significant fossil discoveries in Colorado was Dinosaur Ridge in 1877 by Arthur Lakes. Stretching north from Morrison to just south of Golden, Dinosaur Ridge became famous for the dinosaur fossils and tracks uncovered there. The discoveries, which included the world’s Dinosaur tracksfirst known Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus fossils, helped launch a “dinosaur rush” in the late nineteenth century. Today Dinosaur Ridge is a National Natural Landmark and is rank the #1 dinosaur track-site for dinosaur footprints, with 300 tracks across a two-mile hike. Visit today to discover the marvel of the millions-year-old fossils.

Glenwood Hot Springs

Originally inhabited by nomadic Ute Indian tribes, the therapeutic springs waters- that they called Yampah, or literally Big Medicine, have been bubbling up from the earth's core for millions of years. The Utes were the first known visitors to the mineral-rich hot springs that flowed along the banks of the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon. In 1888 these amenities were developed into the world’s largest natural hot springs pool in the newly established town of Glenwood Springs. It quickly became world-renowned as a healing wonder set in a mountain paradise. The addition of the Vapor Caves, Hotel Colorado and Fairy Caves provided a total package for travelers. Today, Glenwood Hot Springs melds the past with the present, where you can discover the revitalizing hot springs water for yourself.

Mesa Verde

In 1889, while searching for stray cattle in southwestern Colorado, rancher Richard Wetherill and his brothers happened upon ancient ruins in the cliffs of a high plateau known as Mesa Verde. They discovered the largest concentration of cliff dwellings ever found, built by the Ancestral Puebloans 1,000 years earlier. On June 29, 1906, President RooseveltMesa Verde National Park cliff dwellings signed into law designating Mesa Verde as a National Park. The park occupies 52,485 acres with more than 5,000 sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, and is the largest archaeological preserve in the United States. Mesa Verde was a new kind of national park, meant to celebrate not majestic scenery, but a prehistoric culture and its people. Today, the park protects the rich cultural heritage, allowing visitors to discover more about the people that once lived there.

These are just five of the discoveries that have been made in Colorado and there are likely things still that have not yet been discovered. So, remember “Things don’t turn up in this world until somebody turns them up.” – James A. Garfield

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Sources & enhanced by Credit Union of Denver:,plateau%20known%20as%20Mesa%20Verde.,to%20find%20some%20for%20themselves.,in%20the%20late%20nineteenth%20century.

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