In 2016, the National Park Service celebrated its centenary, and Josephine Matyas and Craig Jones hit the road to explore some of America's best national parks, thermal hot springs, and regional food and music. Here, they head to Colorado.
By the midpoint of our travels, we'd seen so many amazing geological formations that—together with the road trip angle—we'd started to joke about this trip being a certain kind of "rock and roll." Colorado continued the trend. Our first days took us through two very different, very dramatic national parks where rock formations take centre stage.
Nothing would be easier than zipping along the I-70, passing the sign for Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction and yawning at the idea of another statue. So glad we did not make that mistake.
In National Park Service nomenclature, a "national monument" is a type of park, not a statue, tower or obelisk. The distinction is a political one: parks have been protected for eternity by an Act of Congress; monuments are created by presidential proclamation. At the Colorado National Monument, the landscape is the monument.
And what a stunner it is. The 40-km long Rim Rock Drive twists and turns, connecting two points only 14-km apart as the crow flies. The snaking roadway is tightly bordered by red rock walls on one side and steep drop-offs on the other, with vistas over deep canyons, soaring rock formations and the expansive Grand Valley carved by the Colorado River. At moments, it's hard to believe that such a peaceful enclave of nature could be so close to a bustling urban area.
It's all the "fault" of the Redlands Fault line which cracks right through the parkland. Seventy million years ago this landscape was flat. A series of major earthquakes along the fault line formed basins and uplifts, breaking some flat rock beds and folding layers of sedimentary rock. (Anywhere you see steeply-tilted beds of sedimentary rock, it's a clue that a major fault line is close by.)
Next: The Redlands Fault line...
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