When I was in college, Colorado seemed like a magical place. Occasionally my friends would head up there to go skiing (although I always skied in New Mexico, personally….for me, it was a bit cheaper and easier to get to). But it took me years to actually get to that state.
It turns out that Colorado IS actually pretty magical! Today, I’m joining a linky party that my friend Adena F is hosting: Learning Thru the 50 States. She’s gathering a huge group of bloggers, each of whom is sharing fun learning info about one of our United States. Since there is still a lot that I’d like to learn about The Centennial State, I’m sharing today about the great state of Colorado.
Entered into the Union by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1876, Colorado became the 38th American state. Capital city Denver is the largest and most populated of the state, known as well as “The Mile High City” with its 5,280 feet altitude level. Colorado has plains, rivers, and the Rocky Mountains running right up the state. This landscape and climate make Colorado popular for skiing, hiking, cycling, and lots of other outdoor activities. It’s not surprising that Colorado often ranks in the top 10 healthiest U.S. states. So there’s really something for everyone!
As you can imagine, there is a LOT that one can learn about each of the 50 states in our country. And I haven’t been to MANY places that I’d like to visit in Colorful Colorado. But, I’d like to share 5 of the National Parks in Colorado that have whetted my appetite for learning more history, taking a gorgeous hike or extending my geographical knowledge by travel. I’ve always been interested in visiting our country’s National Parks, though I haven’t visited many. This is a list of the top 5 I’d like to hit in Colorado. I think you’ll find them fascinating as well!
Rocky Mountain National Park
Longs Peak at Rocky Mountain National Park
photo credit: NPS
Rocky Mountain National Park, or ROMO, located in Estes Park and Grand Lake, CO, is comprised of 415 square miles of mountains and forests. It even has over 300 miles’ worth of hiking trails, and climbs to an altitude of over 12,000 feet. (That means, drink your water while you’re up there!)
If you’re not located close to ROMO, you can visit it via the internet. ROMO’s Photo Gallery has a cool collection of pictures of what the park looks like in all seasons, and in a variety of areas. You can also visit webcams which will share with you visuals of the Alpine Visitor Center, Kawuneeche Valley, the Continental Divide, and Longs Peak, one of Colorado’s favorite “fourteeners.”
ROMO has collected a series of comprehensive fact pages for teachers and students, which cover everything from flora and fauna, to ecosystems, to history, geology and seasons. Kids can participate in the awesome Junior Ranger program, or they can check out the ROMO’s official kids’ newspaper on the same page. You’ll also find the Web Ranger links and games on this page!
Dinosaur National Monument
Allosaurus skull, Dinosaur National Monument
photo credit: National Park Service
Do you know a kiddo who’s not fascinated by T. Rex, diplodocus or pteranodon? I certainly was as a child, and, while I don’t know a lot about dinosaurs any more (we’re more into Lego at our house) I still find them absolutely captivating. So Dinosaur National Monument, or DINO as it’s abbreviated on the NPS.gov website, is definitely on my wish list. It’s located in both Colorado and Utah, and the main visitor center is just two miles east of Dinosaur, CO. (I would almost go there just to get the postmark on a letter!) Visitors can see over 1,500 fossils still embedded in quarry walls, or can view others in the park’s visitor center. Camping and hiking are also options. River rafting is available in the summer, and snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in the winter. Kids can participate in the Junior Ranger program, and families can enjoy guided tours by park rangers. If you don’t think you’ll be able to visit DINO any time soon, you can download a web version of the Junior Ranger program here.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
photo credit: NPS Photo
Who would expect that the tallest sand dunes in the United States are nowhere near an ocean? (At least, a current ocean!) Great Sand Dunes National Park, or GRSA, has a varied ecosystem within its 132 square miles of park lands. The terrain includes grasslands and wetlands, forests comprised of conifers and aspens, and climbs high to tundra. So hiking, climbing, camping and even sand-sledding are cool options at this park!
Visit GRSA’s Photos & Multimedia page for photos and videos of this cool park. If you’re able to make it to the park, your kids can participate in a cool Junior Ranger program to earn a Great Sand Dunes badge. And you can learn about the park’s history via audio recordings and historical information on GRSA’s History & Culture page.
Bent’s Old Fort National Historical Site
Bent’s Old Fort National Historical Site (aka BEOL) is located 8 miles east of La Junta, CO, on the old Santa Fe trail. Bent’s Old Fort truly IS an old fort; the NPS reconstructed an adobe fort where reenactments of living history regularly occur. What an awesome learning experience! Visitors can learn about the lives of early trappers, traders and Native Americans while visiting Bent’s Old Fort.
BEOL has provided interesting curriculum materials for those who’d like to teach their students or children more about life in 1840’s America. What was it like for those traveling along the Santa Fe trail, whether they were U.S. Army, trappers or wagon trails heading west? Kids can also participate in a Junior Ranger program at Bent’s Old Fort. Fantastic for U.S. history buffs!
Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park–Cliff Palace
photo credit: NPS photo
Mesa Verde National Park, or MEVE, is located in the southwestern corner of Colorado. It is an amazingly preserved archaeological site of the Ancestral Pueblo peoples, who lived there for over 700 years. Its most spectacular feature is probably the cliff dwellings. Tours are available as both self-guided (for Spruce Tree House and Step House) and ranger-guided (for Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House), and are limited to certain months of the year.
Mesa Verde also has wonderful historical information and even an Artifact Gallery on their website. I’m particularly interested because I taught an art lesson in our homeschool coop (and on finchnwren; you can access the lesson at 5 Days of American Art: Early American Pottery and Baskets) on early American pottery, which you’ll definitely see examples of at Mesa Verde. And for teachers, you’ll find information on planning a field trip and lesson plans to use. Such a fascinating park…..I hope to visit there someday!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this short trip into Colorado’s national parks. Visit the Learning Thru the USA linkup at Adena F’s blog for more states fun!