Description - Beneath a grassy mountain valley in central Colorado lies one of the richest and most diverse fossil deposits in the world. Petrified redwood stumps up to 14 feet wide and thousands of detailed fossils of insects and plants reveal the story of a very different, prehistoric Colorado.
Copyright: Amy Pyle-Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
These stumps were petrified by lava and ash from an ancient volcano
- The fossil beds of Florissant are internationally renowned for the variety and number of fossils-particularly of insects and plants-they have yielded since their discovery in the late 1800s. Thirty-five million years ago an ancient lake, 15 miles long, existed in the valley. Many types of trees, plants and shrubs flourished in the warm climate. Insects, fish, mollusks, birds and mammals fed from the waters of the ancient lake. A volcano erupted and sent mudflows to cover and extinguish life in parts of the forest surrounding the lake. For several hundred thousand years the volcano erupts blanketing the area with layer upon layer of ash and debris. The living organisms trapped in the fallout became the fossils we see today.
Recreation - The park surrounding the fossil beds contains approximately 15 miles of trails, which are open to users throughout the year. Many of the trails include interpretive panels and/or self-guided tours. Hiking trails are open to the public, for a donation, during the summer and fall months. During the winter and early spring these same trails are open to cross-country skiers and snowshoers.
Climate - The elevation of the visitor center is 8,500 feet. At this elevation visitors will encounter rapidly changing weather. Be prepared for varying temperatures with layers of clothing that you may add or remove. Two other weather conditions that shouldn't be taken lightly are precipitation and sunlight. Precipitation in any form can occur year-round. Be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms especially during the late summer months. Because of the thin air fewer UV rays are filtered from the sun. This means sun screen is very necessary. Its easier to get burned at a higher elevation.
Florissant is a small community located on the western slope of Pikes Peak. The town lies along Highway 24 west of Colorado Springs. From Florissant, the fossil beds are a few miles south on Highway 1.