Garden of the Gods
|Garden of the Gods|
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado
|Location||Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.|
|Area||1,367 acres (553 ha)|
|Governing body||Colorado Springs, Colorado|
The area was first called Red Rock Corral. Then, in August 1859, two surveyors who helped to set up Colorado City explored the site. One of the surveyors, M. S. Beach, suggested that it would be a "capital place for a beer garden". His companion, the young Rufus Cable, awestruck by the impressive rock formations, exclaimed, "Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods."
The Garden of the Gods' red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago. Archaeological evidence shows that prehistoric people visited Garden of the Gods about 1330 BC. At about 250 BC, Native American people camped in the park; they are believed to have been attracted to wildlife and plant life in the area and used overhangs created by the rocks for shelter. There are many native peoples who have reported a connection to Garden of the Gods, including Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Lakota, Pawnee, Shoshone, and Ute people.
Multiple tribes traveled through Garden of the Gods. The Utes' oral traditions tell of their creation at the Garden of the Gods, and petroglyphs have been found in the park that are typical of early Utes. The Utes found red rocks to have a spiritual connection and camped near Manitou Springs and the creek near Rock Ledge Ranch bordering Garden of the Gods.  The Old Ute Trail went past Garden of the Gods to Ute Pass and led later explorers through Manitou Springs. Starting in the 16th century, Spanish explorers and later European American explorers and trappers traveled through the area, including Lt. John C. Freemont and Lt. George Frederick Ruxton, who recorded their visits in their journals.
In 1879 Charles Elliott Perkins, a friend of William Jackson Palmer, purchased 480 acres of land that included a portion of the present Garden of the Gods. Upon Perkins' death, his family gave the land to the City of Colorado Springs in 1909, with the provision that it would be a free public park. Palmer had owned the Rock Ledge Ranch and upon his death it was donated to the city.
Helen Hunt Jackson wrote of the park, "You wind among rocks of every conceivable and inconceivable shape and size... all bright red, all motionless and silent, with a strange look of having been just stopped and held back in the very climax of some supernatural catastrophe."
The outstanding geologic features of the park are the ancient sedimentary beds of deep-red, pink and white sandstones, conglomerates and limestone that were deposited horizontally, but have now been tilted vertically and faulted into "fins" by the immense mountain building forces caused by the uplift of the Rocky Mountains and the Pikes Peak massif. The following Pleistocene Ice Age resulted in erosion and glaciation of the rock, creating the present rock formations. Evidence of past ages can be read in the rocks: ancient seas, eroded remains of ancestral mountain ranges, alluvial fans, sandy beaches and great sand dune fields.
The resulting rocks had different shapes: toppled, overturned, stood-up, pushed around and slanted. Balanced Rock, a fountain formation, is a combination of coarse sand, gravel, silica and hematite. It is hematite that gives the large balanced rock its red hue. Balanced rock was formed as erosive processes removed softer layers near its base, eventually leaving the precarious-looking formation seen today. The Gateway Rocks Three Graces, and other outcroppings are sedimentary layers that had been pushed up vertically. The largest outcroppings in the park, "North Gateway", "South Gateway", "Gray Rock", and "Sleeping Giant" are comprised primarily of Lyons Formation, a stone made of fine sand from ancient sand dunes.
A view of Cathedral Valley showing some of its unusual hogback formations
A view of Pikes Peak from Garden of the Gods
The Garden of the Gods Park is a rich ecological resource. Retired biology professor Richard Beidleman notes that the park is "the most striking contrast between plains and mountains in North America" with respect to biology, geology, climate and scenery. Dinosaur species Theiophytalia kerri was found in the park, in 1878, and studies of the skull in 2006 reveal it to be a new species. A honey ant never before recorded was also discovered in 1879 and named for the park. Mule deer, bighorn sheep and fox abound in this area. The park is also home to more than 130 species of birds including white-throated swifts, swallows and canyon wrens.
The Garden of the Gods Park is popular for hiking, technical rock climbing, road and mountain biking and horseback riding. It attracts more than two million visitors a year, making it the city’s most visited park. There are more than 15 miles of trails with a 1.5-mile trail running through the heart of the park that is paved and wheelchair accessible. Annual events including two summer running races, recreational bike rides and Pro Cycling Challenge Prologue also take place in this park.
The main trail in the park, Perkins Central Garden Trail, is a paved, wheelchair-accessible 1.1-mile trail, "through the heart of the park's largest and most scenic red rocks". The trail begins at the North Parking lot, the main parking lot off of Juniper Way Loop.
Because of the unusual and steep rock formations in the park, it is an attractive destination for rock climbers. Rock climbing is permitted, with annual permits obtained at the City of Colorado Springs' website. Climbers are required to follow the "Technical Climbing Regulations and Guidelines", which includes using proper equipment, climbing in parties of two or more, and a ban on staining shalks. Precipitation makes rocks unstable and therefore climbing is not allowed when the rocks are wet or icy. There are fines for unregistered climbers and possibly rescue costs. Several fatalities have occurred over the years, often when unlawful climbers fail to use proper safety equipment, or, more rarely, when a lawful climber falls due to equipment failure or user error.
Visitor and nature center
The Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center is located at 1805 N. 30th Street and offers a view of the park. The center's information center and 30 educational exhibits are staffed by Parks, Recreation and Culture employees of the City of Colorado Springs. A short movie, How Did Those Red Rocks Get There?, runs every 20 minutes. A portion of the proceeds from the center's privately owned store and cafe support the non-profit Garden of the Gods Foundation; the money is used for maintenance and improvements to the park.
Natural history exhibits include minerals, geology, plants and local wildlife, as well as Native Americans who visited the park. Programs include nature hikes and talks, a Junior Ranger program, narrated bus tours, movies, educational programs and special programs.
Hours and admission
The Garden of the Gods Park and Visitor and Nature Center are free to the public. As of July, 2013, the park hours are 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. from May 1 to October 31; 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. from November 1 to April 30. The Visitor and Nature Center is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend; the remainder of the year it is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- National Natural Landmark in 1971
- Great American Public Place of 2011 by the American Planning Association. The Great American Places are defined by many criteria, including architectural features, accessibility, functionality and community involvement.
The entrance to Garden of the Gods with Pikes Peak in the background
Photochrom of the Cathedral Spires (center), c. 1900
- Garden of the Gods Trading Post, adjacent to south side of the Garden of the Gods Park
- Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, immediately adjacent to Garden of the Gods
- "National Natural Landmark". National Park Service. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
- Toni Hamill; The Manitou Springs Heritage Center (March 2012). Garden of the Gods. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 7–8. ISBN 978-0-7385-8892-6. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
- "Colorado National Parks List | National Parks In Colorado". Retrieved 2016-09-14.
- Toni Hamill; The Manitou Springs Heritage Center (March 2012). Garden of the Gods. Arcadia Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-7385-8892-6. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
- Toni Hamill; The Manitou Springs Heritage Center (March 2012). Garden of the Gods. Arcadia Publishing. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-7385-8892-6. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
- Stewart M. Green (June 1, 2008). Scenic Driving Colorado. Globe Pequot Press. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-7627-4791-7. Retrieved July 4, 2013.
- Toni Hamill; The Manitou Springs Heritage Center (March 2012). Garden of the Gods. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 11–13. ISBN 978-0-7385-8892-6. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
- Garden Of The Gods Park | Ecological and cultural history
- Garden Of The Gods Park | Recreational Hotspot
- "Garden of the Gods Perkins Central Garden Trail interpretive guide". Mark Cubb. Retrieved July 4, 2013.
- "Technical Climbing Regulations and Guidelines" (PDF). Garden of the Gods. Retrieved July 4, 2013.
- Bobbi Sankey (March 4, 2006). "Garden of Gods climber falls to his death". The Gazette. Colorado Springs, Colorado. Colorado Springs Gazette. Retrieved July 4, 2013.
- "Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center". City of Colorado Springs. Retrieved July 4, 2013.
- "Exhibits". Garden of the Gods. Retrieved July 4, 2013.
- "Activities". Garden of the Gods. Retrieved July 4, 2013.
- "Park Rules and Times". Garden of the Gods. Retrieved July 4, 2013.
- Great American Place
- Bob D'Antonio (2000). Garden of the Gods, Colorado. Falcon. ISBN 978-1-56044-678-1.
- Views of the Garden of the Gods. P. Goerke. 1905.
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