This beautiful mountain valley just west of Pikes Peak holds spectacular remnants of the earth's pre-historic life. About 34 million years ago, violent volcanic eruptions in surrounding areas caused large mudflows. Thse mudflows buried trees in the low-lying areas of the valley to a depth of about fifteen feet. Over time, many trees petrified - turned to stone. A later mudflow created a dam at the south end of the valley and a lake, ancient Lake Florissant, filled the valley.
The lake sediments became the final resting place for thousands of insects and plants. Over time, these sediments turned to shale, preserving the delicate details of organisms as fossils.
In 1874,A.C. Peale of the Hayden Survey published a report detailing the amazing variety of fossils in the area. Since then, paleontologists have collected about 50,000 specimens for museum and universities around the world. These fossils reveal, in remarkable detail,what life of so long ago was like. In 1969, this area was set aside as part of our National Park System.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is home to one of the richest fossil deposits in the world. Over 1,700 fossils of insects, plants, birds, fish, mammals and other organisms have been discovered, described and protected here. Nearly 1,500 of these fossils are insects, which are rarely preserved in the fossil record. Massive petrified redwoods, are easily seen behind the visitor center and on the 1mile Petrified Forest Trail.
The park is a 6,000 acre wonderland of pine forests, mountain meadows, beautiful scenery and wildlife. There are 14 miles of easy to moderate hiking trails to explore, self-guided and ranger guided programs, a Junior Ranger program and a state-of-the-art visitor center with exhibits, film,and a bookstore. This national park area is an active study site where an ongoing paleontology program conducts research. Discoveries are still being made!
Listen to a narration about the Florrisant Fossil Beds:
Watch our video about Florrisant Fossil Beds: