Posts Tagged 'Red Mountain Open Space'

Soapstone Prairie Natural Area grand opening report

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

This past weekend, Soapstone Prairie Natural Area officially opened to the public (the opening of Red Mountain Open Space was delayed until this weekend because the recent rains had made the roads too soft). We had the most beautiful Saturday you could imagine, and while we were greeted on Sunday by lightning and hail (remember: it’s a remote site and the weather changes, so always be prepared), approximately 500 people visited. While I have a lot of thoughts about the opening weekend, the main one is this: Thank you.

Thank you to the voters of Fort Collins and Larimer County for allowing the city and county to purchase and preserve these properties and the cultural and natural histories on them.

Thank you to the managers who developed the properties’ management plans, the surveyors who discovered the properties’ ecological and archaeological resources, the researchers who gathered hours upon hours of oral history interviews so we could learn about the peoples who called this land home, and the educators who put all the information together for the public.

Thank you to all the city and county volunteers who will interpret and protect Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain. I know that both our visitors and the cultural and natural treasures will be in good hands with you.

Finally, thank you to all the visitors who came this weekend, and everyone still to come. As soon as you step on Soapstone Prairie or Red Mountain, you become part of a story of the connections between people and the land that’s been told there for over 12,000 years. I hope you’ll find that as special as I do.

On Saturday, Ram Nation, CSU’s Native drumming group, performed. One of their songs was an appreciation song — sung at events to thank planners, volunteers, and participants for everything they do. That song echoing out across the plains and up the Cheyenne Ridge was a more eloquent and moving gesture of thanks that I can give. I wish everyone could have heard it.

Llama packing on a Soapstone Prairie trail

Llama packing on a Soapstone Prairie trail


Contribute to the Soapstone Prairie/Red Mountain time capsule

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

The City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Program and Larimer County’s Department of Natural Resources are accepting submissions for a time capsule that will be opened on the tenth anniversary of Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain Open Space’s opening, June, 2019. Will these amazing places be the same in ten years? The answer is up to all of us. Everyone is invited to be part of history by contributing their first impressions, hopes and dreams for Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain Open Space in art or writing. Do you love the properties? Do you think they’re a waste of money and space? What would you like to see happen with them? We care about what you think, feel, wonder, and want to say.

During this weekend’s opening celebrations, visitors are invited to decorate one of the hundreds of celebration flags that will fly out on Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain June 6th and 7th. These flags will be included in the contents of the time capsule, but they aren’t the only way you can contribute your thoughts, impressions, and reactions to the properties for posterity. Photographs, prose, poetry, and ponderings are all encouraged.



Time Capsule Submission Requirements

  • Size: Must be flat, no thicker than a sheet of paper, and no larger than 1 foot square. Photographs of three dimensional submissions welcome.
  • Materials: Please ensure submissions will last 10 years and don’t damage other capsule contents. Time capsule contributions must use all archival materials including paper, ink, glue etc. Digital submissions are encouraged.
  • Use: Submitting material to the time capsule constitutes your permission for the Fort Collins Natural Areas program and Larimer County Natural Resources to use it in any form deemed appropriate for educational, informational and promotional purposes. Photo/artist credits will be given when practicable.
  • Deadline: June 30, 2009 at 5 pm

How to Submit

Only one contribution per person. All submissions must include your name, and email or phone number.

  • Email:
  • Mail: Time Capsule, Fort Collins Natural Areas Program, PO Box 580, Fort Collins, CO 80522
  • Drop off: Fort Collins Natural Resources Department, 215 North Mason or Fort Collins Natural Areas Program, 1745 Hoffman Mill Road, during regular business hours, Monday – Friday 8-5.

Contact Zoe Whyman, Natural Areas Community Relations Manager, or 221-6311 with questions. 

Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain: 12,000+ years in the making, and less than a month to go!

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

June 6th is a pretty impressive day. According to Wikipedia (which has never steered me wrong), many an important thing has happened on the June 6ths of the past. Some milestones include:

1523: Gustavus I becomes King of Sweden

1850: Levi Strauss makes his first pair of blue jeans

1916: East Cleveland voters approve women’s suffrage

1944: D-Day

1962: The Beatles meet producer George Martin

In just less than one month, another milestone will be added to June 6th’s roster: the openings of Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space and, trust me, they’re right up there with getting to wear denim and knowing who the walrus is. You should be bubbling over with excitement by now. Here’s why:

In 2004, the City of Fort Collins purchased over 18,000 acres of shortgrass prairie, foothills, shrubland, cliffs and rock outcrops, wetlands and springs 25 miles north of Fort Collins near the Wyoming border, now know as Soapstone Prairie Natural Area. The same year, Larimer County purchased 15,000 acres of adjoining foothills and woodlands, now known as Red Mountain Open Space, creating over 30,000 acres of protected prairie and foothills. The properties are, in the truest sense of the word, awesome.

A wide variety of animals and plants make their homes at Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain, including elk, pronghorn, swift fox, black bears, mountain lions, golden eagles, burrowing owls, the Colorado blue butterfly, the butterfly plant (no longer found anywhere else in Larimer County), mountain mahogany and ponderosa pines woodlands. There’s also some mighty impressive geology happening on the sites, including the Cheyenne Ridge, which is the upper edge of the Denver Basin, and the Big Hole (trust me, it’s more than just a hole).

Both properties also have an incredible human history. Soapstone Prairie is home to the famous Lindenmeier Archaeological Site, a National Historic Landmark, that’s recognized worldwide as one of the most well-preserved and extensive Folsom culture occupation sites in North America. The site dates from around 12,000 years ago and was excavated in the 1930s by the Smithsonian and the Colorado Museum of Natural History (now the Denver Museum of Nature & Science). Archaeological work on both Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain demonstrates an extensive and diverse human history – from PaleoIndians of the Ice Age, to millennia of American Indian groups, to more than a century of homesteaders and sheep and cattle ranchers.

Perhaps the most exciting element of both properties is, come June 6th, 2009, we get to experience them for ourselves. When Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain open, miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, along with a variety of public programs on the history, ecology and geology of the area will be available to everyone.

Over the coming weeks, check back to learn more about what makes these properties so special. If you can’t wait even that long, these links may sate you for the time being:

Soapstone Prairie Natural Area

“Speaking History,” The Soapstone Prairie Oral History Project

Map of Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain

Soapstone Prairie Program Guide

Red Mountain Open Space














Soapstone's beautiful rolling shortgrass prairie

Soapstone's beautiful rolling shortgrass prairie

A visit to Red Mountain Open Space

by Treloar Bower, Curator of Education, Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center

Last week, in preparation for the June 6th openings of the City of Fort Collin’s Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Larimer County’s adjacent Red Mountain Open Space (RMOS), a group of us from the Museum and the City’s Natural Areas Program (NAP), along with staff from Larimer County Parks and Open Lands (LCPOL), took a field trip to the properties along with elders from the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Northern Arapaho tribes. This was a wonderful opportunity for all of us with different backgrounds and expertise to come together and develop a more holistic appreciation of the areas. We had a chance to talk about what makes the land important from both natural and cultural history perspectives, we saw how the hard-working crews from the city and county have prepared the land for access by the public, and we shared how we anticipate the public will use the lands.

We started the day with a bang – we saw a great horned owl sitting in a tree as we drove north and we counted several pronghorns and mule deer on the route as well. Once we arrived at RMOS, we went for a hike on one of the newly-constructed trails, led by LCPOL educator Rob Novak who explained some of the unique geologic formations along the way (see photos below). Crevices in the red rock canyons held pack rat middens hundreds of years old, while smaller cracks revealed the remnants of cocoons formed by insects going through metamorphosis this very spring. Under overhangs high above the trail, swallow nests of mud clung to the sandstone. A prairie falcon zipped around over our heads. Volunteer Master Naturalists from NAP consulted each other while identifying plants. Katie Bowell, one of our curators with a entomology background, counted plenty of harvester ant nests. We were all amazed at a flock of 11 sandhill cranes as they spiraled up across the sky, flying on the thermals, headed for their summer habitat in Siberia. Someone even found a gorgeous green rock that none of us could identify with any certainty! It didn’t matter which way we looked, up, down and all around, there were exciting discoveries to be made.

After our hike, we headed over to Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and the part of the trip I’ve been waiting over ten years to experience again. More on that soon!  

Along the trail at Red Mountain Ranch Open Space

Along the trail at Red Mountain Ranch Open Space

Pack rat midden along trail at Red Mountain Open Space

Pack rat midden along trail at Red Mountain Open Space


Swallow nests along cliff at Red Mountain Open Space

Swallow nests along cliff at Red Mountain Open Space

Mystery rock at Red Mountain Open Space

Mystery rock at Red Mountain Open Space

March 2023

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