On the desert border of far-western Colorado near Grand Junction is a region of red sandstone which the erosion of the ages has carved into innumerable strange and grotesque shapes. Once a great plain, then a group of mesas, now it has become a city of grotesque monuments. Those who have seen the Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs can imagine it multiplied many times in size, grotesqueness, complexity, and area; such a vision will approximate the Colorado National Monument. The two regions have other relations in common, for as the Garden of the Gods flanks the Rockies’ eastern slopes and looks east-ward to the great plains, so does the Colorado National Monument flank the Rockies’ western desert. Both are the disclosure by erosion of similar strata of red sandstone which may have been more or less continuous before the great Rockies wrinkled. lifted, and burst upward between them.
The rock monuments of this group are extremely highly colored. They rise in several neighboring canyons and some of them are of great height and fantastic design. One is a nearly circular column with a diameter of a hundred feet at the base and a height of more than four hundred feet.
Caves add to the attractions, and there are many springs among the tangled growths of the canyon floors. There are cedars and pinyon trees. The region abounds in mule-deer and other wild animals.
After the sea-bottom which is now our desert southwest rose for the last time and became the loft plateau of today, many were the changes by which its surface became modified. Chief of these was the erosion which has washed its levels thousands of feet below its potential altitude and carved it so remarkably. But it also became a field of wide-spread volcanic activity, and lavas and obsidians are constantly encountered among its gravels, sands, and shales. Many also are the cones of dead volcanoes.
Capulin Mountain in northeastern New Mexico near the Colorado line is a very ancient volcano which retains its shape in nearly perfect condition. It was made a national monument for scientific reasons, but it also happily rounds out the national parks’ exhibit of the influences which created our wonderful southwest. Its crater cone is composed partly of lava flow, partly of fine loose cinder, and partly of cemented volcanic ash. It is nearly a perfect cone.
Capulin rises fifteen hundred feet from the plain to an altitude of eight thousand feet. Its crater is fifteen hundred feet across and seventy-five feet deep. To complete the volcanic exhibit many blister cones are found around its base. It is easily reached from two railroads or by automobile.