Monday, May 29, 2017

Mesa Verde Celebrates Wildflower Week June 4 to 10

Mesa Verde National Park invites you to join park staff and volunteers in celebrating the beauty of the park’s native wildflowers during Wildflower Week, June 4 through 10, 2017. On Monday, June 5 and Wednesday, June 7, park staff and volunteers will be available to talk to visitors at the Visitor and Research Center; on Wetherill Mesa (between the kiosk and Step House trailhead); and the Geologic Overlook trail from 10 am to 2 pm. On Friday, June 9, staff will be at the Visitor and Research Center from 10 am to 2 pm to help visitors locate good viewing areas for wildflowers in the park.

Not only are wildflower beautiful, they also help to maintain healthy ecosystems; improve air and water quality; and support pollinators, birds and wildlife. The park expects a diversity of showy wildflowers to bloom the first part of June including silver lupine, mule’s ear, Utah sweet vetch, sego lily, Indian paintbrush, fleabane daisy, scarlet gilia, evening primrose, beardtongue, and yucca. Good areas for wildflower viewing are the Geologic Overlook trail and along the roadside from Chapin Mesa to Wetherill Mesa. Wildflower viewers are reminded to use roadside pullouts, not enter into the backcountry of the park, and not to disturb or pick any plants or flowers. For more information about the plants and plant communities at Mesa Verde, please visit:


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Trail Ridge Road Opening Delayed - Will Not Open Over The Memorial Day Holiday

Due to last week’s major snowstorm and continuing winter conditions at high elevations in Rocky Mountain National Park, Trail Ridge Road’s opening will be delayed and will not open over the Memorial Day Holiday.

According to Park Superintendent, Darla Sidles, “Last week’s snowstorm has hampered our efforts. Last Wednesday, we were on track to open the road and were digging out facilities. This week, our plow operators are facing 8 to 14 feet of snow on Trail Ridge Road. The extended forecast above 10,000 feet for snow, winds and overnight temperatures in the upper 20s will prevent us from opening the road this holiday.”

Park snowplow operators will continue to plow the road; the road will open as soon as it is safe to do so. Due to the extended forecast for winter conditions at higher elevations, it is too soon to predict when that might be.

Every year, Rocky Mountain National Park snowplow operators begin plowing Trail Ridge Road in mid-April. Crews from the west side of the park and crews from the east side of the park move along the road and eventually meet near the Alpine Visitor Center. Plow operators normally encounter drifts from 18 to 22 feet and are accustomed to plowing the same section of road over and over. Trail Ridge Road was completed in 1932. The earliest the road has opened was on May 7, 2002; the latest June 26, 1943. In 2011, the road opened on June 6.

Park staff expect a busy Memorial Day Weekend throughout Rocky Mountain National Park. The three reservation campgrounds in the park are full for the weekend. Timber Creek Campground on the west side of the park is first-come, first-served. Vehicle restrictions may be in place on the Bear Lake Road corridor if full parking lots and congestion warrants. Visitors planning to recreate in the park’s backcountry, depending on their destination, should be prepared for a variety of conditions including snow, ice, slush and mud. Today, the Bear Lake Trailhead has 30 inches of snow.

For further information about Rocky Mountain National Park please contact the park Information Office at (970) 586-1206, the Trail Ridge Road status recorded phone line at (970) 586-1222 or check the park’s website at


Friday, May 19, 2017

Roads Reopening On The East Side Of Rocky Mountain National Park - Some Roads Remain Closed

Park snowplow operators have been working through the day to plow roads and numerous parking lots. Park rangers have also accounted for all wilderness camping permit holders who were camping overnight in the park’s backcountry.

Numerous roads are reopening on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Trail Ridge Road has reopened to Many Parks Curve. Access to the park from the Fall River Entrance and the Beaver Meadows Entrance has reopened. Bear Lake Road has reopened to Sprague Lake. The upper portion of Bear Lake Road above Sprague Lake, as well as the Bear Lake parking lot, are expected to reopen sometime tomorrow.

Roads still closed include the Endovalley Road from the US 34 junction, Moraine Park Road from the Bear Lake Road junction to the Fern Lake Trailhead, Wild Basin Road at the Sandbeach Trailhead, and Upper Beaver Meadows Road. Numerous parking lots have not been plowed and are inaccessible.

Trail Ridge Road on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park is open to the Colorado River Trailhead.

More snow is forecast for this evening in Rocky Mountain National Park; park visitors should prepare for winter driving conditions.

More than 3 feet of snow has fallen in the past 24 hours resulting in VERY DANGEROUS AVALANCHE CONDITIONS in Rocky Mountain National Park. Currently travel in avalanche terrain is NOT recommended. Visitors planning to hike, snowshoe or ski in the mountains this weekend should carry avalanche safety gear and have associated avalanche safety training and experience.

Park visitors should use additional caution when driving on roads as wildlife are now using cleared roads as easier travel routes. As always, please stay back and give wildlife the space they need, especially during this more stressful time as they travel through heavy, wet snow.

For more information about Rocky Mountain National Park please visit or call the park’s Information Office at (970) 586-1206.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Don’t Rush to Rescue Young Wildlife

Spring has come to Colorado bringing blooms and rain showers, and of course the young wildlife of the year. As birds and mammals give birth, Colorado Parks and Wildlife wants to remind citizens that newborn wildlife may be found in backyards , along trails, or in open spaces. The best course of action is to leave them alone.

Each year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife receives scores of calls from concerned humans about wildlife that has been "abandoned" by adult animals. Many are tempted to "help" a young animal by picking it up or trying to feed it, however it is critical that people understand there is no substitute for their natural parents.

Wildlife experts agree that it is quite normal for adult animals to leave their young in a safe place while they go forage for food. And often baby birds are learning to fly, near their nests when they are deemed "abandoned." While well-meaning people sometimes gather up this baby wildlife and bring them to wildlife rehabilitation facilities, it is often the wrong thing to do.

"Baby mammals are scentless in order to prevent predators from finding them," said Janet George, senior terrestrial biologist for CPW. "When humans touch these animals, they are imparting them with a scent their adults will not recognize or even fear. This can result in true abandonment of healthy offspring."

Because birds do not have a highly developed sense of smell, baby birds are a different story. They can be picked up and moved out of harm's way or placed back in the nest if they are songbirds. However, do not try this with raptors! Great-horned owls and other raptors are territorial and have been known to fly at humans seen as a threat to their young.

If you find young wildlife, enjoy a quick glimpse, leave the animal where it is, and keep pets out of the area. Quietly observe the animal from a distance using binoculars and don't hover so close that the wild parents are afraid to return to the area.

"If twenty four hours go by and the parent does not return, or the young animal appears sick and weak, it is possible the newborn was abandoned or the parent is dead (hit by a car, for example)," said Jenny Campbell, customer service expert with CPW. "Call our office and we will work with our volunteer transport teams to get animals to a certified wildlife rehabilitation center to get aid for the wildlife if possible. Don't move the animal yourself!"

Donna Ralph of the non-profit Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center agrees. "Many of the animals we get should have never been picked up in the first place," said Ralph. "They would have had a better chance for survival if left in the care of the parent animal."

"The sooner the animal can be released back to where it came from the better," she explained. "Make sure you provide your contact information so we can let it go in the same place you found it."

Ralph said her center has already taken in many small mammals this year including several fox kits. "Baby foxes don't look like most people would expect them to look like. They are very small, very dark (almost black) and appear to be very kitten like. People who find them think they might be baby raccoons, skunks, or something else."

Ralph's advice: Don't try to feed them. Don't put anything into their mouths. Contact the CPW, a veterinarian, or licensed wildlife rehabilitator to give these babies the care they need.

"Whatever you do, don't try to keep the animal as a pet," she said. "It is illegal to keep wild animals in captivity unless you are a licensed wildlife rehabilitator."

In addition to potential harm for wildlife, humans need to recognize the potential harm to them, as well. There can be risks associated with the handling of wildlife animals, including disease transmission of rabies, distemper or other illnesses. Wildlife can also carry fleas that might subsequently spread disease to humans or pets.

Finally, it is imperative for Coloradans to understand that it is illegal to own most wildlife in Colorado. People can avoid a great deal of heartache if they don't "adopt" the cute baby raccoon or skunk. Sadly, human-raised and hand-fed animals are rarely returned to the wild due to their lack of survival skills or imprint on humans. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators are trained to use methods that will give a wild animal the best chance of surviving upon release.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Repairs to Aspen Brook and Twin Sisters Trails In Rocky Mountain National Park

The Director of the Intermountain Region, National Park Service (NPS), recently signed a decision document that will enable Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) to conduct reroutes and repairs to the Aspen Brook and Twin Sisters trails that were damaged in the September 2013 flood.

Following the September 2013 flood, park staff prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) to evaluate alternatives and the potential impacts associated with reestablishing five trails that were badly damaged during the flood: Twin Sisters, Aspen Brook, Alluvial Fan, Ypsilon Lake, and Lawn Lake. The purpose of the EA was to identify potential travel routes while protecting natural and cultural resources and preserving wilderness character. A decision to reroute and repair the Lawn Lake, Ypsilon Lake, and Alluvial Fan trails was previously made and a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) was signed for those three trails in June of 2016. Park staff deferred the decision on the reroutes and repairs to the Aspen Brook and Twin Sisters trails until 2017. A description of the selected action for the Aspen Brook and Twin Sisters trails follows.

Aspen Brook Trail - The trail will be rerouted and repaired. Abandoned sections of the existing trail (about 3,360 feet) will be stabilized and revegetated. This work is expected to take a number of years to complete. During the trail construction, some areas may be temporarily closed to hikers. This trail will remain closed to equestrian use for the duration of the project. A new trail extension to provide a connection to Spur Highway 66 outside the park is a second element of this decision and has additional requirements.

Twin Sisters Trail - The informal foot trails that have developed across the landslide (see photo) and south of the landslide will be retained and maintained to the extent practical. The informal foot trails will be incorporated into the regular trail maintenance program, and repairs and erosion-control measures to mitigate impacts will be implemented. Existing trail segments or informal routes that are redundant or obsolete will be stabilized and revegetated. The steep trail grade, limited width, and limited clearing limits of the informal foot trail on the south side of the landslide does not accommodate equestrian use; therefore, only pedestrian use will be allowed on the Twin Sisters Trail.

Once these Twin Sisters Trail repairs and erosion control measures are completed, the park will monitor trail conditions over time to determine if repairs are adequate and sustainable. If repairs are not sustainable, the park may seek funding to construct a trail reroute.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Backpacker Rescued From East Inlet Trail Area

At 8:30 p.m. Friday night, May 5th, park rangers were contacted via cell phone about an incident on the East Inlet Trail on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. A 19-year-old man from Tennessee and two friends were backpacking in the area. They were roughly 3.5 miles from the trailhead, scrambling over steep terrain, boulders and downed trees when a large boulder fell on the man’s leg. The man’s friends were able to free him from under the rock.

Search and Rescue Team members reached the man at approximately 11:30 p.m. A number of agencies assisted Rocky Mountain National Park on this incident including Grand County EMS, Grand Lake Fire Protection District, Grand County Sheriff’s Office and Grand County Search and Rescue. The man was located in steep terrain, cliffed out on one side and steep scree on the other. Due to the terrain and darkness, the team of fifteen members stayed put through the night and provided advanced medical care to the injured man.

Because of the nature of the man’s leg injury and the location, park rangers requested assistance from the Colorado High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Program to assist in evacuating the man via a hoist operation, using a winch operated cable. This occurred at 8:15 a.m. this morning. The man was flown to Harbison Meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park where he was transported by ground ambulance to Middle Park Medical Center. Rescue team members are hiking out to the trailhead.