In a year that marked the 50th anniversary of the National Natural Landmarks (NNL) program, Big Spring Creek was the last site to be designated an NNL in 2012.
Big Spring Creek was given the distinction in October for the perennial spring-fed creek that flows through the sparsely-vegetated, large sand sheets of the San Luis Valley, Colorado. Along its course, Big Spring Creek supports an aquatic dependent wetland ecosystem in an otherwise arid landscape.
Few spring-fed creeks exist in the area and Big Spring Creek is unusual in that it still maintains a natural flow pattern. The meandering creek and surrounding eolian landforms at this site provide excellent examples of natural geologic and hydrologic patterns.
Located in the western portion of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Big Spring Creek highlights a unique natural feature contained within the larger, more well-known dune landscape of the park. This designation provides increased educational value and added consideration for these special resources during planning efforts as the National Park Service strives to achieve a model standard of excellence in natural resource stewardship.
Big Spring Creek is the 13th NNL within Colorado and brings the total number of NNLs designated nationwide over the past 50 years to 594. The NNL program was established in 1962 by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall as a way to highlight the diversity of natural features that comprise our nation’s natural heritage. The NNL program is the only nationwide natural areas program that recognizes significant biological and geological features in both public and private ownership.
The NPS works in partnership with NNL landowners and honors the dedication of the various federal, state, county, municipal, tribal and private landowners that wisely steward their lands, which carry the NNL designation. Through advocacy and technical assistance, the NPS is pleased to be a part of supporting the conservation of these nationally significant sites for the past half-century.
For more information about recent designations and the NNL Program, please visit the NNL program website at http://www.nature.nps.gov/nnl/.