Natural Resources Monitoring at Colorado National Monument

Red rock canyons with open, flat landscape beyond
The eroded landscapes of Colorado National Monument tower over Grand Junction, Colorado.

NPS/A.W. Biel

The Northern Colorado Plateau Network monitors air quality, climate, invasive exotic plants, land surface phenology, landbirds, and landscape dynamics at Colorado National Monument. The results of that monitoring provide park managers with scientific information for decisionmaking.

Colorado National Monument was established by Presidential Proclamation on May 24, 1911, to reserve in the public interest "the extraordinary examples of erosion (which) are of great scientific interest." The monument is best known for its outstanding geologic features, exposed and sculpted by erosion. Geologic history, from the ancient crystalline rocks of the Precambrian age to the soft, mixed shales and sandstones of the Jurassic age Morrison formation, is recorded in the exposed cliffs.

Elevation ranges from 1,408 meters (4,620 feet) at the foot of the cliffs to 2,166 meters (7,107 feet) on the mesa above the canyons. A semi-desert upland climate prevails, with an average of less than 280 millimeters (11 inches) annual precipitation. Temperatures range from summer highs in the high 90s (F) to winter lows in the sub-zero range. Snowfall averages 96 centimeters (38 inches).

Woodlands and shrublands types are the monument's most diverse plant communities; both occupy all habitats. Forest and graminoid communities are uncommon, and forb and non-vascular plant communities are rare. There are no perennial streams in the monument, but there are ephemeral surface flows, seeps, and potholes that supply water for wildlife throughout most of the year.

Increasing recreational use, adjacent land-use impacts, exotic plant species invasion, native plant mortality, fire-fuel loading, and a lack of data related to monument fauna are the park's main natural resource management concerns.

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    Source: Data Store Saved Search 3769. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

    Source: Data Store Saved Search 3770. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

    Last updated: October 31, 2020