Moraine Park Museum Amphitheater

The Moraine Park Museum Amphitheater, built in 1936-37, reflects an important period of National Park Service conservation philosophy - including naturalizing developed areas, building visitor facilities in a "naturalistic" design, and communicating a strong natural ethic to visitors. To accomplish these goals in the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps obliterated most of the Moraine Lodge, restoring the land to its "natural" state. By 1936, they converted the Moraine Lodge's Assembly Hall to a museum (now the Moraine Park Museum), and they began to construct an amphitheater nearby.

The strong association between the amphitheater and the newly converted museum reflected the National Park Service's evolving education and interpretation programs, which focused on formal presentations using then cutting-edge technology of lantern slides. Early interpretive efforts focused on individual naturalists escorting small groups of visitors into the field. By the 1920s, as visits to the park increased, the National Park Service created new methods for reaching visitors, including wayside exhibits, amphitheaters, and park museums. By holding interpretive programs at amphitheaters, the park naturalists were able to reach large audiences and serve a greater number of people.

National Park Service amphitheaters are rustic interpretations of the Greek amphitheater following the tenents of naturalistic design, which included architecture playing a subordinate role to nature, massing of the structure to respond to terrain, and design that blended with the naturalness of the setting. Designers recommended "a distant view as background for a stage platform," "a background of trees," and warned that "the cutting of large trees existent within the limits of the seating of the amphitheater is to be avoided" and "usually a campfire is built in front of the stage." The Moraine Park Museum Amphitheater was one of the earliest, fully realized examples of this type of amphitheater in the National Park Service.

In 1938, Rocky Mountain National Park built two, simpler lecture circles (Aspenglen Campground and Glacier Basin Campground both constructed in 1938) using cut logs for seats and the screen. Neither of these had the elaborate stone work found in the Moraine Park Museum Amphitheater's more formal design. The amphitheater is currently used for weddings, fall elk talks, and K-12 education programs.


Last updated: March 31, 2012

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Mailing Address:

1000 US Hwy 36
Estes Park, CO 80517


970 586-1206
The Information Office is open year-round: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. daily in summer; 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Mondays - Fridays and 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Saturdays - Sundays in winter. Recorded Trail Ridge Road status: (970) 586-1222.

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