Florissant Fossil Beds With Zeb the Duck

Colorado used to have giant redwood trees.   We had a warmer climate, so we had many tropical insects also.  That was about 34 million years ago.   What a change from the Colorado we know and love today.   Today I, Zeb the Duck, took mom and a friend to Central Colorado, a little south and west of Colorado Springs, to Florissant Fossil Beds.   These fossil beds are now part of the U.S. National Park Service.

Florissant Fossil Beds

It was a cloudy day, so we decided to see the outside things first, just in case we got some rain.   About two miles from this sign, is the homestead of Adeline Hornbek.   Back when women usually could not purchase land, Adeline acquired 160 acres to homestead.  Her homestead is now protected by the National Park Service.   In 1878, she had outlived two husbands and had four children to raise.   She and her children farmed and ranched here.

Adeline Hornbek’s Homestead of 1878

Today, her great great granddaughter, was in the house.   So tourists were allowed inside the home and outbuildings.   Attached to the main house is the well house.

Well House

An enclosed pump is less likely to freeze.   The kitchen was large.


On the right side is the door to the well house.   To the left and to the front, is a door to the living room.   The open door on the left leads upstairs where her sons slept.  The rear door goes to another room, with a door to the outdoors.

Living room

The living room is also rather large and has a wood stove for heat.   You can see the adjacent room behind also has a wood stove for heat.   This is the pantry.


With five people to feed, storage space was important.   Outside, dug into a hill, is the root cellar.

Root Cellar

More food was preserved here for the long cold winter in the Colorado Mountains.   Going back to the Visitor’s Center, the fossil beds are outside, so we went there first.   There are fossil exhibits inside also.

Petrified redwood tree

I, Zeb the Duck, am sitting on a large piece of petrified redwood tree.  The huge petrified tree stump is under a manmade cover, to offer some protection for the fossil.   Moisture in the stump, freezing and thawing, will damage the fossil.   Humans are trying to slow the process.   The sign says 34 million years ago the Rocky Mountains were warmer with wet summers and mild winters.   This area was forested with towering redwoods, cedar, pines, mixed hardwoods and ferns.   Now this is rare.

Trio of fossilized stumps

A family circle of fossilized stumps grew out of the single trunk of an older parent tree.   The 3 trunks are ancient clones, or genetically identical copies, of that parent tree.   This is common now in California with coastal redwoods, but this trio of stone stumps is unique in the world’s fossil record.  We hiked the one mile trail and arrived here, at the Big Stump.

The Big Stump

This massive petrified redwood stump is one of the largest fossils in the park.   The tree was probably 230 feet tall and 750 years old when volcanic mud flow buried its base.   In the 1800’s local residents excavated the stump and tried to cut it in smaller pieces.   You can see 2 saw blades still in the stump toward the top, above my little duck head.   The base is charred from volcanic mud and volcanic lahar.   Further along, we see tree rings in the redwood fossil.

Rings in fossilized redwood stump

These rings are still visible after 34 million years.   They provide information about environment and climate.  The rings show more favorable growing conditions than coastal redwoods of California today.   Tropical insects were also here.   We had tsetse flies?

Tsetse Fly

This fossil was not on display the day we visited.   Let’s go inside.

Fossil display at Visitor’s Center

There are many fossils on display.   On an interactive display we met this spider.


This stealthy ground spider (Palaeodrassus) lived under the bark of a tree.  Rather large spider!  Florissant Fossil Beds, which according to the U.S. National Park Service, now look like a grassy mountain valley in Central Colorado, is one of the richest and most diverse fossil deposits in the world.   This place is very interesting and we could spend much more time here.   But we are leaving now and heading back home.   A couple miles to the town of Florissant, we see these deer.

Deer are so graceful and delicate

There is one male and several females.  He is watching.   But I like her.

My new friend

I think this deer is watching me.   Further along we saw a herd of about 50 elk resting in a grassy meadow.

Elk lounging.

We love seeing the wild animals.   The trees of our northern mountains have changed color and many have fallen.   We are in the central mountains now and the leaves are still beautiful.

Autumn in the Rocky Mountains

We love to see fall colors in the mountains.   Especially on a warm calm day.   Are you enjoying the changing seasons where you live also?


Giant Redwood Trees in Colorado

What a surprise.  The redwood trees of California used to live just west of Colorado Springs.  I, Zeb the Duck, and my mom visited the 6,000 acre Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.

Let's see the fossils!

Let’s see the fossils!

Thirty-four million years ago, the meadow was Lake Florissant.  There are many rare fossils from here.  Colorado has the fossil of a tsetse fly.  The tsetse fly now can only be found in equatorial Africa.  It used to live in Colorado with giant redwood trees.

Redwoods in Colorado

Redwoods in Colorado

In the visitor’s center you can watch a short film about the fossils.  The visitor’s center has great displays also.  Here is one with fossils.

Great display

Great display

Fossils of insects and plants have been recovered from this area.  If you hike through the 15 miles of trails, you may see wildlife.  We saw this prairie dog close to the front entrance of the visitor’s center.

Official greeter?

Official greeter?

Now, about those redwood trees in Colorado.  This sign shows that these are redwoods.

Yes.  Redwoods in Colorado

Yes. Redwoods in Colorado

This one is just behind the visitor’s center.  That really was a huge tree!

GIANT  Redwood!

GIANT Redwood!

Wandering along the trails, this is a peaceful view.

Stress free area.

Stress free area.

Hard to imagine this meadow was once a lake.

A couple miles from the visitor’s center you can visit the Hornbek Homestead.  This homestead was built in 1878 for Adeline Hornbek and her four children.  It was the first homestead in the Florissant Valley.

Hornbek Homestead

Hornbek Homestead

This homestead is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and now belongs to the National Park Service.

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is a great place.  You will like it if you visit.  For more information visit www.nps.gov/flfo   We really like this National Monument.  Visit it when you are in the area.  You will be glad you did.

You should see this place!

You should see this place!