The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is a fossil-rich mountain that is located in the heart of Colorado. The area is located in the beautiful Rocky Mountains and is named after the fossil beds that have been preserved over the centuries. Scientist believe that the fossils discovered at the monument date back to a period called the Oligocene Epoch and are about 30 million years old. The monument is over nine square miles and was recognized as a national, natural treasure in 1969. Florissant Fossil Beds were discovered in 1873 by an early settler who called the area Florissant, which is the French word for flowering. He named the area after all the wildflowers that grow in the fertile lands.
Some of the deposits found in Florissant Fossil Beds include fossilized insects, petrified wood, and a variety of fossil plants. The area is covered by forest and meadows and is home to thousands of plants, insects, and a large variety of wildlife. Visitors to the area may find themselves surprised by the amount of elk, deer, mountain lions, black bears, and other wild animals that call the area their home. Most visitors that attend Florissant Fossil Beds are not there to explore the wildlife, but are there to bear witness to one of the most diverse and richest fossil deposits in the world. The fossils in the area serve as an educational tool that gives a visible history lesson revealing the state of ancient Colorado. The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument has a mission of fostering education and provides a Ranger Talk for visitors who want to learn about geology.
Visits to the Florissant Fossil Beds last for about 1.5 to 2 hours and those new to the monument are encouraged to begin their tour at the Visitor Center. Once tourists of the Florissant Fossil Beds arrive at the Visitors Center they are greeted with orientation information about the monument's history. The Visitors Center also has exhibits and fossil displays, as well as an orientation film that lasts for fifteen minutes. Ranger talks are held in the amphitheater portion of the Visitors Center. Visitors have access to two trails that are located behind the center. The trails are called the Ponderosa and the Loop Trail and both are self-guided.
The fossil beds at the monument are internationally renowned for the number and variety that is found in the area. Since the area was discovered, Florissant Fossil Beds has been a favorite area for paleontologists that have collected tens of thousands of specimens. Fossil specimens from the monument have made a home in hundreds of universities and museums around the world. Each fossil represents a small depiction of what life was like long ago. Fossilized feathers, shells, teeth, and bones that were made from all types of animals can be found at the Florissant Fossil Beds.
Florissant Fossil Beds has an elevation of 8,400 feet. The monument has a typical mountain climate of short summers and freezing temperatures that occur even during the summer months. Visitors to the monument are encouraged to attend during the summer when weather is warmer and temperature drops are not so severe. Florissant Fossil Beds is now part of the National Park System and its geological integrity is protected by federal laws.