Highlights of the High Plains
Wildlife that can only be found in Colorado, historic buildings, cowboy heritage, and Americana attractions, to name a few, are reminders that our often-overlooked eastern quarter is anything but ordinary. These are only a few of the highlights.
Start your journey in Wray, Colorado, for some one-of-a-kind birdwatching. Greater prairie chicks strut and dance their way through local grasslands in pursuit of partners in the spring. The Wray Chamber of Commerce, the East Yuma County Historical Society, and Colorado Parks & Wildlife have partnered up to give special viewing tours of the ritual.
More than 300 species of critters roam the 440,000-acre Comanche National Grassland in southeast Colorado near La Junta, which contains some of the last remaining short-grass prairie in the United States. Rare species like the lesser prairie chicken, golden eagle, and swift fox are among the more than 300 species of critters that roam the 440,000-acre Comanche National Grassland in southeast Colorado near La Junta.
Comanche National GrasslandSpringfield, CO 81073, USA
Purgatoire River Track Site (also known as Picketwire Canyonlands) in Comanche National Grassland is like a dinosaur hall of fame, with the footprints of the Jurassic period's biggest stars, such as the long-necked Brontosaur and ferocious Allosaurus.
Lake Pueblo is a popular fishing spot in southeast Colorado because of its large concentrations of bass, walleye, and catfish. The lake is also a terrific area to see red-tailed hawks, egrets, and great blue herons, among other birds.
Windows into the past
At the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in Chivington and Eads, remember the 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians who died in 1864 when a gang of US soldiers attacked their camp. Learn how the terrible clash profoundly impacted relations with Native American tribes who claimed the plains as hunting grounds and seasonal homes by attending a ranger-led discussion (daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.).
Vogel Canyon near La Junta has Native American petroglyphs adorning the sandstone cliffs. Visit during sunrise or sunset to increase your chances of seeing great horned owls, coyotes, and pronghorn. Learn about Native American settlement of the plains by reading Steven R. Simms' Ancient Peoples of the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau.
Burlington's Old Town Museum, home to 21 antique-filled buildings including an old schoolhouse, beauty parlor, and doctor's office, has a can-can show in the bar. Then stroll over to the 1905 Kit Carson County Carousel, one of just 150 remaining wooden carousels. A 1909 Wurlitzer Monster Military Band Organ provides the soundtrack for the 46 hand-carved creatures.
The 13,500-square-foot Wray Museum has a major Paleo-Indian exhibit, showcasing one of the largest and oldest Stone Age bison death sites outside of Washington, D.C. It also houses one of the only permanent Smithsonian displays outside of Washington, D.C.
Those who prefer the comfort of a two-wheeled steed can consider Pedal the Plains in September, when road bikers of all abilities pedal over the eastern plains, stopping in communities such as Julesburg and Sterling for beer gardens, local cuisine, and farm tours.
The 4,228-mile TransAmerica Bike Trail from Oregon to Virginia runs through Pueblo, Ordway, and Eads – beautifully flat riding area with charming small towns — if you enjoy long-distance rides. The Kit Carson County Fair in Burlington (July/August) and Doc's Chuck Wagon Cookoff in La Junta are two more events in the area (October).
Starry-night hot spots
Pawnee National Grassland: While camping in this 193,060-acre beauty of grass and sky in northeast Colorado, you can count up to 15,000 stars.
Pawnee National Grassland115 North 2nd Ave, Ault, CO 80610, USA
Las Animas County's lack of light pollution allows for super-dark nights for simple astronomy. John Martin Reservoir State Park: With less than one person per square mile, Las Animas County's lack of light pollution allows for super-dark nights for easy stargazing.
The Milky Way may be seen in two ways at Jackson Lake State Park near Orchard: in the sky above and flawlessly mirrored in crystal-clear Jackson Lake. Jackson Lake was designated as an International Dark Sky Park in 2020, making it the first Colorado State Park to receive the honor.