Adventure · Driver Stories · Travel · Uncategorized

The Last Stretch of Gold Camp Road Isn’t Boring

Coming north along Lower Gold Camp Road from Helen Hunt Falls, there are lots of thrilling vistas to see. Eventually, however, you get back to paved road and then cross over Bear Creek Road at the northern end of High Drive. From there it’s only a short way over to 26th Street. The views may not be so great along this brief segment of Gold Camp, but the geology – if you’re into that sort of thing – is fascinating.

First, just a few yards past Bear Creek, is the overflow parking lot for Seven Bridges hiking trail. Here, nuggets of Pikes Peak granite are piled up just across the road. Given its pink microcline feldspar, its large crystals, and its various mineral inclusions, this rock is unique to the region – and therefore, because you can also get it so cheaply, it would make the perfect souvenir of your visit for yourself or a relative.

Next, just past the trail head for Seven Bridges, you’ll see a ravine on the left where, if you look carefully, you can see that rocks of granite mingle with rocks of sandstone. At this point you’re passing over the tail end of the Ute Pass Fault, one of the major factors in our local terrain. This dramatic change in geology becomes apparent a few yards farther on, where you pass through an impressive hogback of Dakota Sandstone from the Late Cretaceous, so within a hundred yards you’ve jumped from 1.1 billion-year-old granite to 100 million-year-old sandstone.

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Finally, almost to 26th street, at Pullout # 1 of Lower Gold Camp you can see an impressive wall of sand and limestone a few feet to the west. If the light is right (best in the morning), you can see the ripples of an ancient seafloor at the southern edge of this wall, plus another small patch of ripples about ten feet to the north. This is the beginning of the Western Interior Waterway which covered the area in the Late Cretaceous. It was the shallow ocean of this period that created those ripples in the sand. Near the ripples are also raised tracks that look like those made by sea-worms. A few more feet to the north of the ripples you can see (but only if you get out and walk up close to the wall) the embedded fossil of an ammonite. It’s pretty much worn away now, but you can still make out the spiraling chambers of the shell, which are like those of its modern relative, the nautilus. Finally, to the right of the ammonite fossil are layers of whiter limestone which were deposited here during times of deeper water at the end of the dinosaur age.

-Whipper

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