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Red Dirt World
55 million years ago (Early Eocene)


Find the clickable hot spots for details and evidence, or follow the links below. (Click to see larger image)

A subtropical rainforest, with Macginitiea trees and lygodium ferns, lines the red banks of a medium-size river. Crocodiles and aquatic plants fill the channel, and a pair of hippolike Coryphodon meander along the shore. Ten million years have passed since the rainforest first formed on the flanks of the Front Range. The world is now in the grip of an intense phase of global warming. There are no polar ice caps, and crocodiles and turtles live above the Arctic Circle.

Formation: Paleosol-Dawson Arkose

Artist: Jan Vriesen

Best Viewing Spots:

  • Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Daniel's Park
  • Rock Park (Castle Rock)
  • Castlewood Canyon State Park

Calhan Paint Mines
Paint Mines Interpretive park offers the best natural exposure of the Denver Basin paleosol. Here you can see brilliantly colored red, purple, yellow, and orange fossil dirt. Native Americans used these colored clays to make paint and pottery.


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