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Photography of the Purgatoire River Drainage in Southeastern Colorado

by Wendy Shattil & Bob Rozinski

View "The Piņon Canyon" Slide Show

These are recently photographed subjects found in Southeast Colorado's shortgrass prairie and dramatic canyons. A portion of the regions covered are included in the U.S. Army's proposed expansion of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site. This corner of Colorado is located at the junction of north/south and east/west boundaries of major ecological regions - - prairie, desert, mountain and plains, resulting in a biologically rich and unique assortment of species found at the extreme edges of their known ranges.

Grasslands, deep canyons and mesas provide habitat for pronghorn, prairie dogs, mountain plover, lark bunting and long-billed curlew. Along with deer, elk, bear, golden eagles, ferruginous hawks and numerous passerine birds, a broad range of reptiles and snakes are also present. A number of these species have rarely been documented in this region.

Much of Southeastern Colorado area is vast, rugged and difficult to access. Our use of aerial photography greatly enhances the overall understanding of the proposed Piņon Canyon expansion area. The complex geology of the canyons and their relationship to the surrounding areas is best portrayed from the air. In some instances we have been able to have both ground and aerial views of a given feature. Most of our aerials were made possible by LightHawk.

The Purgatoire River is rich in paleontology, including an apatosaurus dinosaur being excavated by the U.S. Forest Service and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science along with numerous other fossils. Our aerial photography dramatically illustrates the over 1200 tracks left by dinosaurs at one site. This is one of the largest track sites in the world and it also illustrates social behavior among brontosaurus dinosaurs.

This region was used extensively by Native Americans and the legacy left by their occupation remains as rock art, dwellings and artifacts. The Santa Fe Trail plus the routes of early explorers such as Stephen Long and Zebulon Pike meander along the Purgatoire River, making the area rich in cultural history. More recent use is found in the remains of homesteads from the late 1800's and early 1900's, historic stagecoach stops, missions and cemeteries. Many settlers were forced from their homes during dust bowl era of the 1930's.

This is a continuing photographic effort which is greatly aided by numerous contacts with local landowners and scientists working in this spectacular part of the region. Southeastern Colorado is at risk of a major economic and cultural change affecting most of the rural population.

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Denver, CO    80237
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