Photo Credit: Wikipedia user Corbyrobert
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Entrance to the park is free according to the wish of Charles Elliott Perkins, whose children donated the land to the city of Colorado Springs in 1909.
It contains numerous trails for hiking, walking, mountain biking and horseback riding. One of the most popular trails, named Perkins, has been paved in an effort to combat the erosion of the park's central garden caused by its numerous visitors. Visitors receive frequent reminders to watch out for rattlesnakes in the hot days of summer.
Because of the unusual and steep rock formations in the park, it is an attractive goal for rock climbers. Rock climbing is permitted, with annual permit obtained at the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center. The only requirements are reading the rules, proper equipment, climbing with a "buddy", and staying on established climbing routes. Due to the often unstable conditions of the sandstoneĂ˘â‚¬â€ťparticularly after much precipitationĂ˘â‚¬â€ťseveral fatalities have occurred over the years. This is a very popular bicycle-riding area because of the scenic views, safe one-way recently-paved roads, and healthy clean air.
The outstanding geologic features of the park are the ancient sedimentary beds of red, blue, purple, and white sandstones, conglomerates and limestone that were deposited horizontally, but have now been tilted vertically and faulted by the immense mountain building forces caused by the uplift of the Pikes Peak massif. Evidence of past ages; ancient seas, eroded remains of ancestral mountain ranges, alluvial fans, sandy beaches and great sand dune fields can be read in the rocks. A spectacular shear fault can be observed where the Tower of Babel (Lyons Sandstone) contacts the Fountain Formation. There are many fossils to be seen: marine forms, plant fossils, and some dinosaur fossils.
The hogbacks, so named because they resemble the backs and spines of a pig, are ridges of sandstone whose layers are tilted. Instead of lying horizontally, some layers are even vertically oriented. Each hogback can range up to several hundred feet long, and the tallest (called North Gateway Rock) rises to a height of 320 feet (98 m) tall. A notable rock feature on this hogback, the Kissing Camels, appears to be two very large camels sitting face to face with their lips touching.
One of the most popular features in the park is a large balancing rock, known locally as Balanced Rock.
On one occasion during the nineteenth century, Dr. George Frederick Kunz, vice-president of and "gem expert" of Tiffany & Co., wrote about a Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“specimen of obsidianĂ˘â‚¬Âť he was shown from the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“A friend recently made a trip through parts of Colorado, and knowing our desire to obtain materials suitable for cutting into gems, he purchased at a pavilion, near the gateway of the Garden of the Gods, a specimen of what the dealer called Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“obsidian.Ă˘â‚¬Âť It was carefully packed and carried thousands of miles, and was handed to us with the ceremony befitting an elegant gift. We received it with much delight, and after removing yards of tissue paper, held it before a lamp light, and saw a transparent mass of about 4x4" of pure bottle green- glass.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center
The Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center is located near the park entrance and offers free nature presentations daily. Natural history exhibits include minerals, geology, plants and local wildlife, as well as Native American culture. Programs include nature hikes, a Junior Ranger program, narrated bus tours, movies and special programs. Proceeds from the center support the Garden of the Gods Park. The visitors center also has space available for meetings and conferences. The center provides useful information for the experienced hiker as well as the armchair tourist.
Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site
Near the entrance to the park is an open air museum, Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, a re-creation of Colorado Springs life covering a number of time periods. The walking tour features a restored ranch house, a one room log cabin, a tipi, demonstrations of smithing and facts about Native American activity in the area, including a small re-creation of a Native American campsite. Rock Ledge Ranch is not part of the park, but is adjacent to it. It is opened only on certain days and charges a modest admissions fee.
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