While visiting Colorado, we made a special trip to the Florissant Fossil Beds, which is located approximately 15 miles north of Cripple Creek The fossil beds at Florissant are famous for their large collection of Insect and Plant deposits. Approximately 34 million years ago, during the late Eocene epoch, the area was dominated by an ancient lake surrounded by giant redwoods, conifers, hardwoods, and lush ferns – perfect habitat for a wide variety of arthropods (insects), gastropods (snails), mollusks (clams), and other invertebrates. Included among the fossils found here are ancient species of wasps grasshoppers, spiders, dragonflies, mosquitoes, beetles, and butterflies. Its a great place to take kids who are interested in the biological sciences!
Cyclic deposits of layers of clay and ash from a nearby volcano, and large blooms of single celled diatoms provided an excellent environment for the preservation of fossils. In addition to the museum, there is also a very nice nature trail that winds around some of the large fossilized tree trunks.
One of several massive petrified redwood trunks to be found at the site, some of which are more than 14 feet in diameter.
Love how this young pine tree is growing from the center of a petrified trunk!
Just one of several interactive discovery displays within the museum that highlights some of the arthropod fossils found at the site!.
On our way to Florissant we spent the night at the small ghost town of Cripple Creek, which became a thriving mining town in the 1890's when a cowboy by the name of Bob Womack discovered gold which caused one of Colorado's last major gold rushes! The town of Cripple Creek was supposedly named after a young calf that broke its leg while trying to jump the main ravine running through town.
Several of the old buildings around town are reputed to be haunted by spirits from a time when the town was populated with fortune seeking miners and saloon hall girls just trying to make a living. One of the ghost town's most famous soiled doves, Pearl de Vere, is said to haunt the Old Homestead, a very exclusive brothel, catering only to the most wealthy clientele in town at $250 per night. Pearl died suddenly at the age of 36, and was found by one of her girl's in her bedroom, barely breathing.
Unfortunately Pearl succumbed shortly thereafter. Rumors of a lover's spat fueled the notion that she had committed suicide, but it is just as probable that she died of an accidental overdose of morphine, a common sleeping aid in the good ol days. Her funeral was one of the most lavish in the town's colorful history. The St. Nickolas Hotel that we stayed at, was once a hospital, and was reportedly haunted by the ghost of an old miner and the mischievous spirit of a young boy, who likes to hide cigarettes, and other items.
When driving around Cripple Creek, be prepared to stop for the donkeys which are free to roam the streets around town.
This old ore car, a reminder of the town's rich mining history, is just one of several antiques that are on display.
Inside the beautifully restored 1887 Midland passenger car that serves as a visitor information center.
After the great fire of 1896, which destroyed much of the town, most of the buildings were rebuilt with brick .