Criteria for National Park Designation

The criteria for national park status is very clear and well defined.  Most monuments don’t meet the criteria and in no way is it possible to  “stretch the truth” to earn park status.   Colorado National Monument meets the criteria for being an area of national significance as defined by NPS Criteria for Parkland.

A proposed unit will be considered nationally significant if it meets all four of the following standards:
1.  It is an outstanding example of a particular type of resource:


Geological Processes and FeaturesColorado National Monument preserves one of the grandest geological landscapes of the American West.  The geological features illustrate the dynamics of earth processes, act as a living laboratory of the geological history of the earth at this particular place, and illustrate its effect on the geology of the Colorado Plateau.  Particularly notable are the visible layers of geological history and the distinct monoliths and canyon walls that inspired the establishment of the Monument. 


  • Over long periods of geological time, the area has undergone alternate periods of a cycle that includes fascinating and complex story of drifting continents, climate changes, mountain building, uplift, and downward cutting of erosion.  The story extends for nearly 2 billion years and continues to be written today.


  • The “hanging valleys” are unique in the park, because a block of tough Precambrian rock is elevated above such an easily eroded rock like the Mancos Shale.  Hanging valleys are usually created in mountain glacier terrains but the Monuments originated in an entirely different way.


  • Precambrian basement rocks (1.75 billion years old) are being exposed again as overlaying formations are stripped away. It is this canyon cutting process that has created and is still creating the magnificent canyon scenery of the monument.


  • The sedimentary rocks in Colorado National Monument record the movement of North America from near the Equator (the Chinle Formation) northward through the desert belt (the Wingate, Kayenta, and Entrada) and finally into more temperate zones (Morrison Formation).


Paleontology and FossilsThe collective knowledge of the many years of paleontological surveys has revealed that all sedimentary rock units exposed in the Monument contain fossils, including plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates.


  • As of 2004 – 76 documented Paleontology and Fossils Localities – The types of fossil localities reported in Colorado National Monument include trace and body fossils of plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates.  Findings include well-preserved sauropod bones in fallen blocks of the Burro Canyon Formation.  A lungfish tooth from the Tidwell Member of the Morrison Formation, the only known vertebrate bone from the Kayenta Formation of Colorado, and large numbers of dinosaur tracks from the Wingate Formation. Two bedding plane exposures in the Morrison Formation reveal vertebrate tracks attributed to small ornithopod dinosaurs, a theropod, and  turtles (rare in Morrison Formation, having been, previously reported only from one other tracksite locality in North America.)   **** Latest discovery 7 inch bipedal track found on 9-16-2010, lizard tracks in the Saltwash (more information to come soon) discovered 9-22-2010.

2.  It possesses exceptional value of quality illustrating or interpreting the natural or
cultural themes of our Nation’s heritage.


  • Colorado National Monument’s dramatic landforms and spectacular vistas are but the latest manifestation of our earth’s continuous recycling process of mountain building, erosion, and deposition within a greater geological story of continent building and the evolution of unique and regional landforms.


  • Prehistoric people of the Grand Valley occupied an extensive area, moving seasonally and migrating throughout the region.  Rock art and temporary shelters and archeological sites found in the Monument indicate a continuum of 10,000 years of habitation.  The Northern Ute have a long prehistoric and historic affiliation and cultural ties with Colorado National Monument.  The Monument is located in the heart of their aboriginal territory.


  • Established during the Progressive Era in American history, Colorado National Monument is emblematic of our nation’s first conservation movement, during which concerned citizens like John Otto worked with vision and perseverance to have recognized and preserved for future generations those special lands and values that make up our American heritage. 


  • Rim Rock Drive is inseparable from the identity of the Monument.  The idea of the road along the rim rock was a rallying point for local support that led to the preservation of the area as a national monument.  Constructed during the Great Depression era by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Works Project Administration (WPA), and Local Experienced Men (LEM) it has earned its listing on the National Register of Historic Places.  Rim Rock Drive is the primary platform from which visitors can understand and appreciate the Monument.

3.  It offers superlative opportunities for recreation for public use and enjoyment, or
for scientific study.


  • The Monument provides superlative recreational opportunities for understanding and appreciation through:  scenic driving, cycling, hiking, front-country and backcountry camping, wildlife watching, birding, rock climbing, and photography.  The Monument also offers opportunities for solitude, the experience of dark night skies, and natural sound scapes.


  • The Monument serves as an outdoor classroom, extended classroom, and laboratory for scientific research to more than  15,000 visiting K-12 and university students annually.

4.  It retains a high degree of integrity as a true, accurate, and relatively unspoiled
example of the resource.  


  • The protected lands of Colorado National Monument, adjacent to a large and growing urban population, preserve habitat for biotic communities of the Colorado Plateau and serve as an outdoor laboratory for scientific research and extended classroom to over 15,000 visiting students annually.


  • The mesa top communities of pinyon-juniper, sage flat meadows, and biological soil crusts include relatively unspoiled and pristine islands that serve as a benchmark in comparison to grazed or otherwise disturbed lands outside the Monument.


  • In 1978, 13,842 acres in the Monument were recommended to Congress as wilderness.  The areas include most lands between Rim Rock Drive and the northeast boundary.  Congress has never acted on the recommendation, however, in conformity with the NPS policies, the recommended 13,842 acres proposed wilderness areas are managed in accordance with provisions of the Wilderness Act.


The Colorado National Monument Association (CNMA) is the Monument’s non-profit partner organization. The Association is a strong and dedicated group of local residents . These members are advocates for the Monument and  positive about a national park re-designation.  The CNMA  officially endorsed the proposal to re-designate the national monument as a national park in early 2013.


For comparison of size, there are several existing national parks with acreage similar to ColoradoNational Monument.


Hot Spring National Park, Arkansas   –  5,549 acres

Virgin IslandsNational Park, V.I. – 12,680

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio – 18, 440

Congaree National Park, South Carolina -25,174

Pinnacles National Park, California -26,606

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota – 28,295 acres

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah – 35,835

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico – 46,766 acres

Acadia National Park, Maine 47,497 acres

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky – 52,003

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida – 61,481

TheodoreRooseveltNational Park – 69,550

Arches National Park, Utah  76,679


BlackCanyon of the Gunnison, Colorado   30,750 (in 2006) new lands since added

ColoradoNational Monument present acreage – 20,534


Colorado National Monument will celebrate its 102 year on  May 24, 2013.   It would be a fitting tribute 106 years after John Otto circulated the first Grand Valley petition for a national park,  for our community to speak with one voice and  make it happen.


Welcome to Grand Valley Region Citizens for a National Park