Colorado National Monument Association

Spring 2023 Newsletter

Dear CNMA Members,

Spring is my favorite time in the desert and it’s nearly here! We’re gearing up for another busy season at the monument. CNMA is all stocked up with merchandise- perhaps too stocked up! Glimpse CNMA staff members here in our “office” which looks a bit more like a storage closet lately. We’re looking for storage solutions currently and coming up with more creative meeting locations.

CNMA staff members got back recently from the Public Lands Alliance (PLA) conference in Portland. We met with amazing, like-minded, public-lands-supporting colleagues from around the country. We’re excited to use the energy and knowledge we derived from the conference to support our monument in bigger and better ways.

We couldn’t do it without our community. Thanks to all of our members, donors and foundations for all you make possible for CNMA and the monument. Thanks to the Grand Junction Rotary Club for honoring us as beneficiaries of the Grand Junction BANFF Film Festival in February. We always have fun at this event and look forward to putting these funds towards monument priority projects - maybe it will be funding school bus transportation to bring kids on ranger-led field trips or perhaps housing solutions for National Park Service (NPS) seasonals.

The NPS staff is so thankful to all of you who responded to my email asking for potential housing in the Grand Valley. Currently they are still trying to fill seasonal vacancies and have our fingers crossed to have a full staff in housing by the time the season begins in April/ May.

CNMA has been capitalizing on slower months in the visitor center by working on projects and planning. Our website that was funded by the Western Colorado Community Foundation and the Dave and Mary Wood Fund is a couple weeks away from being launched! We're so thrilled with the results and can't wait to show all of you.

We are also about to embark on a two-day strategic planning session. I’m a planner and a goal-setter naturally and I really look forward to dreaming and scheming with National Park Service staff, CNMA staff and board members.

Even though it’s the slow time in the visitor center, we have had a great start to the new year with a record-setting January and February for bookstore sales. This means more support to our beloved monument. We’ve added new products from “bum bags” to new apparel and hats, so come check them out.

Speaking of CNMA items to check out, I hope everyone considers joining us for some Walks and Talks. Karen has worked hard to gather a wide array of presenters and topics. What are you most excited for? I can’t wait to be a part of Devan Penniman’s printmaking class in the monument especially as we draw inspiration from nature to create some art!

Hope to see you all very soon, whether on a Walk and Talk, at the visitor center or out on the trail. Happy spring, everyone!

With gratitude,

Johanna van Waveren

CNMA Co-Executive Director

Spring Renewal

by Kaitlyn Thomas

Chief of Interpretation and Education

“This is the most beautiful place on earth. There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary.” Edward Abbey, the complicated author of several books on public lands, wrote this introduction to Canyon Country in his 1968 novel, Desert Solitaire. Of the many such places he mentions, the striking beauty of Colorado National Monument is quickly becoming my ideal place.

I’m Kaitlyn (Kait) Thomas, and I recently started as the Chief of Interpretation and Education at Colorado National Monument. I’m stepping in behind Arlene Jackson, who left large ranger boots to fill and an excellent foundation to build upon. I want to thank her for all the resources she gave me as I began this position. I’m grateful, too, for the amazing staff I now work with and the many divisions and partners who care for this park.

I am so excited to get to know the staff of CNMA as we work together to preserve the monument and inspire the next generation of environmental stewards, CNMA members, and philanthropists. It’s nice to meet you!

My first season with the National Park Service was in 2008, right down the road at Arches National Park. I fell in love with the red rocks and wide-open spaces. I marveled at the science, soaked up the history, and reveled in providing educational programs to the public. After working at Arches and Canyonlands for seven years, I departed on a cross-country journey to several other parks, including the ranch at Pipe Spring National Monument, the urban jungle of National Mall and Memorial Parks, the peaceful halls of Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, the depths of Grand Canyon, and back the desert Southeast Utah Group of parks before coming to Colorado National Monument.

When I first started my detail, just before Christmas, I arrived to a snow-covered Rim Rock Drive and a marshmallow-fluff-coated Independence Monument. The world was quiet and calm, as if taking a rest in anticipation of a busy Spring. Now, as days shift between winter storms and sunshine with gentle breezes, I am hopeful for a wonderful new beginning—a renewal of our mission and our purpose.

The monument and its people have wowed me since day one. The staff at CNMA have given me a warm welcome, and I can’t imagine a better, more passionate crew at the helm of this ship. This team cares about the monument, and they care about each other. Working with Johanna, John, Sharon, Nancy, Karen, Crystal, Camille, (and more!) has been fantastic. Whether running the association operations, staffing the visitor center desk, approving new merchandise, managing grant funds, developing Walks and Talks, funding junior ranger supplies, or planning for the future of fundraising, this crew is making magic happen. The NPS is so fortunate for our partnership.

Leave No Trace

So what exactly does that mean? 

In general, the idea of Leave No Trace is to sustain the environment for generations to come. We can do this by being aware of how we're interacting with the environment and making conscious decisions that serve to lessen our impact on nature.

Interested in learning more about becoming a steward of the outdoors?

Check out our spring walk and talks schedule and join us for a May hike to take a deeper dive into the seven principles.

Check out the seven principles on the link below

for more in depth information. 

Leave No Trace

Social Trails Update – March 2023

Ben Landolt

Scientists-in-Parks Natural Resources Assistant

Colorado National Monument, NPS

Greetings, all! While I can scarcely believe that my year up here in the Monument is already reaching its finale, I am comforted by the fact that my work will live on (more on that in a moment) as I prepare to leave for pastures new. First, I’d like to extend my most heartfelt gratitude to CNMA, for it was their generous funding which allowed my position to last for a full 52-week term. Accomplishing what I’ve done in a shorter span of time (3 months, as was originally planned) would have been significantly more difficult, if not impossible, and CNMA’s contribution ensured that the end products of this study are as thorough and valuable to COLM staff as they possibly could be. My time here has been an absolute pleasure, and I thank each and every one of you who made this experience possible. The love that you all share for this park is plain to see, and I will be forever grateful that I could join this community for the past year. 

Now, back to the trails! A quick recap of some statistics from the study: 

  • Well over 400 informal trails were documented (see provided overview map for more context)
  • Cumulative length of 62 miles (that’s almost 1.5 times the Monument’s 44 miles of formal trails!)
  • ~42 miles of informal trails fall within the park’s areas of recommended wilderness

Although the presence of social trails at COLM has been known for many years, the true scope of this issue has proven to be elusive without a scientifically rigorous ground-based inventory effort. Now that such an inventory has been completed, it will become a crucial component of an upcoming multi-year effort to update the park’s management plans for trails, rock climbing, archaeological site monitoring, and wilderness. This project has been my “baby” since I arrived a year ago, and it’s awesome to see that it will continue to be meaningful to the park for the foreseeable future. Like any other park, COLM is capable of being “loved to death,” so it is my hope that a continued healthy collaboration between all who hold the park near and dear may promote sustainable recreation and use in the present to allow for even more use and enjoyment in the future. 

NPS News

by Nicholas Scarborough

Hello everyone, I’m Nicholas, the new-ish permanent education ranger for the Monument! I worked here seasonally with Samantha Heinritz the past two years. While she cannot be replaced, I am in fact replacing her. As a CNMA member myself, I wanted to share some of what goes on in my world as an educator for the National Park Service and how CNMA has shaped and continues to shape my work. I also hope we get to know each other better, now that I’ll be here year-round!

This spring, I will be leading education programs in the Monument and in classrooms nearby with the help of volunteers. Four Volunteers-In-Parks (a few of which are CNMA members) and a handful of staff from EUREKA! McConnell Science Museum’s Environmental Institute will be assisting me with leading groups of learners on field trips. I truly appreciate all of them because I’m currently the only education staff at the Monument. They’re not only helpful, they’re also just incredibly kind, intelligent, and talented people. I’m grateful that this has been true of everyone I’ve met through CNMA.

The outdoor learning experiences that volunteers and I facilitate in the Monument *could* be done without extra funding. However, they could only be accessed by those families, classrooms, and schools that can afford the time and transportation to come to the Monument. In my experience, financial expense per learner is one of the main factors affecting how educators choose to take field trips outside their classrooms. The decision often comes down to group size per field trip, and yet a large group size often leads to ineffective learning experiences and resource degradation, especially in sensitive high desert ecosystems. 

A single bus ride to Saddlehorn Visitor Center and back to Grand Junction costs around $150, and usually that amount gets charged to learners and their families. For the fall 2022 semester, we were able to distribute $2,473.57 to Mesa County School District schools and classrooms that requested transportation assistance for visiting the Monument for educational field trips. In fall 2019, the last “normal” semester, a similar amount was distributed: $2,317.18. Having a partner like CNMA to manage bus funding, supplied by the National Park Foundation, has significantly contributed to providing more equitable education programs to the Grand Valley. 

In addition to facilitating in-person and virtual learning experiences, I also work on some of the digital media for the Monument, including social media, our park website, and video production. Navigate to Videos on the COLM website through Learn About the Park > Photos & Multimedia, and you’ll see me in a handful of them. In the last two years, I’ve produced seventeen videos for the Monument, including Audio Described accessible versions for people who are blind or have low vision. For January’s Mental Wellness Month, I produced a two-minute video about winter in the Monument and how this time can be used for connecting more closely to each other and with this place. The equipment I used to film these videos was purchased by CNMA through one of our grants, and I used Mesa County Libraries’ 970West Studio to record narration for several videos. I’m grateful for the variety of incredible resources that we have available in the Grand Valley.

Local partnerships with organizations like EUREKA! and Riverside Educational Center have provided some of the most enjoyable and rewarding collaborations I’ve experienced in my career. These partnerships were made possible with grant and special project funds that CNMA has managed for us. Having a non-profit partner like CNMA to facilitate spending for educational programs is the new norm for the park service. Many educational programs rely on external funding sources. CNMA staff, especially Sharon Dixon since she joined a year ago, have been instrumental in being the fiscal manager of these accounts.

The importance of CNMA and similar non-profit partners cannot be understated. For national parks, I’ve worked at Great Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountain, and Great Sand Dunes, and all their education programs relied on their non-profit partners to facilitate moneys that paid for supplies, transportation, and oftentimes education staff. At the Smokies, my position was funded by Great Smoky Mountains Association. At Rocky, my position was funded by Rocky Mountain Conservancy. As a seasonal at the Dunes and at the Monument for the past two years, my positions were funded by special project funds. Only now that I’m in a permanent position is my job funded with park base funds. My career, and many others like mine, began and developed thanks to park partners like CNMA.

I am grateful to be here at Colorado National Monument. I work with an amazing group of people consisting of staff, volunteers, and partners. Having the CNMA office directly across the hall from mine is so fun, because everyone who works for CNMA is an amazing person. You, the CNMA members, make possible so much of what I love about my job. I hope reading this has provided some insight into how important you are and the kinds of differences you’re making in my life, in this valley, and in our public lands. I look forward to meeting more of you soon!

Winter on the monument video

CNMA Staff Spotlight -

Join us in welcoming Crystal Tyndall

Crystal is our Membership and Outreach Coordinator at CNMA. She has previously held many positions related to public lands, Youth Conservation Crew Leader, Volunteer Trail Crew Leader, Visitor Service Assistant at White Sands NP, Recreation Aid at Sandia Ranger District, NM. Most recently she has worked within the outdoor industry in roles focused on customer service, marketing, and outreach helping to grow relationships, increase capacities, and streamline processes.  

With the Colorado National Monument just outside her front door, she's thrilled to contribute her skills and experience to the Membership and Outreach Coordinator position. She moved to Grand Junction in 2019 and is happy to be part of the Grand Valley community. In her spare time, she likes to hike, crochet, and spend time at the ceramics studio. Her favorite hike in the monument is Echo Canyon.

Spring is in the Air

Spring is a beautiful time to enjoy many of the hikes in the park. White snow blankets the red stone rocks, creating beautiful photo opportunities and serene views of the landscape. One of my favorite winter hikes is the Monument Canyon Trail starting at the lower trailhead ending at Independence Monument. This is a gentle 2.5 mile hike up

(5 miles round trip) through the sandstone canyon. As you continue up the canyon the scent of juniper, sagebrush and pinyon pines fill the air. Wildlife is abundant in the canyon with bighorn sheep families watching you from the cliffs above and from the canyon below. 

At 1.8 miles, you'll have your first full view of Independence Monument. Standing 450 feet above the canyon floor, it's the highest free standing rock formation in the park. At roughly 2.4 miles hikers will reach the base of Independence Monument. Also located here is the junction with the Wedding Canyon Trail, which makes up part of the loop hike. You'll also have some excellent views of the Kissing Couple rock formation towards the south. 

Independence Monument received its name from John Otto, the first man to begin exploring the canyon area in 1906. After pounding iron pipes and carving out footsteps into solid rock for several weeks, Otto became the first person to stand atop the monolith on June 8, 1911. On the Fourth of July of that same year, Otto placed the American flag at the top of Independence Monument, thus starting a tradition that continues to this day. 

Otto tried to settle down. On June 20, 1911, at the base of Independence Monument, he married an artist by the name of Beatrice Farnham. Only a few weeks after the wedding, however, she left him and never returned. Sometime afterwards she was quoted as saying, "I tried hard to live his way, but I could not do it, I could not live with a man to whom even a cabin was an encumbrance."

It's not entirely clear as to whether Independence Monument received its name as a result of Otto placing a flag atop of it on the Fourth of July, or because his bride left him there. I guess we'll never know!

If you only have a few hours to spend in the park, hiking the Monument Canyon Trail is one of the the best ways to see it.

Karen Mahoney 

CNMA Program Coordinator

Spring Walks and Talks

We have quite a bit planned for our upcoming spring program, the events newsletter went out last week, so be sure to check your email!

Space is limited on all events, please only reserve a spot if you can attend. Thank you!

Last call for artists and photographers for the 2024 calendars!

Links below to submit your monument art or photos

Photo Submission form
Art Submission form

Desert Bighorn Sheep in the Grand Valley 

by Camille Jestrovich

CNMA Bookstore Sales Associate

photos taken by Carla DeKalb

Bighorn sheep originally crossed to North America over the Bering land bridge. According to accounts of European explorers in the late 1600s, there were estimated to be more than two million desert bighorn sheep in North America. Bighorns were an important part of life for Native Americans who relied on them for necessities like clothing and food. Today we can gather clues of the significant and once abundant bighorn sheep population through their representation in archeological remains across the Western United States.

By the late 1800s many areas saw the bighorn sheep vanish or decline significantly. In large part, the obliteration of herds could be linked to the import of domestic sheep that carried diseases such as scabies, anthrax, and bacterial pneumonia from Europe. Bighorns were also killed by early settlers, trophy hunters, and explorers for their horns and meat. 

Two hundred years ago, bighorn sheep were prevalent throughout the Western United States, Northern Mexico and Canada. The population was estimated to be 150,000 to 200,000. There is no proof that desert bighorn sheep were present in Colorado. Nevertheless, archeological evidence, including petroglyphs and pictographs, the closeness of the Utah bighorn sheep populations, and the suitable environment suggest that desert bighorns lived in the Grand Valley area.

Desert bighorn were established in Colorado National Monument (CNM) and Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness Area (BRCWA) from the Lake Mead region by three introductions. Twelve sheep were brought from the Nevada side of Lake Mead to Devil’s Canyon in BRCWA, in November 1979. In June 1980, the second introduction of sixteen sheep from the Arizona side of Lake Mead were transferred to Monument Canyon in CNM. The third introduction, in November 1981, delivered another nine sheep to Devil’s Canyon from east of Lake Mead in the Black Mountains. The last release in 1995 released twenty-two sheep from the Muddy Mountains in Nevada into Knowles Canyon.

These four introductions served as the original gene pool of the Black Ridge Desert Bighorn Herd. These independent herds reside in Fruita Canyon, Wedding Canyon, and Rim Rock Drive in CNM and various areas in BRCWA. A head count taken in 2009 and 2010 documented roughly fifty sheep in CNM and a total of two hundred sheep in the entire Black Ridge Desert Bighorn Herd.

Separation between bighorn and domestic sheep is still an important part of the solution to long-term protection and restoration of the species. Colorado National Monument and the surrounding conservation areas continue to protect endemic animals like the bighorn sheep by restricting grazing and pet access on rich natural habitat. Present and future preservation of wilderness areas and undeveloped regions are also critical to the bighorn’s survival.

Bighorns are sensitive to the disturbance of humans and their canine friends. 

In Colorado National Monument, the bighorns alongside the road, and sometimes in it, are habituated to seeing us, our cars, and bicycles in high-use areas. But we, as hikers, are often exploring in low use areas and our presence is unexpected by the sheep. In CNM, no dogs are allowed on the trails. The main reason for these restrictions is that the sheep don’t differentiate domesticated dogs from wild predators and this causes them stress. This stress can provoke bighorns to leave a location they have chosen to inhabit. During and shortly after lambing season this can be particularly damaging. In the intense heat of the day, the sheep can be frightened, flee, exert themselves, and in doing so, become very thirsty. For a lactating ewe this is dangerous as they need to be near water and it can be deadly to her lamb. 

Genevieve Fuller, Wildlife Biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife says, “We see very little mortality of sheep due to vehicle accidents on the Colorado National Monument considering how often they are on the road. Because the sheep are so unafraid of people, it sometimes gives people the false impression that the sheep are not bothered by their approach or attempts to interact with them. Even when they are not bothered by us being close by on roads and trails, does not mean we should disturb them.” Bighorn sheep residing outside the CNM are likely less habituated to humans and should be given additional space.

The monitoring of desert bighorn herd populations is essential for management.

Around 150-200 bighorns have been observed and monitored for population estimates, mortality data, movement mapping, and habitat selection in Colorado National Monument and McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. Coordinated ground surveys and helicopter surveys are performed in an effort to inventory the population. It is extremely challenging to get an accurate count due to the vastness of the area and the minimal numbers of bighorns. Coordinated ground surveys are conducted yearly in the spring, usually around the first week in April or first week in May and helicopter surveys are done every three to five years. Volunteers are most welcome, especially those who are comfortable going on long day hikes and have good navigation skills and sheep spotting skills.

Colorado National Monument is a sanctuary for wildlife; a location where desert bighorn sheep can continue to live and flourish. Please respect the space the sheep need to feel safe and unstressed and experience the joy of observing these true survivors.

Join us for our bighorn sheep hikes in April as part of our spring walks and talks series.

Coming in the summer newsletter: Part II: Fascinating Facts About Desert Bighorn Sheep!

Thank you to Genevieve Fuller, Wildlife Biologist at Colorado Parks and Wildlife for graciously answering my many questions!

Other information gathered from the following sources:

  • Bighorn Sheep Facts -
  • Herd Management Plan. https//
  • https//: www. Desert Bighorn Sheep
  • [email protected] – Professor Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of Colorado – column in Boulder Camera
  • YouTube lecture series Genevieve Fuller Wildlife Biologist
  • Desert Bighorn Sheep – Wilderness Icon by Mark C. Jorgensen
  • The Desert Bighorn: Its Life History, Ecology, and Management Book by Gale Monson and Rex W. Allen

Visitor Center Store

CNMA memberships and Colorado National Monument park passes are great gifts that keep on giving! Click on the links below for more information.

CNMA Membership
Colorado National Monument Passes

Visitor center hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Campground Hours:

Loop A is open year round. Reservations can be made for A and B loops from mid-March through October on

When you visit Colorado National Monument please drive carefully. The road conditions can change dramatically due to elevation changes and in areas where the road is shaded all day.

For updates on storm or temporary closures call the park hotline at (970) 858-3617 ext 350. At times, Rim Rock Drive may close due to rock slides, snow, or other events. The park hotline is the best way to get the most current updates.

Photo Credit - David Smith - Terra Tower at Sunrise

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