Monument high on one key list of lesser-known sites

Colorado National Monument gets too little respect, National Geographic says.

The monument is listed fourth among the nation’s most underappreciated national parks in the National Geographic book “The 10 Best of Everything — National Parks.”

That makes Colorado National Monument a hidden gem, and it underscores the need to change its name, said Barbara Bowman, division director of the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau.

It’s long frustrated tourism officials that the name of the monument falls short of conjuring up the scenic beauty of the 22,000-acre monument and its 23-mile Rim Rock Drive along the edge of hanging canyons with views of wind-smoothed escarpments and towering spires.

“Any of the front desks of the hotels in town would tell the same thing,” Bowman said. “People think it’s a plaque.”

National Geographic begs to differ — and inform.

“Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon deserve the appreciation they receive, but the National Park System includes nearly 400 units, scores of lesser-known sites that well reward a visit — and that are far less crowded than big-name parks. From vast wilderness to varied history, from swamp to desert, these places should be more famous.”

Tops on the list of Rodney Dangerfield doppelgangers — among national parks, they get no respect — is Great Basin National Park in Nevada, then Buffalo National River in Arkansas, then Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida.

National Geographic notes that among the Southwest’s canyons, buttes, spires and other sandstone formations, “Colorado National Monument offers a splendid array of eroded cliffs and pinnacles in an accessible and easily toured location, without the crowds and long-distance drives associated with more famous sites in the region.”

The book also touts the fact that much of the park can seen from Rim Rock Drive, a short drive from Interstate 70, as well as the many foot trails.

“Trails here range from the short, easy Window Rock Trail to more strenuous hikes such as the route into Monument Canyon, which passes major rock sculptures including Independence Monument (a 450-foot-high sandstone monolith), Kissing Couple, and the Coke Ovens.”

For Bowman, “least appreciated” amounts to promotional gold.

She planned to alert tourism contacts around the world about the recognition of the monument’s scenic beauty.

“I think it’s wonderful being in National Geographic,” Bowman said.


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