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Celebrating A Century Of Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is counting down to its 100th birthday with a year-long celebration that kicks off Wednesday.

The popular park, one of Colorado's most iconic destinations, was created by legislation signed by President Woodrow Wilson on Jan. 26, 1915, and was officially dedicated later that year on Sept. 4. It was set aside, in part, to protect the miles of fragile alpine tundra that make up a third of the park, according to spokeswoman Kyle Patterson.

“Rocky was the eleventh national park that was established,” Patterson said. “When you think about the history of this park, and the foresight that the people who set this wonderful place aside had a hundred years ago, they were already thinking about the impacts that could happen.”

The park has had to adapt over the years to the rising number of visitors, while at the same time balancing the mission to conserve and protect fragile ecosystems. In the 1920s and 1930s, engineers completed two significant milestones for the park, Bear Lake and Trail Ridge roads.

Nature has also had a hand in shaping the park.

“We have certainly have seen, over the last ten years, some extreme weather events,” Patterson said, referring to the devastating flooding in Sept. 2013. “The year before in 2012, we had the driest November on record, and we had a significant fire burning on the east side of the park. So we certainly have seen events that have changed the landscape.”

Although visitor numbers dipped in late 2013 due to the floods and a government shutdown that forced national parks across the U.S. to close for several weeks, visitation has rebounded this year.

About 3 million people visit the park annually – and Patterson hopes many of those people will return to help celebrate the park’s next century. That’s why, instead of one day or week of events, the celebration will stretch over a full year.

“You only turn 100 once every hundred years, so… we really thought we needed to make the most of this,” said Patterson.

The commemoration officially kicks off Sept. 3 with a ceremony on the east side of the park, and one on the west side in Grand Lake the following day.

Find a complete list of events here.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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