Eastern Mojave Vegetation
Images -- Geography - Hinsdale County, CO

By Tom Schweich


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Images are organized by the topics listed at left. Click on a topic name to see images with that topic.

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Clear Creek Graben

Clear Creek Graben

Photographed 18 September 2017.

The Clear Creek Graben extends from the valley in the very left middleground, just below Bristol Head, to the linear valley hidden in the right middleground. The Rio Grande River is in the linear valley, which is called Antelope Park.The gently sloped hummocky hill in the left middle ground is glacial till on the downdropped block.

Article records that use this photograph:

  • “Silver Thread Scenic Byway,” Colorado State Highway 149, Colorado: at FR 510.
  • Field Notes: 18 Sep 2017.

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Lake City

Interpretive panel for Lake City Caldera

Photographed 18 September 2017.

A Volcanic History

Twenty million years ago this entire region was geologically active as massive volcanoes changed the face of the landscape.

If you were here 23 million years ago, you would be standing on the northern edge of that is now called the Lake City Caldera. As the magma chamber emptied from this massive volcano it could no longer hold its shape. The volcano collapsed and fell into itself. This formed the landscape we see today. Most of the rocks surrounding the caldera including granite, obsidian, basalt, tuff and pumice are direct evidence of this region's violent volcanic past.

A caldera is a caldron-like feature formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. With the collapse of the Lake City and Silverton calderas, a volcanic soup of minerals was injected into the surrounding rock. This produced a rich intrusion of silver, gold, lead, copper, tellurium, and iron. For millions of years, these deposits remained untouched until discovered by prospectors in the 1860s and 1870s.

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Hazy view of turning aspens

Photographed 18 September 2017.

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Hinsdale County Court House

Photographed 18 September 2017.

Location records that use this photograph:

Article records that use this photograph:

  • “Silver Thread Scenic Byway,” Colorado State Highway 149, Colorado: Lake City.
  • Field Notes: 18 Sep 2017.

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Interpretive panel for Early Holocene Encampment

Photographed 18 September 2017.

Early Holocene Encampment

Nearly 10,000 years ago, archaic hunters and gatherers camped along the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. Here they hunted wild game such as bighorn sheep and elk in these alpine valleys.

At the end of the last Ice Age, Archaic big game hunters skillfully hunted animals such as elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and a now extinct variety of bison (Bison taylori). Archaeological evidence indicates that these hunters camped along the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. Stone tools found in these emcampments include bifaces, drills, scrapers, projectile points, and point fragments.

Near the end of the Ice Age, during a colder and wetter period of time, Archaic hunters lived in small bands. Indications are that they did not stay in any one place very long, but moved often in search of game animals.

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Turning aspens above Lake City

Photographed 18 September 2017.

Location records that use this photograph:

Article records that use this photograph:

  • “Silver Thread Scenic Byway,” Colorado State Highway 149, Colorado: Lake City.
  • Field Notes: 18 Sep 2017.

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Interpretive panel at Alferd Packer massacre site.

Photographed 18 September 2017.

Alferd Packer

You man eating son of a ... There was seven Democrats in Hinsdale County and you ate five of them.” -- Quote attributed to saloon keeper Larry Dolan after Alferd Packer's first trial.

In February 1874, Alferd Packer became lost in a severe snow storm while guiding five men from Salt Lake City to the Los Piños Agency , (south of Gunnison). In mid-April, Packer arrived at the Los Piños Agency -- alone. Upon interrogation, he claimed that as each person died the other men ate the flesh of the dead. Packer said he killed only one person, but only in self-defense. That summer, five bodies were discovered at this site. Each person's head had been crushed. Alferd Packer was arrested and accused of murder and cannabalism. Before his trial, however, he fled Colorado.

Nine years later, Packer was captured in Wyoming and was returned to Colorado. He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to prison for forty years. After serving fifteen years he was paroled in 1901. Until his death in 1907, Packer maintained his innocence in one of the most notorious events in Colorado's history.

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Plaque at Alferd Packer massacre site.

Photographed 18 September 2017.

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Lake San Cristobal

Upper end of Lake San Cristobal

Photographed 18 September 2017.

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Lower end of Lake San Cristobal

Photographed 18 September 2017.

The houses in the right middleground are built on the toe of the Smulgullion Earthflow.

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North Clear Creek Falls

North Clear Creek Falls

Photographed 18 September 2017.

Location records that use this photograph:

Article records that use this photograph:

  • “Silver Thread Scenic Byway,” Colorado State Highway 149, Colorado: at FR 510.
  • Field Notes: 18 Sep 2017.

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View southwest from North Clear Creek Falls

Photographed 18 September 2017.

The promontory on the left is Bristol Head. The valley in the center is formed by the northeast boundary fault of the Clear Creek Graben. The low hill in the right middle ground is composed of glacial till on the downdropped block of the Clear Creek Graben. The southwest boundary fault of the Clear Creek Graben is out of view to the right.

Location records that use this photograph:

Article records that use this photograph:

  • “Silver Thread Scenic Byway,” Colorado State Highway 149, Colorado: at FR 510.
  • Field Notes: 18 Sep 2017.

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Rio Grande River

The Rio Grande River exits from the San Juan Mountains

Photographed 18 September 2017.

Location records that use this photograph:

Article records that use this photograph:

  • “Silver Thread Scenic Byway,” Colorado State Highway 149, Colorado: at CR 18.
  • Field Notes: 18 Sep 2017.

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Slumgullion Earthflow

Slumgullion Earthflow from Lake San Cristobal Overlook

Photographed 18 September 2017.

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Interpretive panel at Windy Point Overlook

Photographed 18 September 2017.

I Felt the Earth Move

A massive portion of Mesa Seco gave way about 850 Years ago. This resulted in the Slumgullion Earthflow, one of the most visible examples of “mass wasting” in the United States.

About 850 years ago, thousands of tons of water-saturated, earthen material broke away from Mesa Seco and slid nearly four miles into the valley below. The Slumgullion Earthflow dammed the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River and formed Lake San Cristobal -- the second largest natural lake in Colorado.

About 350 years ago, another portion of Mesa Seco began to slowly ooze down the hillside. Riding above the older slide, this flow covered about 2.5 miles of the older flow. Geologists estimate that it is still moving downhill approximately twenty feet per year.

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Interpretive panel for Slumgullion Earthflow

Photographed 18 September 2017.

Slumgullion Earthflow

The Slumgullion Earthflow was listed on the Natural Registry of Natural Landmarks in 1965 and designated a Colorado Natural Area in 1983.

Imagine what it must have looked like as a massive block of rock, dirt, and forest broke away from Mesa Seco and an enormous earthflow oozed into the valley below. About 850 years ago, during a very wet period of time, a series of slow-moving landslides occurred. the largest landslide dropped over 3,000 feet in elevation and extended downhill more than four miles. What is now called the Slumgullion Earth flow altered the landscape on over 1,000 acres and created Lake San Cristobal.

The story, however, is not over. About 350 years ago, the most recent earthflow began to descend. This flow covered half of the older flows and is still active today. Geologists estimate that in places it is still moving downhill about twenty feet per year.

Slumgullion is a mining word used to describe the muddy clay left in the bottom of a sluice box. However, miners often cooked a hearty and colorful stew that resembles the color of the Slumgullion Earthflow.

Slumgullion Stew


1½ lb. stew meat
1 sliced onion
1 bunch carrots
3 red potatoes
1 bell pepper
1 can black-eyed peas
4-6 cups water
Add leftover cabbage, corn, green beans, etc.
Add salt, pepper, and thyme to taste.
Thicken broth with flour.
Add ½ cup of macaroni in the last ½ hour of cooking.

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Head scarp of the Smulgullion Earthflow

Photographed 18 September 2017.

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View of Slumgullion from the official viewpoint

Photographed 18 September 2017.

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Slumgullion Pass

Meadow below Windy Point Overlook

Photographed 18 September 2017.

Article records that use this photograph:

  • “Silver Thread Scenic Byway,” Colorado State Highway 149, Colorado: at meadow.
  • Field Notes: 18 Sep 2017.

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Slumgullion Summit

Slumgullion Summit

Photographed 18 September 2017.

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Beetle-killed trees on Slumgullion Summit

Photographed 18 September 2017.

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Spring Creek Pass

Spring Creek Pass, Continental Divide, 10,898 ft.

Photographed 18 September 2017.

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Uncompahgre Peak

Uncompahgre Peak in the San Juan Mountains

Photographed 18 September 2017.

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Date and time this article was prepared: 8/11/2018 2:29:17 PM