Visiting Paint Mines Interpretive Park

Paint Mines Interpretive Park. Source: TCM

There’s some cool geology on display at Paint Mines Interpretive Park, operated by El Paso County on the plains of Colorado, about 35 miles northeast of Colorado Springs. Colored bands of clay, about 55 million years old, are sandwiched between white sandstone layers. Erosion has shaped the landscape into a badlands of hoodoos and spires. The different colors of clay are striking, but many photos on the internet appear to have been aggressively photoshopped to accentuate the effect.

Paint Mines Interpretive Park. Source: TCM
Paint Mines Interpretive Park. Source: TCM

The Calhan Paint Mines Archaeological District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places is within the park’s boundaries. An archaeological survey identified about 60 archaeological sites, including three historic quarry areas, where, in the early twentieth century, the colored clay was mined to be used in pottery factories. Most of the sites, however, are Native American:

At least two areas in the paint mines contain artifacts from the Paleo-Indian period (9500–5800 BCE), such as square-base Eden-style projectile points. At least three sites represent Middle and Late Archaic period (3000 BCE–150 CE) habitation. The majority of the prehistoric artifacts in the paint mines date to the Ceramic period (150–1540 CE), including small corner-notched points, stemmed-style projectile points, and cord-marked ceramics. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the area was occupied by the ancestral Plains Apache. They were pushed out in the 1700s by the Comanche and Ute, who were in turn supplanted by the Arapaho and Cheyenne in the mid-nineteenth century.
Paint Mines Interpretive Park. Source: TCM

Selected References:

Colorado Encyclopedia
Calhan Paint Mines.

Ethridge, Frank G.,
2016 Field Trip Guide to the Geology of Paint Mines Interpretative Park FCDCC – Landscape SIG Outing.

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