A ‘Rock Clock’ In Monument Valley Park Tells The Geological History Of Our Region. Here’s How You Can Find It

June 10, 2021
The Monument Valley Park Geologic Column is located just south and west of Fontanero St near the North End Playground.The Monument Valley Park Geologic Column is located just south and west of Fontanero St near the North End Playground.Matt Cavanaugh
The Monument Valley Park Geologic Column is located just south and west of Fontanero St near the North End Playground.

The following is part of KRCC's 'Peak Past' essay series.

I’m no geologist but I can’t help myself when I come across a pretty piece of pearly white quartz or a silver-flecked hunk of granite. I scoop ‘em up without hesitation. I end up carrying home piles of rocks. 

Rocks rock. It’s a fact. It’s science. Did you know we’ve got a billion-year-old clock here in Colorado Springs, and it’s made of rock?

Donated to the City of Colorado Springs in 1907, the geologic column was commissioned by General William Jackson Palmer.

It’s called the Monument Valley Park Geologic Column. To see it, head down to Monument Valley Park, across from the North End Playground, where Fontanero Street intersects with the park. 

It’s actually an outdoor geology lesson… a series of layers of different types of rock. These can happen naturally, like the stony layers in the Grand Canyon.

Or they can be built by people.

Ours was built in 1907, and looks a like a giant, sliced-open layer cake—if the cake had ten flavors and each flavor was instead several tons of rock.

As with a lot of things around the Pikes Peak region, the column has its origins with Colorado Springs’ founder William Jackson Palmer. He hired Edmond van Diest to oversee Monument Valley Park’s construction, and van Diest brought on Colorado College geology professor George Finley to create the outdoor geology lesson.

The first layer is Pikes Peak Granite. It’s over a billion years old. At that time there were no plants or animals, the Earth’s land was one enormous supercontinent known as Rodinia, and the planet spun so fast the days were only 18 hours long.

The fifth layer is Lyons Sandstone. It’s 275 million years old, and is the same rock that makes up the spines and spires of the Garden of the Gods. 

This is our deep history, our deepest history, and it is awesome to think about.

Until our next mountainside chat — be good, be well, and no matter what, climb on.

Peak Past with 2 logos Pueblo Recycleworks and Gold Hill Mesa

Peak Past (formerly Peak Perspectives) is a weekly segment written and voiced by Matt Cavanaugh, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and a resident of Manitou Springs where he lives with his wife and two young children. Through his writing, Cavanuagh explores life in the Pikes Peak region, including the gradients and subtleties of our lives in the shadow of America's Mountain. 

You can find more work by Cavanaugh here.

KRCC's Abigail Beckman manages the "Peak Past" series. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of KRCC or Colorado Public Radio.

Peak Past is sponsored by Pueblo Recycle Works and Gold Hill Mesa.

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