Colorado’s Famous Valley

A topographic map of Colorado shows several high mountain valleys. Three of them are called “parks”, from the French trappers’ appellation “parques”, because of the plenitude of huntable animals reminiscent of their homeland parks stocked with game. They are aptly named North, Middle, and South Parks. South of South Park, a fourth bears the name San Luis Valley, after Colorado’s oldest continuously occupied town, San Luis, founded in 1851.

Visualize a wide-open basin at about 7600 feet elevation, ringed by mountain ranges along each horizon, dominated by the isolated Mount Blanca Massif (with three fourteeners, of which Mount Blanca is the tallest, and the fourth highest of Colorado’s 53 peaks that exceed 14,000 feet), and baldachined with a sky that redefines the meaning of immense. The sheer size of the San Luis Valley (8000 square miles) as well as the seeming endlessness of the firmament put our apparently important everyday concerns into perspective and invite one’s gaze and mind to wander.

Mount Blanca Massif seen from Smith Reservoir which was still frozen not so long ago

First signs of spring are visible

Used for centuries by American Indians, settled first by Mexicans who became US citizens after the US-Mexican War (1846-1848), the expanse also beckoned European Americans. Some succeeded in making a living, many did not. Abandoned homesteads are reminders of the exigencies of life in a high desert.

Home to breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, it is also one of our state’s agricultural regions, specializing in barley, potatoes, and head lettuce. Much of the land is used for grazing livestock, and short are the intervals of time when one does not see cattle or horses, either within fences, or without.

The Rio Grande, from its beginning in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, to its termination in the Gulf of Mexico, together with its tributaries, is the source of most water used for irrigation, aided by high groundwater levels. Here as elsewhere, the liquid element that equals life has always induced travel and commerce.

Bridge over the Rio Grande in Alamosa, the commercial center of the San Luis Valley

My repeated journeys to the “Valley” have multiple motivations. Its fascinating geology and scenery alone might be incentive enough. Its unique Great Sand Dunes have summoned me repeatedly, like others before me. Read about one of my previous visits here. In next week’s post I will share several thousand more reasons why I keep returning.

45 thoughts on “Colorado’s Famous Valley

  1. Eine atemberaubende Landschaft, wundervolle Sonnen Auf-und Untergänge und eine spannende Beschreibung dazu.
    Du schilderst sehr anschaulich deinen wunderschönen Bundesstaat Colorado.
    Das hat mir gut gefallen, Tanja.
    Liebe Grüße
    Brigitte

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’d like to scamper around on the sand dunes that you write about. There’s something about sand dunes that “calls” to me.
    I guess those sands were under water millions of years ago.

    Bye till next time —

    Neil

    Like

    • New Mexico is not so far from southern Colorado, so maybe a little detour to the Sand Dunes is a possibility?
      Alternatively, if you have the opportunity to visit White Sands, you could scamper around the dunes there! I hope you don’t mind sand! 🙂
      Thanks for coming along, Neil.
      Best,
      Tanja

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Traumhafte Fotos liebe Tanja! Die verschiedenen Stimmungen hast du wunderbar eingefangen. Es gibt so Orte, die einen immer wieder faszinieren und inspirieren. Von denen man nie genug bekommen kann! Liebe Nachtgrüße, Almuth

    Liked by 1 person

      • Danke, die Nacht war gut 🙂 – Da muß man sich manchmal entscheiden, das ist wahr. Beides ist schön. Am besten immer das Genießen, was gerade da ist. Und die Erinnerungen mit den schönen Bildern lassen ja auch eine Rückkehr in Gedanken zu 🙂 Herzliche Grüße, Almuth

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a stunning landscape and those dusk/sunset images are beautiful.

    I appreciate the wide open countryside and distant mountains even more (as I live in an urban area cluttered with power lines and suburban ‘junk’).

    Liked by 1 person

    • It takes about 3 hours if one only stops for a bathroom break. So it is not just around the corner, but also still within relatively easy reach. I really hope to make it back there again later this year.
      I am sure there are plenty of beautiful corners in Poland, even if the mountains are not quite as high. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Stunning photos. I love your descriptions too.

    I can echo some of the other comments on here. These wide open spaces are hugely appealing, especially for someone like me living in a built-up city. Thanks for sharing =)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your photos are reason enough to understand why you keep returning to this region of Colorado. How still the water looks, how magnificent the mountains! I can imagine that it was well-loved by indigenous people and the newly arrived.

    Liked by 1 person

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