South Park Again

Colorado’s aforementioned South Park can be accessed from a number of directions. Journeying from Colorado Springs, it is reached by following US Highway 24 about 50 miles due west. This basin, with an elevation of 9,000 to 10,000 feet and a footprint of nearly 1,000 square miles, is the southernmost of three high-altitude valleys in Central Colorado, the others being North and Middle Parks (the San Luis Valley even farther south is sometimes counted as a fourth).

An overview of portions of South Park can be gained by stopping at picturesque Wilkerson Pass, located at 9,705 feet. Restroom facilities and a visitor center are operated seasonally and a short walking loop invites the car-sore traveler to stretch her legs. The mixed forest is home to a number of animals, with chipmunks and ground squirrels, habituated to tourists, often begging for food. Also begging for food are swallow nestlings, but they only receive species-specific scraps from their busy and dedicated parents.

The road into South Park drops several hundred feet and provides a wide-angle view of the expansive scenery below. On the August day of my bison encounter I shared with you last week, I also explored a new destination in South Park: Antero Reservoir. One of numerous man-made reservoirs which dot the landscape and without which most Front Range communities would not exist, Antero is operated by the City and County of Denver some 140 miles away. Fed by the life-giving South Platte River, it not only supplies Denverites with drinking water, but also offers recreational fishing, boating, and, more relevant to my interests, birding.

While Colorado Springs at 6,000 feet was sweltering in 90-plus degrees, I relished temperatures 10 to 15 degrees lower. But as is evident in my photos, this lower temperature does not equal more lush growing conditions. Like most of Colorado and many other states in the American West, the area has been suffering from varying levels of drought for several decades, and no relief is in sight.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover the cursor over it.

Nature is my refuge, the place where I feel most at home and most alive. And while I try to savor all moments I get to spend out-of-doors without allowing the somber predictions about the changing and changed climate to mar those still-enjoyable experiences, one would have to be blind not to notice the very real changes effected already, which include higher temperatures, desiccated, dying, or dead plants, and the loss of once-common insects and birds. Similar to the clouds gathering over Antero Reservoir in the early afternoon, which one would be ill-advised to ignore, as humans we can’t afford to keep looking away from the changes on the horizon, hoping the storm will bypass us. Nature keeps sending warning signals, and it’s beyond time we heeded her call.

Weather brewing over Antero Reservoir

43 thoughts on “South Park Again

  1. Lovely pictures but amen about paying attention to climate change. In Maine, we notice it, too. We—so far!—don’t have to worry about drought. But every year it gets warmer and warmer, more heat waves in the summer, September an extension of August, October more like September, and November more like October. Time to wake up!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Do you happen to know what the pink flowers are that surround the gadwall duckling? Speaking of which: not having heard of the word gadwall, I looked it up. The American Heritage Dictionary says its origin is unknown, though the word reminds me now of the white sidewall tires that were common on cars when I was a kid.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have tried to look up “pink water flowers in Colorado,” Steve, but have not come across anything. Neither one of my field guides shows them, but I will keep looking. I had never seen these beautiful pink flowers before, and loved how several ducklings were winding their way through them.

      It’s interesting that the origin of gadwall is unknown. The German name for this duck is “Schnatterente,” which means a duck that chatters, gabbles, or quacks, but since that applies to many ducks, it’s not a very discerning term.


    • Thank you, Chelsea. I love swallows and watching the adults feed their young is a highlight of summer. I can’t wait for them to return next spring!

      I have driven across Kenosha Pass a few times and also love the view it provides when entering South Park. I think the experience is amazing regardless of one’s approach.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nature is my refuge, too, Tanja. We always have such extreme weather down here that climate change is less obvious right now. I was most frightened when we had a drought over a period of years. Currently, I have been watching programs and reading about Meso-American history. Climate change killed societies and people – mostly through drought and overuse of the land. I was astonished to note that most of the Amazon was agricultural land with millions of people living there. Once the people died out or moved away, the jungle took over. It helped me to see that there are always survivors. Our beloved birds are little dinosaurs…🐱‍🐉
    I vote for less people and more animals!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think nature is a refuge and oasis for many of us, Kerry. But I worry that there are also multitudes who never set foot in it, don’t know that it’s the basis of our lives, and therefore don’t care.

      I agree that overpopulation is one of the roots of our problems, but there is no comprehensive plan to address it. But as sad as the prospect is, there will be more diseases and other catastrophes which will decimate our numbers, and maybe that will help rebalance things.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, dear…climate change! Our weather here is so much warmer. Today I was out hiking in the 70 degree weather–it should be in the 50s in November. Such a worry….I try to get out an enjoy every day as well, but that worry is always in the back of my mind. The Antero Reservoir certainly looks beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Julie, the changes we can notice are very concerning indeed. And they are just the tip of the iceberg. We have looked away for far too long, and now it might be too late. I find few reasons to be optimistic, at least with regard to humankind. I only hope that conditions for other creatures will continue to be livable.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Your first and last photos are especially appealing to me. That kind of view always makes me happy. There have been a number of prescribed burns on our prairies and refuges recently, and while I was watching one, it occurred to me how much the smoke appeared like a mountain range. Your mountains are far more substantial and long-lasting, of course!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Linda. I also enjoy sweeping views of the scenery, and I’m lucky enough to get those frequently from our substantial mountains, which are indeed more solid and lasting than the evanescent mountain shapes formed by smoke. I like your analogy.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Tanja, I also love being in nature. But you are right, unfortunately it is changing more and more. It’s scary that there are fewer and fewer birds and insects. I remember when I was a child there were many fire salamanders in the ponds in the forest and in the village. Now I don’t even see the fire salamanders anymore. Many forests have been cleared, ponds have been filled in and houses have been built on them.
    Tanja, I wish you all the best!
    Rosie from Germany 🙂🌹

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Das sind wunderschöne Bilder. Ich bin so gern in den Staaten unterwegs, ihr habt noch eine Menge Natur, paßt gut auf diese auf. 2022 mag ja für uns vielleicht wieder sichere Reiseefreiheiten geben. ich hoffe sehr. Wir sind damals von Gunnison nach Leadvielle gefahren, also ein bisschen dort in der Nähe 😉
    Liebe Grüße

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dankeschön, liebe Maren. Die weiten Landschaften und die Natur der USA haben mich von Anfang an sehr fasziniert, doch geht leider auch davon immer mehr verloren. Zu viele Menschen, nur begrenzt Platz, und vor allem Wassermangel, besonders im Westen.

      Wie schön, daß Du einige Gegenden Colorados selbst gesehen hast und gute Erfahrungen in den USA gemacht hast. Du hast recht, Leadville ist gar nicht so weit von uns entfernt.

      Hoffen wir, daß Covid irgendwann mal kontrolliert werden kann, so daß das Reisen wieder leichter wird.

      Sei herzlich gegrüßt,

      Liked by 1 person

  8. We should try doing more in preserving beauty and natural environment like that one in your pictures.
    Unfortunately, human habits which are greatly affected by popularizing consumerism in all its forms, are not helping to save our planet and to maintain friendly climate. It’s scary to even imagine how many plastic gifts are being purchased for Christmas, how many plastic trees and decorations which mean mountains of waste. Every time when we buy more than we need or what’s necessary, we are taking away small bit of such natural bird and animal habitats. I personally don’t believe that all profit-driven economies would be happy with people stopping consuming garbage.
    Your pictures show fantastic natural settings. I agree, nature and outdoors, they cure everything for as long as water and air are clean.
    All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

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