The head waters of the Cache la Poudre River are in Rocky Mountain National Park and it winds its way along 126 miles of scenic beauty to join the South Platte River near Greeley, Colorado. You can climb the mountains along this river on a scenic drive out of Fort Collins along state highway 14.
The formation of what we call the Rocky Mountains is a long complex tale of mountain building, erosion, innundation, and subsequent mountain building (orogeny). The rocks that form the walls of the Cache La Poudre canyon are metamorphic gneiss made from Precambrian age granites of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains which were heated and compressed during the Laramide Orogeny between 80-55 million years ago.
The gneissic banding seen in this photo is not only beautiful but tells the story of heat an compression experienced by these ancient granites on their way to becoming the metamorphic gneiss seen here.
In this image the foliation or layering of the gneiss is visible. The immense pressure and high temperature experienced by the granite while metamorphosing into gneiss is what produced the sculpture you see.
From the size of the rocks in the Cache La Poudre river bed and along the bank in the foreground, you can tell that large amounts of water moving rapidly through this area in the past pushed these heavy monsters down stream.
Scenes like this are why the Cache La Poudre River has been designated a national scenic river.
This is and example of Bird’s Foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus from the pea family Fabaceae. This plant is both a native and an introduced species to all parts of the US and Canada. It is widely used for hay to feed livestock and serves as a food source for deer, elk, geese, ducks, and pheasants.
This is an example of the Rubber Rabbit Brush (Ericameria nauseosa)
This plant reminds me of Prairie Broomweed (Amphiachyris dracunculoides) that grows all around where I live. Rubber Rabbit Brush will be eaten to a limited extent by livestock but it is valuable to wildlife during the winter.
This is a closeup of the flower head of the Rubber Rabbit Brush. This plant is part of the Daisy family (Asteraceae) but has flowers that do not make you think Daisy flower at all.
In the last image, you see an example of Western Aster (Symphyotrichum ascendens) another member of the Asteraceae family which produces beautiful, tiny lavender flowers with yellow disk florets. The USDA says that this plant is sometimes mixed in with other seed types to help stabilize disturbed or damaged soils. Beautiful as well as useful.
All these sights and creatures can be seen and enjoyed on a short day’s drive up the Cache La Poudre River Canyon just west of Fort Collins, Colorado on state 14. Worth the trip, and good for your soul.