The State Forest State
Park provides a home for a great number and variety of wildlife, providing the
perfect place for wildlife watching and wildlife photography. Among the larger
animals are moose, bighorn sheep, black bear, mule deer and elk. Smaller mammals
include the snowshoe hare, coyote, bobcat, beaver, weasel, marten, fox, marmot,
and porcupine. Common birds include blue grouse, ptarmigan, golden eagle, bald eagle, Steller’s jay, gray jay, chickadee, rosy finch, and several species of
waterfowl. Fish species include brook trout, cutthroat trout, brown trout,
rainbow trout and arctic grayling.
The State Forest State Park offers many opportunities to spot wildlife, from
the three nature trails to the moose viewing deck overlooking the Canadian
River accessed off County Road 41. Check out the watchable wildlife kiosk at
North Michigan Reservoir. To learn all about moose and other wildlife in the
area, stop in to see the interactive displays available at the Moose Visitor
Center near the town of Gould on Highway 14.
Coniferous trees cover
about 52,000 acres of the State Forest. Those trees include sub-alpine fir,
Englemann spruce, lodgepole pine, Douglas fir, Colorado blue spruce, ponderosa
pine and limber pine. The lodgepole pine is the most common, covering about 60
percent of all tree cover with the spruce and fir community accounting for 23
percent. The remaining 17 percent of cover is deciduous aspen forests.
An intensive effort to protect this natural resource is at the forefront of
the State Forest management plan, check out the pine
beetle epidemic document.
A major fire burned a great deal of the forest about 130 years ago. Most
lodgepole pine sites were burned. The stands that escaped the fire are a source
of dwarf mistletoe infection in young trees.
In Coniferous forests, kinnikinnick, vaccinium, common juniper, rose and
Oregon grape are common plants found.
In the aspen forest, the typical plant species are daisy, common juniper,
smooth brome, mountain muhly, squaw currant, fescue, golden banner and yarrow.
A shrub zone is also found on south and southwest exposures as well as flat
areas that receive sun throughout the day. Common plants include bitterbrush,
big sagebrush, rabbitbrush, prickly pear, serviceberry, blue grama, sedge and
A riparian zone occurs along the streams, where willows are the predominant
vegetation. Other species include chokecherry, horsetail, sedge and squaw
In the tundra above timberline, the alpine will explode with color
as the flowers burst into bloom in June and July. The yellow snow buttercup,
white marsh marigold, blue alpine forget-me-not, moss campion, rydbergia, fairy
primrose and many more create a spectacular alpine flower garden.
The Medicine Bow Range
is the result of highly localized movements of the earth's crust as the entire
region was thrust upward. Deposition in a huge geosyncline uplifted the Rocky
Mountains at the close of the Mesozoic era. Thrust faulting, in which one end of
the earth's crust is pushed over the other, profoundly affected State Forest
State Park. More than one fault was involved, thus, slices between the faults
were exposed. One such slice is the Nokhu Crags. The Nokhu Crags, originally
shale but now hornfels, are a hard and resistant metamorphic rock. The shale
metamorphosed when magma erupted from below, heating and hardening the shale
Volcanoes erupted and covered the area with lava flows,
remnants of which can be seen on Iron Mountain. The lava flows were eroded,
exposing the fault slices previously buried. This erosion exposed the
near-vertical hornfel layers that formed the Nokhu Crags. A large area of
granitic rocks was formed east and south of the crags. Next came glaciers, which
carved out the topography we see today. Glaciers formed on the sides of the
highest areas and carved out the cirques in which the high mountain lakes are
Also of interest, geologically, is the East Sand Dunes Natural
Area, the only undisturbed, cold-climate dune in Colorado. This unique site
contains one of the two active cold-climate dunes in the state, the other being
North Sand Dunes located eight miles north of East Sand Dunes. North Sand Dunes,
unlike East Sand Dunes, is open to recreational use by OHV's, and due to
resulting disturbance was deemed ineligible for registry as a Colorado Natural
The dunes in North Park differ substantially in structure from
Great Sand Dunes National Monument because they contain sedimentary structures
unique to moist, cold-climate dunes. The dunes formed when strong, steady winds
gathered sand from eroded peaks and carried the sand across North Park. When the
winds hit the Medicine Bow Mountains to the east, it lost speed and dumped the
sand at North Park's edge, forming dunes. Both East Sand Dunes and North Sand
Dunes are part of a larger, predominantly dormant, dune system approximately
25-square miles in size.
The forest climate is typical of the high Rocky
Mountain valleys, with an abundance of sunshine, low relative humidity, low
precipitation, and wide daily and seasonal temperature variations. Temperature
on the Colorado State Forest becomes colder and annual precipitation increases
along with the elevation. Precipitation varies across the forest and can average
more than 100 inches annually.