Best Place to Find Fossils 2002 | Florissant Fossil Quarry | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Petrified plants are waiting to be found at the Florissant Fossil Quarry; they're in between layers of "paper" shale. For $20, you can pick up a crate -- approximately forty pounds -- of the fossiliferous shale that must be split and examined on site. Visitors can also search piles of shale at an hourly rate of $7.50 for adults and $5 for children seventeen and younger. Any unusually rare or scientifically valuable finds must either remain with the Clare family, who have owned the site for four generations, or be donated to a museum of the finder's choice. Nature's Wealth is the on-site fossil shop that has a collection of insect and plant fossils for sale, as well as jewelry, mineral samples and children's fossil-collecting kits. The quarry is next to the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, but don't even think about taking anything home from there.
Play paleontologist for a day, and take home a little piece of prehistory from a virgin site on the Morrison Formation. Owner Dana Forbes is sure visitors to his seventy acres eighteen miles east of the town of Dinosaur will be rewarded for participating in scientific digs, because many bone fragments are clearly visible on the surface. Anyone interested in laying hands on fossilized dinosaur bones, belemnites, ammonites, shark teeth, septarian nodules and petrified wood discoveries can sign up for a "dig date" Monday through Saturday, May through October, for just $60 a day; family rates are also available. The fee includes an escort to and from the potential dig site, beverages while digging, lecture or leadership costs, use of rock and fossil excavation equipment, preparation supplies, documentation supplies and access to first-aid supplies. Reservations are available through the Web site only.
Follow the vein of gold ore one-third of a mile into Galena Mountain, and you can see and experience the operation of mining equipment in a real mine setting. The Old Hundred bores into Cunningham Gulch, just minutes from historic Silverton, in a scenic area that's easily accessible by car or RV. The 45-minute guided tour takes place in an authentic mine tram as well as on foot. Tours leave on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week from May 10 through October 13. Gold panning is free with the purchase of a tour ticket.
Hard-rock silver mining made Colorado what it was in the first half of the nineteenth century, but can you imagine what life was like for the miners? Find out when Colorado Historical Society guides lead you through the Lebanon Silver Mine and show you the mine manager's office, the change room (also called a "dry"), and the blacksmith's shop and tool shed. The mine is accessible only by the Georgetown Loop Railroad; reservations are accepted for Silver Plume departures only. The hour-and-twenty-minute walking tour costs $6 for adults, $4 for children (in addition to the train ride) and is available from May 25 to September 2. Bring a sweater.
Next time you drive through the mountains and see an old mine that evokes romantic images of Colorado's gold-rush days, stop by the Idaho Springs Heritage Museum and Visitor's Center. The Clear Creek Watershed Exhibit that takes up an entire back room is a reminder of the mess mining left behind. More than a decade ago, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency decided that the thousands of mines in Clear Creek County needed cleaning up, because metals-laden run-off from the abandoned sites was contaminating the creek -- a source of drinking water for many Coloradans. The EPA declared the town and surrounding mines a Superfund site, and the residents revolted. After years of bickering over cleanup methods, the locals and the government finally agreed on a plan, and this exhibit details it. Now that's gold!
This large cave in Iron Mountain above Glenwood Springs contains about three miles of known passageways and was first opened as a tourist attraction at the beginning of the twentieth century; it was abandoned in the 1920s, then reopened in 1999. A family tour along electrically lit gravel pathways is available through some fantastic interior decorations that Martha never even dreamed of. The caves open May 1.
Another tourist cave that had been abandoned for years, Manitou offers a physically challenging wild tour that includes sections discovered as recently as five years ago. Still missing is a large section that was open to tourists, complete with electric lights and hand-rails, until it flooded in the 1920s. Check out the Web site,, for an in-depth probe.
At 7,000 feet, Spring Cave, which opens May 1, is one of the longest caves in Colorado, located less than a mile from the South Fork Trailhead, east of Meeker. In springtime, the stream that flows through the cave widens to form "Emerald Lake," which makes a full wetsuit a requirement for anyone heading into the back sections.
It's no easy task to buoy up the spirits of fans whose on-floor heroes are always getting their butts handed to them. But Rocky the Mountain Lion does it every night -- with astonishing acrobatics, the occasional no-look swish from half court (including one recently with a ball he boldly had Michael Jordan autograph) and a mischievous playfulness that captivates kids and grownups alike. Rocky's three-foot-long lightning-bolt tail is a triumph of the costumer's art, and even if every Nugget now on the roster goes the way of Dikembe Mutombo, the most entertaining pro-sports mascot in the country will endure: He made his debut way back on December 15, 1990, and hasn't lost a step since.

Who says white men can't jump? Not those wags on a University of Northern Colorado intramural basketball team who saw white folks jump all over their idea when the UNC hoopsters named themselves "The Fighting Whites" in protest of the mascot -- a big-beaked caricature of an Indian -- used by nearby Eaton High School's "Fightin' Reds." The Whites' copyright T-shirt designs, including a white male dressed in a suit, soon became red, er, white hot, with orders pouring in to their Web site. Charles Cuny, a Native American, hadn't planned on making a statement when he assembled the multi-racial team. "I just wanted to play basketball on Tuesdays," he explained. White on!

Best Of Denver®

Best Of