Geography & Geology
Established in 1861, Park County is approximately 45 miles wide from east to west, and 60 miles long, encompassing 2,166 square miles. Within its borders are portions of 3 wilderness areas, 2 state parks, 12 state wildlife areas and more territory above 9,000 feet than any other Colorado county. Federal lands comprise 51 percent of Park County's landmass. State owned lands account for about 8 percent and privately owned land for about 41 percent.
Notable features on federal land include:
- 644,000-acre Pike National Forest
- Lost Creek, Mount Evans, and Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Areas
- Eleven Mile Canyon Recreation Area
- Bristlecone Pine Scenic Area
- Wilkerson Pass Visitor Center
- Colorado Trail
U.S. Highways 285 and 24, Colorado Highway 9, many Park County roads, and numerous national forest access routes provide automobile access into and through the County. Some of the National Forest routes are suitable for off-highway vehicles (OHVs) only. Five water storage reservoirs (Antero, Elevenmile, Tarryall, Spinney and Montgomery) have become important wildlife and aquatic recreation areas, attracting a half-million people each year.
The northeastern 1/3 of Park County is known as the Platte Canyon Area. This densely forested area is bisected by the North Fork of the South Platte River that follows US Highway 285 through the communities of Bailey, Shawnee and Grant. This portion of the county is lower, with an average elevation of 8,300 feet above sea level.
The southern third of Park County includes the communities of Lake George and Guffey. This area is characterized by rolling hills and remnant volcanoes. Dramatic landforms such as Elevenmile and Tarryall. Canyons have been carved by the South Platte River and its tributaries north and south of Lake George.
Several named mountain ranges define the perimeter of Park County, including the Mosquito Range above Fairplay and Alma. This spectacular range includes 4 of Colorado's peaks higher than 14,000 feet, as well as 25 named summits above 13,000 feet. Other mountains in the county include:
- Buffalo Peaks west of Hartsel
- Continental Divide north of Jefferson and Como
- Front Range and Kenosha Mountains above Bailey and Grant
- Tarryall Mountains north of Lake George
- Thirtynine Mile Volcanic Field surrounding the town of Guffey
Within this ring of mountain ranges is South Park, a 900-square mile park located in the geographic center of Colorado. With an average elevation of 9,000 feet, the short grass prairie of South Park supports herds of elk, deer, bighorn sheep and antelope, as well as beaver, raccoon, bobcat, mountain lion, black bear and waterfowl. Communities in South Park include Fairplay, Alma, Como, Jefferson, Hartsel and Tarryall.