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Despite Flooding, Elk Fest Will Go On At Rocky Mountain National Park

The 15th Annual Elk Fest will go forward as planned this coming weekend at Estes Park, Colorado, and Rocky Mountain National Park. Kurt Repanshek photo.

Despite the torrential rains that fell on Rocky Mountain National Park and its surrounding communities earlier this month, elk still sing in the park and the folks in Estes Park, Colorado, are going ahead with their Elk Fest this coming weekend as planned.

There had been some concern that due in part to the damage inflicted on the roads leading up into Estes Park from Lyons and Loveland and to roads in the national park itself that the festival, now in its 15th edition, might not come off. But organizers are moving forward with a fun slate of activities for folks who like wildlife in general and bugling elk specifically.

The haunting call of the bull elk fills the Estes Valley during the early days of fall. The call begins with deep, resonant tones that rise rapidly to a high-pitched squeal before dropping to a series of grunts.

What is this strange sound and what does it mean?

To celebrate the annual elk rut and learn about the "wapiti," the Native American name for elk, Estes Park hosts the 15th Annual Elk Fest in Bond Park and the surrounding area. The festival is free but for fees for the elk bugling contest and elk viewing bus tours.

The festival features bugling contests, educational areas, exhibits, the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program, elk seminars, a Mountain Man Rendezvous, Native American music, dancing and storytelling and elk-viewing bus tours.

Vendors will display artwork, handmade elk-ivory jewelry, and will offer distinctive elk cuisine. Mountain men from around the country will gather at the Mountain Man Rendezvous to sell their wares and demonstrate their skills.

Daily elk seminars explain the elk breeding season, or "rut," and describe elk biology and management. On Sunday at 11 a.m. representatives from the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program will display on a gloved hand some of their magnificent rescued birds. It's amazing to see these majestic birds close up.

You can find the full schedule of events on the festival's webpage. They range from elk viewing tours and bugling contests to Native American music and dancing to face painting for youngsters. And if you're wondering how to get to Estes Park with U.S. Highways 34 and 36 out of commission, you'll find directions on this page.

Interested in spending the weekend in Estes Park? The town's rental properties are offering 15 percent off nightly rates.

If you can't make it to the park for the festival, but would like to help it recover from the storm damage, an assistance fund has been set up through the Rocky Mountain Nature Association.

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