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Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years

Author : Mary Taylor Young
Published : 2014-01-31

Though Rocky Mountain National Park doesn't mark its centennial until next year, there's no reason you can't celebrate now with a book that looks back over those 100 years.

In Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years, Mary Taylor Young has crafted a wonderful story through lively writing paired with wonderful photographs from yesterday as well as present-day. Though presented in a coffee-table size (10.5 inches by 12 inches), this book isn't simply to admire from afar. With a century of historical material to work with, Ms. Young has fashioned a narrative that is part history lesson and part love story between this park and those who have come to know it.

There's even a measure of geology rightfully tossed in; after all, it's the mountains that scrape the sky that were the justification for this national park. And that geology is presented with a naturalist's vernacular:

If geologic time could be speeded up, the formation of Rocky Mountain National Park would play out in a grand spectacle. Crashing tectonic plates, mountains thrusting upward miles into the air, seas flooding the land and then receding. Spouting volcanoes, flows of lava, fields of ash. Rivers of ice locking the land in a cold embrace, carving the faces of mountain peaks, gouging out valleys, directing rivers, piling great mountains of debris. The shape and form and composition of the land changed again and again.

Geology is followed by archaeology, and that in turn by modern history: the rise of the national park long visioned by Enos Mills.

Though the 176-page book is laid out chronologically, there's no reason not to jump around depending on your mood or subject choice.

Turn to Chapter 13 and you'll learn about the early photographers and artists drawn by the park's immense grandeur.

Chapter 11 recounts the struggle to balance Rocky Mountain's wild side with the tourists. Here Ms. Taylor recounts the park's ever-present struggles with elk, going from "fewer than a dozen elk left in the Estes Park area" in 1912 to a burgeoning herd approaching 3,500 animals that summered in the park in 2002.

Chapter 15, the final chapter, looks into the future and the challenges the 21st century will lay at the park's doorstep. Will there be too many visitors for the park? How is airborne pollution impacting Rocky Mountain? What will climate change do to the landscape?

Richly illustrating this book are beautiful present-day photographs from Erik Stensland and Glenn Randall, as well as present-day and historic photos from the National Park Service archives.

This is a book for Rocky Mountain National Park lovers, those who can't stand leaving the park behind when they end their vacations.


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