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Regional Geology


Florissant Fossil Beds

Today, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is a wonderland of meadows, forests, and wildflowers. ... Yet 34 to 35 million years ago ... Lake Florissant, stretching 15 miles through an ancient forest valley, dominates the scene. ... Nearby a volcano rumbles. In the past, volcanic mudflows blanketed parts of the forest surrounding Lake Florissant, killing entire trees. Now as the volcano again erupts violently, the devastation is widespread. The exploding volcano showers the countryside with million of tons of ash, dust, and pumice. Caught in this deadly cloud, insects, leaves, fish (anything that cannot escape) die, and many fall to the lake bottom, where they are buried. These eruptions occur again and again for perhaps as long as 700,000 years. Each time, fragments of life are trapped in a layer of volcanic sediments at the bottom of the lake. Eventually these sediments become a finely layered shale and transform the buried plan and animal life into fossils. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument preserves this site.