It took over 300 million years for
the Rocky Mountains to take the form we see today.
Tectonic forces and the glaciers of various ice ages
pushed and carved the massive rock into the mountains
and valleys that currently exist. The Rocky Mountains
can be thought of as having three distinct ecosystems,
each with its own climate, vegetation and animal life.
The lowest vegetative zone called
the Montane Forest occurs between 6,000 and 9,000 feet
in elevation. It is characterized by varying moisture
and dense forests dominated by Ponderosa Pine and
Douglas Fir. The mammals found here include numerous bat
and squirrel species.
Increasing in altitude, the next
ecosystem is called the Subalpine Zone, occurring
between 9,000 ft and 11,500ft (the tree line). Typical
vegetation includes the Subalpine Fir and the Engelmann
Spruce. The snowshoe hare is an animal native to this
The highest zone is the Alpine
Region, which occurs above 11,500ft in a tundra-like
climate. Since this habitat lies above the tree line,
plants consist mostly of small grasses and forbs which
can root in thin soil and survive the high winds and
bitter cold. The North American Pika is a common mammal
to this region.
A mandate from congress
established Rocky Mountain National Park in 1915 in
order to preserve its many important and diverse
ecosystems. The park was established in order to protect
the region from the negative effects of human
settlement. Today, park managers hope someday to return
it to an approximation of its natural, pre-European