Printer Friendly

Looking in on a plains homestead, just southeast of Denver.

Pioneers tamed the Great Plains with deep plows, barbed wire, and sold houses. But though their homesteads changed the face of the prairie, few remain. To provide a glimpse of how the pioneers lived and worked, the Plains Conservation Center, just southeast of Denver in Aurora, has erected three sod structures and amassed a collection of household artifacts and farming implements. Guided tours take visitors through the "soddies," as well as on walks and wagon rides through grassland alive with flowers, birds, and mammals, just as it was when pioneers arrived in the late 1800s.

Farmhouse, schoolhouses, blacksmith shop--all from strips of sod

Built in 1969, these structures replicate ones from the 1880s. But unlike the originals, these have wooden roofs. Walls are 10-inch-wide sod strips laid three across and piled on one another--notice the wiggles in the 30-inch-thick walls. The farmhouse boasts a wood floor, while the one-room schoolhouse and blacksmith's shop have more typical dirt floors. Interior details are meticulous: slate boards, 38-stag flag, and a crinkly wall map in the school; cast-iron pots and wooden washboards in the house; old and rather wicked-looking tools in the blacksmith shop. Out front are examples of the machines that worked the plains--balers, binders, harrows, threshers, plows.

Prairie grasses, animals, and birds

Formed in 1949 from surplus government land and owned by the West Arapahoe Soil Conservation District, the center sits on 1,920 nearly treeless acres. Homesteaders occupied part of it; other land was plowed for wheat or grazed by cattle. Some was left untouched, most of it still blanketed in mixed native grasses. A 2-mile wagon ride takes you through the area. You may see black-tailed prairie dogs standing on alert at the edges of their burrows or horned larks dashing across the road. Listen for the sweet song of the Western meadowlark, active in nest building (and defending) this time of year. Patient observers may also spot more secretive residents--coyote, badger, and pronghorn antelope; bring binoculars. Now through June, the gently undulating landscape is scattered with Western wallflower, lupine, Indian paintbrush, and scarlet globe mallow. Reservations are required for all programs: guided moonlight walks ($4) at 7:30 on full-moon nights (next, May 9); wagon rides ($4) Fridays at 7:30 June through September; wagon tours ($2) June 2, 9, 16, and 23. Call (303) 693-3621 from 9 to 3 daily except Sundays. The center's at 21901 E. Hampden Avenue in Aurora. From I-225, take Parker Road south 1 mile, then go east 5 1/2 miles on Hampden.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Plains Conservation Center, Aurora, Colorado
Date:May 1, 1990
Previous Article:By bike or car, exploring the winery-studded Shenandoah Valley.
Next Article:The wild McCloud River is easier to get to.

Related Articles
Nestle USA consolidates offices in suburban Denver.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters