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Exploring Colorado

Colorado is tops on the list of topographically and ecologically diverse states in the United States.

It rises from flat lower elevation grassland in the east up to rugged high altitude mountains in the central area, and then back down to lower elevation rolling foothills and grasslands in the west.

Carolyn and I looked for a way to meaningfully and systematically explore Colorado and decided that the ecologist’s perspective might fit our learning styles the best. Fortunately for us, the EPA and USGS have taken a lot of guess work out of where habitats and topographies are similar. They’ve parsed the entire country into domains of ecological similarity, termed ecoregions. These ecoregions were designed as spatially-relevant management tools for research, assessment, and monitoring, but we decided to use it for our exploration purposes as well.


Colorado has been divided into six huge ecoregions (Level III: 18, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26).While this spatial scale might be beneficial for federal or state management purposes, these ecoregions seem to be way too generic for meaningful personal exploration. Fortunately, these large areas have been further refined by EPA and others. Colorado has 35 of these “Level IV” ecoregions. The smaller size of these ecoregions helps facilitate our appreciation of their natural highlights, as well as identify local environmental challenges in a single visit.

So, what does this mean to you? Well, if you want to explore the entirety of Colorado, consider doing it by visiting areas of ecological similarity.

  • If you want to learn a little about the ecoregion highlights and challenges, visit the links below.

  • If you want insight into areas, hikes, or activities within an ecoregion, visit the links below

  • If you want cool swag with landscape, flora, and fauna photos from each ecoregion, visit the links below.

Colorado Level 3 Terrestrial Ecoregions
Click below to learn more about each ecoregion

Video: Horsshoe Park,RMNP

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