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The data collected by the iRON offers a glimpse of a few of the factors at play in our local ecosystems. The conditions we see today are part of the much larger overlapping systems that shape life in the Roaring Fork Valley, and many of these cycles are connected to geologic, biologic, or even anthropogenic trends of the past. Explore the history sections below for examples of some of the trends that have shaped life in this watershed and the data that helps researchers today to envision them.

  • Early Human Arrivals

    (10,000 years ago-7,000 years ago)
    There are many mysteries surrounding the first humans to reach the Rocky Mountains. Little evidence remains to tell us about how or where they lived. These early people were likely hunter-gatherers, and remains of an ancient man found in White River National Forest suggest that people may have been crossing, or even living on, the high slopes of the Roaring Fork Valley as early as 8,000 years ago.
  • Climate Change in the Prehistoric Era

    150,000 to 100,000 years Before Present

    When many people picture the Rocky Mountains, they picture pine-covered ridges or elk herds grazing winter meadows. Add in some growing towns, ranches, or the snaking trails of ski slopes, and you have a fairly accurate mental image of certain parts of the modern Roaring Fork Valley. But the valley didn't always look this way. How did the changes occur that took us from being the stomping grounds of mastodons to the ecological communities of today? Hidden evidence, ranging from pollen in local lake beds to ice cores taken from the arctic poles, can help to reconstruct what this region looked like in ancient times and provide clues as to the global trends that shaped it.

  • Miners and the Cycles of Boom and Bust

    1800's through mid 1900's

    Cycles of boom and bust are common both in the natural world and in the economic one. Prospectors flooded the Roaring Fork Valley after the discovery of silver in the area, bringing with them changes to the landscape. Although the high flying silver market did not last, the impacts of the settlers who arrived as a consequence of it still remain.

  • Geography and Ute History

    Through 1881

    The Beginnings of Human Influence

    Climate, geology, and large natural distcurbances were the drivers of ecological trends in the Roaring Fork Valley area for millions of years. As human populations grew and developed new tools, transportation, hunting, or farming techniques, our species also became a catalyst of change in the Roaring Fork Valley.


  • Potatoes to Ski Slopes: The Power of Outside Economics

    1880s to Present
    From mining to agriculture or from skiing to hiking, the economy of the Roaring Fork Valley has always been closely tied to the region’s geology. The success of marketing these resources however, is linked heavily with the economic, social, and political trends of geographically distant regions.
  • Climate Change and the Modern Era

    2000's and beyond

    The ecosystems of the Roaring Fork Valley shape everything from our economy to our recreation, but these ecosystems may be changing within the lifetime of today’s generations. Some of these changes are the consequence of natural successions, others may be caused by human development and local populations growth, and some will be a combination of both. Climate change will likely be one of the most powerful drivers of these ecological shifts.