America’s Newest National Monument Has Been Announced

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A sign of the Continental Divide in Colorado where the newest national monument is located

The National Park System includes over 400 units, including national parks, battlefields, seashores, and historic sites.

The largest designation within the system is the national monument: there are 84 sites with that title. That’s until October 2022. President Biden just signed a proclamation establishing the newest national monument.

Let’s take a look at America’s newest national monument!

What Is a National Monument?

According to the National Park Service (NPS), “The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorized the President to declare by public proclamation landmarks, structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest situated on lands owned or controlled by the government to be national monuments.”

These sites are smaller than national parks with much less diversity but still retain historically and culturally significant locations.

The first national monument was Devils Tower in Wyoming, established by President Theodore Roosevelt shortly after he signed the Antiquities Act into legislation.

Native Americans consider this location sacred and different tribes have different oral traditional stories about the tower’s creation. It’s also impressive in geological features.

Devil’s Tower rises 1,267 feet above the surrounding terrain and is popular for rock climbing. Today, this national monument welcomes over 200,000 visitors during peak season between July and August.

Other national monuments protect other historically and culturally significant locations, such as Castillo de San Marcos in Florida. It’s the oldest masonry fortification in the continental United States, with more than 450 years of cultural intersections.

There’s also the Pipestone quarry in Minnesota, the sacred ground where Native Americans have carved pipestone into pipes used for prayer for generations.

Who Can Designate National Monuments?

Congress and the President have the authority to establish national monuments. The NPS doesn’t always manage them. Sometimes they fall under the care of the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, or the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Although Congress and the President have the final authority, citizens can also initiate the process. For example, a local coalition asked President Obama to protect the area of the San Gabriel Mountains in California. 

What is the Antiquities Act?

In June 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law.

It gives the President the authority to create national monuments from federal lands. That protects significant natural, cultural, or scientific features. 

Presidents have used the authority of the Antiquities Act over 250 times to protect our nation’s history and cultural heritage.

Some of these sites have been redesignated over the years and become national parks, while others have had their boundaries expanded to include even more significant history.

What Is America’s Newest National Monument?

In October 2022, President Biden signed a proclamation establishing the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument. It will honor veterans and Indigenous people, and protect this Colorado landscape. 

This is the President’s first use of power established by the Antiquities Act since he came to office. In addition, the White House explains, “The Administration has moved to restore protections for roadless areas of the Tongass National Forest, and initiated the process to protect Bristol Bay in Alaska and the world-class salmon fishery it supports.

The Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay, the Everglades, the Columbia River Basin, the Boundary Waters, Chaco Canyon and dozens of other special places are also back on America’s conservation agenda.” 

So this may not be the first and only time President Biden uses his authority to preserve and protect America’s national treasures.

View of the Continental Divide in Colorado with the the newest national monument
Source: Forest Service U.S. Department of Agriculture

About Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument

Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, located about two hours west of Denver, Colo., in the White River National Forest, was established because of its historical and cultural significance.

During WWII, the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division – the first and only military division trained to endure rugged mountain terrain – trained and prepared at Camp Hale.

The soldiers learned winter survival techniques like snowshoeing, climbing, and skiing. After training, they scaled the Alps to push back the Axis forces during WWII.

But this area of land is also culturally sacred to the Ute tribes. In the 1800s, these indigenous peoples were forced from their homeland.

But today, the Ute people return to this area to pray, hold ceremonies, honor their ancestors, hunt, fish, and harvest plants. Burial sites and funeral objects have also been found here. The Forest Service will manage the 53,804-acre monument.

Things to Do at Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument

The monument isn’t just a site with a plaque where you can read about the training of soldiers or the sacredness of the land.

There are several recreational activities you can enjoy during your visit. You’ll not only learn the historical and cultural significance of the site, but you’ll also see its natural beauty.

Backcountry Skiing

Because of its location in the White River National Forest, Camp Hale was the perfect location for the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division to train before heading to Italy.

Today, visitors can enjoy the local ski slopes within the 10 peaks that climb over 13,000 feet in elevation.

There are numerous peaks over 14,000 feet in Colorado, and one of them is here: Quandary Peak. It measures 14,265 feet in height.

When many of the veterans returned from WWII, they built over 60 ski resorts in the area and helped propel Vail and Aspen into the ski mecca they are today.

Keep in Mind: Did you know Colorado Has Castles? And You Can Visit Them!

Snowmobiling

Like backcountry skiing, snowmobiling is also a popular winter recreational activity.

NOVA Guides give snowmobile tours, taking guests through the White River National Forest on half-day and full-day excursions. Riders can expect to reach elevations of 12,500 feet.

View of the Continental Divide in Colorado near the newest national monument

Hiking

Located within Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument is a self-guided tour with 10 stops that loop around Camp Hale. An interpretive sign with the history of the area is at each stop.

You can day hike and backpack along the Colorado Trail. Although the US Army Corp of Engineers has worked to remove unexploded ammunition from the area, remnants may remain. So enjoy the natural beauty along your hike, but don’t go digging.

Camping

You are allowed to dry camp within the National Monument’s borders at Camp Hale Memorial Campground.

The campground sits at an elevation of 9,200 feet. Hikers who want to head out on the Colorado Trail or anglers who want to cast a line in the Eagle River will enjoy the convenience of Camp Hale Memorial Campground.

Keep in Mind: Colorado is known as one of the top camping spots! Next time you’re in Colorado, stay at one of these Highest Rated Campgrounds

View of the Continental Divide in Colorado near the newest national monument

Where to Stay Near Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument

As already mentioned, Camp Hale Memorial Campground is a great option for RVers who want to explore the area’s recreational activities.

However, there are also two dispersed camping locations that don’t require reservations and offer additional campsites should Camp Hale Memorial Campground be at capacity.

Camp Hale Memorial Campground

Address: 39° 25′ 13.0001″ N, 106° 18′ 54.0000″ W

Season Dates: Memorial Day weekend through the end of September

Sites Available: No hookups

Cost: $22

Located in White River National Forest, Camp Hale Memorial Campground has 15 sites that accommodate tents and RVs.

There are picnic tables, campfire rings, and vault toilets, but drinking water and hookups are not available. Eagle River and the Colorado Trail are both nearby for recreational activities.

Blodgett Campground

Address: Homestake Reservoir Road, Red Cliff, CO

Season Dates: June to October

Sites Available: No hookups

Cost: Free

There are six campsites at Blodgett Campground. This dispersed camping location offers beautiful views of the valley and mountains.

There are vault toilets and fire rings on-site. There must be proper food storage due to increased bear activity.

Hornsilver Campground

Address: 39.489144, -106.366836

Season Dates: May to October

Sites Available: No hookups

Cost: Free

Located right off Highway 24 and 10 miles south of Minturn, Hornsilver Campground is first-come, first-served. The seven campsites can only accommodate RVs up to 30 feet in length.

Each site has a picnic table and campfire grate. Like Blodgett Campground, increased bear activity has led to mandatory proper food storage. Homestake Creek is nearby for trout fishing.

View of White River in Colorado near the newest national monument

Experience America’s Newest National Monument

You may have never heard of Camp Hale before. But its historical significance to our country’s success during WWII is evident.

Plus, because of their experience at Camp Hale, many soldiers returned and established a life there. In addition, as our country seeks to mend the broken relationship with our indigenous peoples, the national monument honors the sacredness of the land to the Ute tribes.

The next time you’re in Colorado, make plans to visit America’s newest national monument at Camp Hale-Continental Divide. Whether you’re tent camping in the summer months or hitting the slopes during the winter, you’ll find your experience educational and adventurous. 

When will you visit this national treasure?

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