The last great open lands between Denver and Colorado Springs is how the Greenland Ranch was referred to. 200,000 acres of grass stretched along the Palmer Divide. Fertile tall grass waved in the meadows as cattle grazed along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The last Ice Age, 800 years ago had left the land rich and fertile. Springs dotted the land, giving rise to small streams coursing down off the hills. Here cattle could roam across a five course land.
Yet Greenland did not have its start as a ranching community. In the late 1870’s the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was pushing southward. They platted out a small town here on 20 acres. There was ample water in the stream and a good stop before the last push up the hill to cross the Palmer Divide.
Homes were built, there was a depot, section houses and shops were opening. Soon the railroad would be shipping carloads of potatoes. The area was the potato capital of Colorado. Nearby was Palmer Lake, here the railroad would harvest ice from the lake to use as refrigeration to keep the produce cool.
As the potato farming grew, so did the ranching. The chutes for loading of cattle on to stock cars still stands in Greenland. Cattle could be gathered in for shipment to market or other pastures. It was a thriving little village into the early 1900’s.
The highway route was shifted and longer did travelers go through the village. Greenland was on its way to becoming a memory. The railroads continued to pass through but that was changing. Passengers were no longer and the potato farming had changed. Then the Interstate was built, going on the edge of town. An exit on I-25 was built and some developers discovered the area. Soon the land was growing 2X4’s and there were ranchettes.
The Greenland Ranch did not sell to developers and for years one could go flying down the Interstate on see a couple of cowboys driving cattle across the pasture.
There was continued pressure by developers to sell. People got together to try and preserve some of the ranch to prevent development. Using Open Space tax money, the county was able to purchase portions of the ranch and some other parcels in the area. The newly acquired county land was developed into Open Space Parks. Today there are trails and parking lots on the former ranch ;land. Cattle still graze the pastures and share with wildlife.
One of the largest hers of Elk in Colorado migrate through the area. The mountain lion can be seen on the nearby rocky ledges, back bears wander the land searching out food, the coyotes shares his howl and the foxes bound over the grasses. It is still a wild area, loaded with birds, the Eagle soars over head, along with hawks and vultures. The ravens send out their racket as they pass by and the turkeys peck among the fields. The birds of the meadow sing out their melody.
It is the big red barn that is the icon for the exit. As traffic flies by on the Interstate the massive old barn stands out very prominently.
Hard to imagine that all of this was under ice at one time. The mesas in the area are called pediments by geologists, for the ice carved the hill off flat. These mesas stretch from south Denver to the Palmer divide and go out east a number of miles. It was this massive slab of ice that created a lush area of small streams and springs. The ice boiled up rocks, ground them up leaving behind voids, nutriments and varied landscape.
The winters are harsh, dumping snow by the foot, staying below freezing for weeks. The spring brings the hail, stacking up into 2 n 3 foot drifts, collapsing roofs and tearing up buildings. It takes a hardy person to deal with the harshness. Yet the summer brings a warm green land.