The following are articles on the Castle Rock Rainforest which have appeared in the media.  We provide the links to their original sources.  However, due to the dynamic nature of media websites, the content of these articles have been placed here for historical purposes (news articles are typically 'lost' as they "roll off" media sites over time).

Most of the major media (newspaper, tv, websites) get their information from another source such as Associated Press (AP).  Below you will find the original source article followed by the other agencies which propogated the story.

06/29/2002 Rain Forest Primeval? Colorado fossils show unexpected diversity - (Science News)
06/28/2002 History on view in Castle Rock - (Denver Post)
06/28/2002 While Fires Continue Near Castle Rock, Colorado Evidence for an Ancient Fossil Rainforest in the Area Makes Science News Worldwide - (Denver Museum of Nature & Science)
06/27/2002 Scientists Find Ancient Rainforest - (AP)
06/27/2002 Dry Colorado Once Hosted Rain Forest, Study Shows - (Reuters)
05/24/2002 When Denver was wet Friday - (Denver Post)
05/24/2002 Giant Tree Fossil Found in Colorado - (Salt Lake Tribune)
05/21/2002 Colorado rain-forest theory takes root in fossil find near Castle Rock - (Denver Post)
05/21/2002 Fossilized Tree Found Along I-25, Giant Tree Proof Of Prehistoric Rain Forest - (ABC News - The Denver Channel)

Rain Forest Primeval? Colorado fossils show unexpected diversity - (Science News)

     June 29, 2002
     by Sid Perkins, Science News

The size, shape, and riotous variety of fossil leaves unearthed at a site in central Colorado suggest that the region may have been covered, some 64 million years ago, with one of the world's first tropical rain forests.

Excavations at a site about 50 meters off Highway I-25 near the town of Castle Rock have yielded the remains of two species of conifers, three types of ferns, six types of fruits, and 90 species of broad-leaved flowering trees.  The diverse assemblage of fossils consists primarily of fallen leaves that were suddenly buried by a 25-centimeter-thick flood of mud about 1.4 million years after the demise of the dinosaurs, says Kirk R.  Johnson of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.  He and museum volunteer Beth Ellis describe the find in the June 28 Science.

Mathematical relationships between the climate in which a modern forest grows and the size, shape, and variety of leaves on its trees enabled Johnson and Ellis to infer conditions at the site when the forest thrived.  The leaves among the ancient forest's species were large—about 67 square centimeters on average when mature.  This leaf size suggests the site received about 225 cm of rain annually, enough to qualify as a rain forest, Johnson says.

About 69 percent of the plant species there had smooth-edged leaves, which hints that the forest had an average temperature of just over 22°C, or about the same as modern Miami.  Of the 48 species in which the ends of the leaves were preserved in fossil remains, 19 showed abruptly tapered tips, yet another clue that rain was abundant.  Leaves with smooth edges and these so-called drip tips shed raindrops particularly well.  Most species that prospered in earlier forest ecosystems didn't have these features.

Johnson says that most of the precipitation at the site came from humid winds that shed their moisture as they cooled while ascending the eastern slopes of the early Rockies.  At the time, those peaks may have towered around 3,000 m over sea levels of the Gulf of Mexico, which then stretched into the central United States, and the Cannonball Sea, a long-gone arm of the Arctic Ocean that extended south to where North Dakota is today.

The multitude of tree species found at the Colorado site more closely resembles the diversity found in modern rain forests than the relative monotony found in deciduous woodlands of temperate regions.  Also, the variety is surprising because hundreds of other sites dated up to 9 million years later typically preserve only a few species at each locale, says Johnson.  Only later, during a worldwide warm spell about 52 million years ago, did widespread reblossoming of ecosystems take place, he notes.

Johnson and Ellis' survey of plants at the Colorado site is "an excellent and sizable census," says Leo J.  Hickey, a paleobotanist at Yale University.  They've found an unusual and unexpected set of plants for that time and place, he notes.  The unique ecosystem may document a short spike in global temperature lasting less than 100,000 years, says Hickey.

ANCIENT COLORADO. An artist's concept of a rain forest that grew
64 million years ago. J. Vriesen/Denver Museum of Nature & Science

  Johnson, K.R., and B. Ellis. 2002. A tropical rainforest in Colorado 1.4
  million years after the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. Science 296
  (June 28):2379-2383. Abstract available at


   Leo J. Hickey
   Paleobotany Divison
   Peabody Museum of Natural History
   P.O. Box 208118
   New Haven, CT 06520-8118

   Kirk R. Johnson
   Department of Earth Sciences
   Denver Museum of Nature and Science
   Denver, CO 80205

From Science News, Vol. 161, No. 26, June 29, 2002, p. 403.

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History on view in Castle Rock - (Denver Post)
      Friday, June 28, 2002
      By J. Sebastian Sinisi, Denver Post Staff Writer,1413,36%257E53%257E700871%257E,00.html

CASTLE ROCK - Denver Museum of Nature & Science paleontologist Kirk Johnson and a half-dozen researchers are uncovering a gold mine of scientific data here with findings that include fossil leaves from a 64.1 million-year-old rain forest.

"We know very little about tropical rain forests," Johnson said.  "But rain forests are among the most agriculturally productive areas on Earth, and we're chewing them up like they're going out of style.  What we can learn here is how rain forests evolved.

"At a time when we're worried about species extinction and depleting the rain forests, that information can be very valuable," he said.

That a rain forest, with hot and wet weather, once existed in a Colorado that's now cold and dry supports the global-warming theory, said Johnson, who is curator of paleontology and chairman of the museum's Earth sciences department.

When Johnson and his colleagues discovered a giant fossil of a tree trunk turned to coal at the same site, along Interstate 25, on May 19, they had hard evidence of broad-leafed trees growing to 150-foot heights in a rain forest on the site 64.1 million years ago, or 1.4 million years after dinosaurs became extinct.

The tree's age was determined by measuring the amount of argon gas trapped in volcanic ash in the area.  The size of the tree indicates eight times the rainfall that Colorado gets today and an average temperature of 72 degrees.

This week, the museum crew is unearthing a trove of fossil leaves that Johnson believes will yield conclusive information for a scientific area that's still fuzzy.

Science, a weekly journal, reports on the Castle Rock findings of Johnson and museum-certified researcher Beth Ellis in today's issue.

"Ask 10 different rain forest biologists how old the oldest rain forest is, and you'll get 10 different answers," Johnson said as he pried loose a slab of soft rock at the excavation site.

Using the point of a pocket knife as if he were shucking an oyster, Johnson revealed large black leaves in the rock.  The leaves are members of the avocado family and a relative of the tropical "breadfruit" tree.

"There's no consensus on how old the oldest rain forest is," Johnson said.  "But we here have proof of a forest 64.1 million years old."

It's rare, he added, to find enough fossils on any one level to learn what the extended area was like.  "But there are more than 100 different kinds of fossil leaves here."

"The world as we now know it - with large mammals, primates and carnivores - evolved during what geologists call the Paleocene era, from 70 million to 55 million years ago," Johnson said at the dig site.  "We're looking at Paleocene rock under our feet.  There's a huge amount we can still learn."

Source: Denver Post, Copyright 2002 The Denver Post or other copyright holders. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed for any commercial purpose.

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While Fires Continue Near Castle Rock, Colorado Evidence for an Ancient Fossil Rainforest in the Area Makes Science News Worldwide- (DMNS Press Release)

     By Denver Museum of Nature & Science


While Fires Continue Near Castle Rock, Colorado Evidence for an Ancient Fossil Rainforest in the Area Makes Science News Worldwide

Denver—Friday, June 28—Kirk Johnson and Beth Ellis, researchers at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, are featured in the June 28, 2002 issue of the journal Science for their discovery and analysis of a 64.1 million year old fossil tropical rainforest in Castle Rock, Colorado.

"The Castle Rock site contains the remains of a extremely diverse tropical rainforest that grew in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains shortly after the extinction of the dinosaurs," said Kirk Johnson, paleontologist at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

The site is surprising and significant because little is known about the origin of tropical rainforests, and the Castle Rock forest existed a mere 1.4 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs.  Johnson and Ellis believe that the uplift of the Colorado Front Range and a shallow seaway that covered part of the Great Plains combined to create a monsoonal climate that allowed the rainforest to flourish.

Background Information on the Castle Rock Fossil Site

Biographical Information on Kirk Johnson and Beth Ellis

Dr.  Kirk R. Johnson
Kirk R.  Johnson, Ph.D., is curator of paleontology and chair of the Department of Earth Sciences at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.  Dr.  Johnson joined the Museum in 1991 after earning his doctorate in geology and paleobotany from Yale University.  He is best known for his research on fossil plants, which is widely accepted as some of the most convincing support for the theory that an asteroid impact caused the extinction of dinosaurs.  During his tenure at the Museum, he has been instrumental in the planning, content and construction of the Museum's award-winning exhibition Prehistoric Journey.  He has co-authored two books, "Prehistoric Journey: A History of Life on Earth" and "Ancient Denvers: Scenes from the past 300 million years of the Colorado Front Range."

Beth Ellis
Beth Ellis began volunteering at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in 1993 after completing the Museum's Certification Program in Paleontology.  Working as a microelectronics engineer by day, she fulfilled her lifelong passion for research and fossils through field experiences with dinosaur bones, early mammal bones, trilobites and fossil leaves.  Part of the original Castle Rock excavation team in 1994, Beth curated and performed the early analysis of the fossil collection.  A recent trip to the Amazon gave her a first-hand look at a modern rainforest floor and provided comparison data for the Castle Rock fossils.  Currently she leads the team of paleontologists and volunteers excavating and analyzing additional quarries at the Castle Rock site.

Museum Background:

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is the Rocky Mountain Region's leading resource for informal science education.  A variety of engaging exhibits, discussions and activities help Museum visitors celebrate and understand the natural wonders of Colorado, Earth and the universe.  Visitors are invited to participate in science learning and become more engaged with what they see, feel and hear.  During adventures at the Museum, you'll learn about current science topics in the news.  You'll also experience the prehistoric past.  The Museum is famous for its interactive children's discovery centers, ancient dinosaur bones, Egyptian mummies, colorful gems and minerals, the Hall of Life health center, awe-inspiring IMAX® films, dynamic temporary exhibits, new scientific discoveries and visionary speakers.

# # #

Many of the Museum’s educational programs and exhibits are made possible in part by generous funding from the citizens of the seven-county metro area through the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.

IMAX® is a registered trademark of Imax Corporation.


  Julia Taylor
  Phone: (303) 370-6384
  Pager: (303) 852-2317

  Jim Berscheidt
  Phone: (303) 370-6407
  Pager: (303) 251-0245

  Fax: 303-370-8384

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Scientists Find Ancient Rainforest - (AP)

     06/28/2002 2:29 PM ET
     By SARAH COOKE   - or -

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (AP) - Scientists digging south of Denver say they have uncovered evidence of a lush and vibrant rainforest that emerged surprisingly soon after the asteroid collision that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

The fossils of more than 100 kinds of towering conifer trees, huge ferns and blooming flowers challenge scientists' long-held assumption that a desolate Earth took about 10 million years to recover from the catastrophe and sprouted only a few dreary plant varieties for a long time.

Instead, the finding suggests that plant life - at least at this now-dry prairie along Interstate 25 - was flourishing as early as 1.4 million years after the impact. Some of the tree fossils measure 6 feet in diameter.

"It not only recovered, it went crazy," said Kirk Johnson, paleontology curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. He reported the findings in the latest issue of the journal Science.

In fact, scientists said it might be the earliest example on record of a true tropical rainforest.

Other plant fossil experts who did not participate in the study said the discovery was totally unexpected.

While one site cannot explain plant life around the world during that tumultuous period, experts said the Castle Rock fossils will compel them to reconsider the period of life immediately following the dinosaurs' extinction, known as the lower Paleocene.

"I never would've put this so early in the Paleocene," said Leo Hickey, paleobotany curator at Yale's Peabody Museum. "A flora of this diversity and richness is really striking."

In their study, Johnson and Denver museum associate Beth Ellis said a comparison of fossils before and after the apparent asteroid impact indicate that the forest is not a holdover from the days of the dinosaurs but something that sprang up later.

Also, Johnson said the plants that grew there are not the same type as those that grew during the pre-asteroid Cretaceous Period. Instead, they are more closely related to other plants that typically grew during the Paleocene.

The ancient rainforest was more vibrant than some tropical locations today. Museum researchers have identified at least 104 plant species at the Castle Rock site. In contrast, many modern research sites in Brazil contain 40 to 60 plant species, while a location in Peru contains as many as 293.

How a rainforest grew at the site remains unclear.

Johnson believes the Castle Rock rainforest was nourished by humid Florida-like heat and 100 inches of rain a year, probably delivered by monsoons that brewed in an older, larger version of today's Gulf of Mexico and an ancient sea covering what is now the northern Great Plains.

The site was discovered in 1994 by a state highway worker. It is scheduled to be demolished later this year in a road-widening project.


On the Net:
   Science journal:
   Denver Museum of Nature and Science:

Source: Associated Press (AP)

Also appeared in:

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Dry Colorado Once Hosted Rain Forest, Study Shows - (Reuters)

     June 27, 2002 02:13 PM ET
     By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It may be so dry now that forest fires are raging across the state, but Colorado 64 million years ago may have been home to a tropical rain forest, researchers said on Thursday.

They have excavated a site south of Denver that looks very much like a present-day Amazonian rain forest, full of trees and other plants, the team at the Denver Museum of Nature and Sciences says.

The rain forest would have been lush only a million years after a giant asteroid wiped out much of the life on Earth and put an end to the dinosaurs -- which suggests either that life recovered more quickly than anybody thought, or that pockets of territory were somehow sheltered from the effects of the asteroid, the researchers said.

"The main thing that is surprising is that this diversity is so quick after the extinction of the dinosaurs," Kirk Johnson, curator of paleontology and chair of the Department of Earth Sciences at the museum, said in a telephone interview.

"This site certainly raises more questions than it provides answers."

Most scientists believe that an asteroid slammed into the Earth 65 million years ago near what is now the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, creating a huge crater and throwing billions of tons of dust and rock into the air. It would have dimmed the sun's light for centuries and most species of plants and animals died.

For the next 10 million years, the fossil record is "very boring", with just a few species of plants, animals and insects, Johnson said.

"A million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs was a really peaceful time," he said.  The big carnivores were gone and the ancestors of modern mammals were small, scrambling creatures.


And on the east slope of the Rockies, it seems, a pocket of rain forest grew.  Nowadays, tropical rain forests are found near the equator and all have high rainfall and a year-round constant temperature. They harbor many different species of plants and animals and many of the trees have large leaves with smooth edges shaped to help water drip off easily.

The site, in Castle Rock, Colorado, about 25 miles south of Denver and in the foothills of the Rockies, is rich in fossils that look like they came from such an environment.

It has the remains of large leaves, fronds and roots and fossil casts of entire tree trunks, Johnson and colleague Beth Ellis report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

It looks just like the leaf litter found at a present-day rain forest in Peru, with large, smooth-edged leaves.

"When you split the rocks sometimes the leaves actually peel out and blow in the wind," Johnson said. "You can actually see the cell structure of the leaf."

He said in the rain forest leaves are often chewed by insects, as are the fossil leaves.  "We found one about five minutes ago -- we found a place where a great big hole had been bitten out of a leaf," said Johnson, who took a break from "swinging a pickax" to explain his work.

The site, just off an interstate highway, contains "tons of new species", he said. "The site itself produced about 104 different kinds of things and about 80 undescribed extinct species," he said.

Now Colorado is semi-arid, but 60 million years ago the remnants of a huge inland sea that spread from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico remained. It could have provided moisture that would have swept around and been dumped on the east slope of the mountain range.

Colorado's mountains are a rich source of dinosaur fossils, but Johnson said most of them seemed to have lived in the warm but dry conditions that prevailed 100 million years ago.

Source: Reuters

Also appeared in:

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When Denver was wet Friday - (Denver Post)

     May 24, 2002
     Denver Post editorial,1413,36%257E417%257E631702,00.html

More than 64 million years ago, Colorado was a tropical rain forest.  Thanks to the efforts of paleontologist Kirk Johnson and an excavation crew from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, we can make that statement with relative certainty that we're not going to get laughed out of town.

And, if by some mistake, folks do poke fun, the joke's on them because the fossil of a 150-foot tree, six feet in diameter, found in Castle Rock helps prove the theory that Colorado's climate was much like Miami's millions of years ago.

It's a remarkable find and a story so fascinating that it deserves continued dialogue.  Post reporter J. Sebastian Sinisi documented the find in vivid detail on May 21.  The story is so full of life that we encourage readers to read the story, and then re-read it.

The saga has its place, too, in classrooms and in the reading we share with our own children.  Not only is it a wonderful story of the past that teaches many lessons - history, geography, geology, anthropology, meteorology - but it also acknowledges Johnson's persistent research.

For years, Sinisi reports, Johnson had been telling people Colorado was covered by a tropical rain forest more than 60 million years ago.  The claim always drew the question: "OK, where are the trees?"

Last Sunday afternoon, Johnson and the excavation crew thought they were picking at a bunch of little trees.  When they realized they had hit one big tree, they burst out in hysterical laughter.

The giant, broad-leafed tree fossil backs up Johnson's long-held theory that not only was this area a tropical rain forest, but that global warming has occurred before and can happen again - a very significant discovery as scientists continue to study the effects of global warming and to prove the validity of the theory that such drastic climate changes happen.

Having once experienced 120 inches of rain per year, or eight times the current precipitation levels, Colorado likely underwent global warming.  In fact, Johnson, a Yale-educated curator who runs the museum's earth science department, believes the state had at least 11 climate periods, which include a desert, an ice age and, of course, the rain forest.

It's fascinating to think that 1 million years on our planet compare to little more than a nanosecond.

Colorado's climates will be presented in an exhibit beginning June 6 at the Museum of Nature and Science.  Checking it out would be time well spent.

Source: Denver Post, Copyright 2002 The Denver Post or other copyright holders. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed for any commercial purpose.

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Giant Tree Fossil Found in Colorado - (Salt Lake Tribune)

   Wednesday, May 22, 2002

CASTLE ROCK, Colo.  -- In the middle of a drought, it's hard to imagine a time when 100 inches of rain fell each year on a tropical forest in Castle Rock, 30 miles south of Denver.  But thousands of fossil leaves pulled from roadside trenches over the past eight years suggest the Castle Rock area was home to one of the oldest tropical rain forests on the planet.  And now Denver Museum of Nature & Science researchers have discovered that some of those primeval trees were giants, standing up to 150 feet tall with trunks 6 feet thick.  A museum field team uncovered the blackened, crumbling trunk of one of those ancient monsters while digging for fossil leaves along the highway.  The dig is a Colorado Department of Transportation-funded effort to remove and study the fossils before a road-widening project destroys them.  "This adds to our understanding of what Colorado used to look like," said Kirk R.  Johnson, the museum's paleontology curator.  "Before we found this tree, I couldn't have told you if the rain forest had small trees or large trees," Johnson said.  "Now we know there were giant forests here." Since 1994, Johnson's Castle Rock team has uncovered fossil leaves from more than 100 species of plants unseen anywhere else on Earth.  But until Sunday, the trees that dropped those leaves had been missing in action.  Three independent dating techniques indicate that the leaves are 64.1 million years old, and the fossilized tree trunk probably dates to the same period, Johnson said Monday.  The fossil leaves resemble those of plants found today in the rain forests of the Amazon and Costa Rica.  The diversity of the ancient leaves, as well as their shape and size, suggest they came from a forest that received more than 100 inches of rain a year.  This lush woodland emerged shortly after the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago.  The museum researchers don't know what kind of tree they uncovered.  When a fossil tree turns to stony petrified wood, scientists can study its well-preserved cell structure and can sometimes identify the tree type, Johnson said.  But the Castle Rock tree degraded to crumbly coal, destroying the interior structure and making direct identification impossible, he said.  An artist's rendering of the Castle Rock rain forest is part of the "Ancient Denvers" exhibit that opens at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science on June 6.  The exhibit will feature 13 paintings of the Denver area's changing environments over the past 300 million years.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune

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Colorado rain-forest theory takes root in fossil find near Castle Rock - (Denver Post)

    Tuesday, May 21, 2002
    By J.  Sebastian Sinisi Denver Post Staff Writer,1413,36%257E11%257E624652,00.html?search=filter

CASTLE ROCK - Whenever paleontologist Kirk Johnson told people that Colorado was covered by a tropical rain forest more than 60 million years ago, the usual question was "OK, where are the trees?"

On Sunday afternoon, Johnson and an excavation crew from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science found the missing tree - a fossilized trunk 6 feet in diameter, which would have been 150 feet high or about the height of a 15-story building - to support his theory of climate change in Colorado.

The find, a broad-leafed tree's fossil 64.1 million years old, was uncovered in a roadside embankment of crumbly shale - harder than mud, softer than slate - less than 150 feet from Interstate 25 and just north of Wolfensberger Road.

"When you finally find something that proves a long-held theory, you're tempted to shout, "Eureka!' " Johnson said.  "We didn't, but all five of us broke out in hysterical laughter.  We finally had proof that there was a rain forest here and that global warming had taken place in the past.

"It also backed up what I like to say about this field, that truth is found at the end of a shovel."

Beth Ellis, a museum volunteer with the digging crew, said: "We thought we'd been hitting a bunch of little trees with our picks.  When we realized it was one very big tree, we went into shock."

Johnson is the museum's Yale-educated curator of paleontology and heads its earth science department.  Until five years ago, he said, the notion of rain forests in Colorado would have drawn hoots from professionals, as well as non experts.  But on Monday, he pointed to proof: the tree trunk and its root system, all turned to coal.

The Castle Rock site is rich, with the fossils of more than 100 varieties of broad-leafed trees.  The fossil found Sunday has not been named, but its implications are large, Johnson pointed out.

"A rain forest here means Colorado was getting eight times the rainfall it does today, or 120 inches per year, and had a climate comparable to Miami's, with an average temperature of 75 degrees," Johnson said.

Until five years ago, that was not thought possible.

Proof of a rain forest here, he said, supports the controversial theory of global warming, since "it demonstrates that global warming did take place, and that it can happen again."

Before and after Colorado's rain-forest period, he said, Colorado had at least 11 climate periods - including desert, temperate, ice age and rain forest.

Scientists established the age of the rock where the Castle Rock tree was found using three methods, Johnson said: by the amount of magnetism in the rock, by dating crystals found in the rock and by carbon-dating, the most accurate of the three.

Those three methods settled on 64.1 million years ago, or about 1 million years after the last dinosaurs died.  In geologic time, Johnson said, a million years - the time it took Plum Creek to carve its way down to the rock that exposed the tree trunk - is barely the blink of an eye.

Dinosaur remains lie about 900 feet below the surface at this site, Johnson said, and run in a band that moves closer to the surface as it approaches Denver and the Dakota Hogback in Jefferson County west of Lakewood.

Dinosaur bones were, in fact, found during excavation for Coors Field in 1994; roughly beneath where home plate would be.  The Rockies' mascot, "Dinger" the dinosaur, derives from that find.

The dig which turned up the fossilized tree on Sunday is the first in a series of 10 that will continue through the summer.  The digs are jointly funded by the Museum of Nature & Science and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Colorado's climate periods will be showcased in "Ancient Denvers," a Museum of Nature & Science exhibit beginning June 6.

Source: Denver Post, Copyright 2002 The Denver Post or other copyright holders. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed for any commercial purpose.

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Fossilized Tree Found Along I-25
Giant Tree Proof Of Prehistoric Rain Forest - (ABC News - The Denver Channel)

   Posted: 7:49 a.m.  MDT May 21, 2002
   Updated: 8:38 a.m.  MDT May 21, 2002
   ABC News - The Denver Channel

DENVER -- With current dry conditions, it's hard to believe that a tropical rain forest once existed in Colorado, but scientists say it's true and have found more evidence.

Archaeologists have been working the area off Interstate 25, north of Castle Rock, since 1994 and they've been finding ancient leaves.  The fossil leaves are a broadleaf variety, some up to 24 inches long, and come from more than 100 species of plants, researchers said.

Then on Sunday, researchers from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science discovered a huge tree.

"Four of us were digging in the quarry, all of us digging out fossil wood and then they all converged together on one gigantic colossal stump," said Kirk Johnson of the Museum of Nature and Science.

Scientists figure the tree's about 6 feet in diameter and 150 feet tall, the kind found in a rain forest.

Scientists say that the crumbling black trunk is proof of what Colorado was like 64 million years ago -- a tropical rainforest that recieved more than 100 inches of rain a year.

The excavation project is funded by the Colorado Department of Transportation, which hopes scientists can remove and study the fossils in the area before a road-widening project , known as T-REX, destroys it.

Source: The Denver Channel, ABC News

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