One mile south of the town of Calhan in northeast El Paso County is the Paint Mines Interpretive Park, a unique blending of geological, archaeological, historical and ecological resources. The landscape has fascinated people for thousands of years, and continues so to this day. Located on the Colorado eastern plain, the area transitions from wetland, to short-grass prairie, to badland topographies. Wildlife seem to enjoy the surroundings as much as humans do – mule deer, coyote, falcons, hawks and an adventuresome mountain lion or two have been spotted there.
Archaeological investigation, funded through a State Historical Fund grant, has substantiated prehistoric and historic American Indian occupation as evidenced by the finding of stone dart tips, arrow heads, and petrified wood used in tool manufacturing. The local clay was mined for use in ceremonial paint as well as pottery making. A homestead site within the boundary confirms the use of the property by Euro-American settlers in the 1800’s. The significance of the site has led to the designation of the Calhan Paint Mines Archaeological District by the National Park Service. Used by hikers, birdwatchers and as an outdoor laboratory by geology students, the site has come under the protection of the El Paso County Parks Department. A recent SHF grant has gone toward funding a master plan to balance the legitimate public uses and to address threats such as “pot hunting” and vandalism.
Altogether the State Historical Fund has awarded $82,000 to the El Paso County Parks Department for archaeological survey and master planning at the Calhan Paint Mines.