History: The Indian Springs Ranch Campground is a historic working ranch that has built a campground and facilities in the central part of the ranch. The site was found by the ranch’s patriarch, Bennie C. Thorson (now deceased), who found the trace fossils and contacted Prof. William A. Fischer of Colorado College in Colorado Springs. The Thorsons and Dr. Fischer worked extensively on the 10-acre site for five field seasons before scientific results were published. Bennie’s daughter Carly has carried on the family tradition of preserving and presenting this remarkable site.
3257 County Road 67 north of Fremont County airport industrial complex and west of Penrose. Go 3.5 miles north of US Highway 50 intersection with State Highway 67, then turn left (west) and go 1.4 miles to the campground office.
Geology: The authoritative publication on this site by William Fischer of Colorado College describes the site in this abstract as ” A unique assemblage of trace fossils [tracks], body fossils, and sedimentary structures from the lower Harding Formation near Florence, Colorado show the Middle Ordovician vertebrates lived in an estuarine environment” Note: Estuaries form a transition zone between river environments and maritime environments and are subject to tides, waves, and the influx of saline water and also freshwater.
The Indian Springs trace fossils are exceptionally well preserved. The trace fossils at the Indian Springs site represents a diverse group of trace fossils from medium- to large-sized arthropods including trilobites, eurypterids, merostomes, and limulids (horseshoe crabs). There are also trace fossils of soft-bodied polychaete worms, several types of vertebrates (including the primitive fish called ostracoderms, and others.
The site is accessed on a private road, 1.4 miles in length after leaving the county road. There is an office at this location. This trace fossil site is accessed by contacting the Indian Springs Ranch and arranging in advance for a guided tour to the site. The trace fossil site is located approximately a mile away from the office and access is only available through a guided tour.
This is an exceptional site. Commonly a site such as this would be enclosed within a building to minimize damage from the weather, visitor impact, and vandalism. With such a facility, it may be possible to provide walkways with interpretive signage to help expand an explanation of the site and also allow some individual observation. Such a building could be retained in private ownership and under full control of the landowners. It is probable that if such as facility were constructed, that an increase in demand to visit the site would occur which either could be a blessing or a curse!
In interim step might include high quality laser imaging and high resolution photography to enable preservation and interpretation of the site.