Beaver Meadows Entrance --
Upper Beaver Meadows
| The meadows of Upper Beaver Medows rest at the upper limits of the
montane ecosystem. Forest inhabit only the slopes of this valley because the
find grained soils of the valley bottom - moist from the high water table - do
not support tree growth. This creates a broad meadow that is kept open by
natural elements such as lightening caused fires and grazing wildlife.
On the slopes, two different types of plant communities grow. Dense stands of lodgepole and ponderosa pines mix with shade tolerant Douglas fir on the cooler north facing slopes. The dried warmer, south-facing slopes support woodlands of ponderosa pines and mountain sagebrush.
Are there too many elk in Rocky Mountain National Park? The answer may be found within this meadow's "exclosure" -- a fence build by park rangers in 1962 to study the effects of wildlife grazing on the park's vegetation.
The growth of aspen trees in this meadow is sparse because elk browse on young seed-bearing twigs, tender bark and new shoots. The aspen grove protected inside the fence has grown dense by sprouting shoots from older trees roots.
Research on vegetation within exclosures like this could influence future decisions about managing the park's elk herds. Years from now, will the trees growing outside this exclosure look more like those inside?
The aspen trees within the exclosure fence sprouted from shoots from older aspen tree roots. If aspen depended only on seeds to reproduce, this species might not survive.
Upper Beaver Meadows Closure
Upper Beaver Meadows, accessed on a dirt road during the summer, is closed most of the winter months. You can hike, snowshoe or cross country ski into this area during the winter. Distances from Highway 36:
TrailHead at the Upper Parking Area
TrailHead about 1/2 way along the road
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