As a thank you to U.S. military members, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) offers veterans, active-duty military and the National Guard free admission to all Colorado state parks on Saturday, November 11.
For photographers with military backgrounds or those inspired by the heroism and sacrifice of veterans, this offer presents a remarkable opportunity to capture the diverse beauty of Colorado’s landscapes, wildlife, and the historic ties to military service that can be found within Colorado’s state parks.
Veterans and military members, whether residents and nonresidents, can visit any Colorado state park for free by showing proof of military service. And for vehicles displaying a Colorado Disabled Veteran or Purple Heart license plate, entry to all state parks is free year round.
While certain fees remain in effect for services such as camping, boat and off-highway vehicle registration, and hunting and fishing licenses, the daily parks pass provides an opportunity to experience Colorado’s diverse wildlife and landscapes.
For photographers seeking a connection with veterans and their service, these state parks hold historical significance:
Castlewood Canyon State Park: Though not directly military-related, the ruins of Castlewood Canyon Dam symbolize the local community’s contributions to World War II. The remains offer a window into the park’s historical context and wartime efforts on the home front.
Cheyenne Mountain State Park: This park was once part of the Fort Carson Army base and has remnants of military infrastructure. Exploring the trails offers insight into the area’s military significance and its role in local history.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park: During World War II, this park served as a prison camp for Italian prisoners of war. Exploring the park and learning about this lesser-known aspect of its history can provide a unique lens into the military’s impact on the region.
Lathrop State Park: Once a site for a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp during the Great Depression. The CCC was instrumental in various conservation and development efforts, including park construction. Exploring the historic structures and learning about the CCC’s role connects visitors to this part of military-related history.
Lory State Park: Named after World War I veteran Dr. Charles Lory, former president of Colorado State University, the park stands as a tribute to his service and commitment to education.
Mueller State Park: During the Great Depression, the CCC established a camp in the area. Exploring the remnants of this camp and understanding the CCC’s impact on conservation efforts offers insight into the role of veterans and their service beyond their military duties.
Navajo State Park: While not directly tied to military history, this park was named after the Navajo Native Americans who notably served as Code Talkers during World War II. Exploring the park and learning about the Code Talkers’ vital role in wartime communications provides a unique perspective on military contributions.
Ridgway State Park: The park’s proximity to the historic town of Ridgway, which was named after a Union Army Major General, provides an indirect link to military history. Exploring the town and understanding its namesake’s contributions during the Civil War adds a layer of historical significance to the park.
Rifle Falls State Park: In the past, this area was utilized for military training and was also the site of a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp. Engaging in the park’s educational programs or ranger-led tours can shed light on the military training history of the area.
Staunton State Park: While not directly military-related, this park was the former property of Frances Staunton, a decorated World War II veteran. His family donated the land that eventually became the park. Exploring this park offers a chance to reflect on the generosity and contribution of veterans to preserving natural spaces.
Engaging with the historical aspects of these parks or participating in events that spotlight their military connections provides an opportunity for photographers to capture the essence of Colorado’s military past and the significant contributions of veterans.
CPW also offers additional military benefits for outdoor activities to active-duty military, veterans and disabled veterans. Programs include free admission to state parks in August, free small game and fishing licenses for qualified disabled veterans, and a Columbine Pass that reduces park entrance fees to disabled Colorado residents.
Armistice Day was established to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the end of World War I, which occurred on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day in 1954 and is an annual observance that honors the service of all U.S. military veterans.