Political Science 224: National Parks of Colorado (and Eastern Utah)

May 16-31, 2017


The Diamond on Longs Peak

With its canyons, plains, and mountains, Colorado is famous for its beautiful landscapes. It also has a rich history and prehistory. Congress has preserved both the landscapes and the cultural resources in a collection of national park units, each posing political and management issues that provide insight into how we preserve America’s environment and its heritage.

Kiva at Mesa Verde National Park

The course will examine three types of national park resources, all found across the national park system:

  • natural resources such as wildlife, habitat, and wilderness;
  • historical resources and how to interpret them for visitors; and
  • archaeological sites, including how best to preserve them.

These three kinds of sites are all affected, to some degree, by national park relationships with affiliated Indian tribes. We will discuss partnerships with tribes, spending a day at the Ute Mountain Tribal Park  on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation.

Road at Arches National Park

All three types of sites face growing impact from tourism. This leads to overcrowding, which affects the visitor experience while possibly increasing the damage to resources. Finally, the national parks face declining budgets with which to address their challenges. This budgetary gap has led some parks to develop partnerships with interested groups. We will spend a morning with one of those partners, The Nature Conservancy, at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Bent’s Old Fort at Sunset

This course will sometimes seem a bit like being with a tour group. We will essentially drive a loop around Colorado, from the East to the Southwest to the West Central, Northwest, and North Central regions.  (The West Central region will take us outside Colorado to Moab, Utah.) We will see the high plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the redrock canyon country of the Four Corners region.

Independence Rock, Colorado

This itinerary will give us a good sample of natural, historic, cultural, and archaeological sites. The itinerary is subject to change but tentatively includes:

  1. Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site
  2. Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site
  3. Santa Fe National Historic Trail (at Bent’s)
  4. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
  5. Mesa Verde National Park
  6. Arches National Park (Utah)
  7. Canyonlands National Park (Utah)
  8. Dinosaur National Monument (Colorado-Utah)
  9. Rocky Mountain National Park

You can learn more about our itinerary here.

For logistical information, follow this link.

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Applications are here.  Priority deadline is March 13, 2017. After that, I accept applications on a first-come, space-available basis.

You can get credit for taking Political Science 224 up to two times, if they are different versions. For information about the different versions of PS 224, see here.

It is also possible to take an advanced Independent Study course (PS 490) alongside, or instead of, PS 224. Graduate students can participate by taking PS 490.

Note that there is a program fee of $800 in addition to tuition and off-campus fees.  The program fee covers all transportation and lodging, admission fees, and almost all meals.
Please contact Professor Pahre at for more information.

Wolfe Ranch Rock Art