Colorado National Monument

A Grand Timeline from Red Rocks to Vineyards at Colorado National Monument

Just 30 miles from the Utah border, Grand Junction sits in the heart of Colorado’s red-rock country. It was named after the Grand River, which was renamed the Upper Colorado River in 1921, and the junction of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers. How has it gone from a western backwater to the heart of Colorado’s outdoor recreation and wine country? Here’s how it has evolved into what it is today.

A Grand Timeline

Independence Monument and the Book Cliffs in Colorado National Monument, with the town of Fruita in the background

1.5-.17 Billion Years Ago

Geological features begin forming the Colorado National Monument, but the monument isn’t established until 1911. Stay at the Saddlehorn Campground, perched above the canyons, and stroll to the visitor center.

140 Million Years Ago

Dinosaurs thrive, leaving behind footprints and bones. See fossils at the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita or on the 1.5-mile Trail Through Time 26 miles west of Grand Junction.

Basalt tops Colorado's Grand Mesa
Greg Goebel/Flickr

10 Million Years Ago

Hard volcanic basalt seals the top of the Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat-top mesa with an area of 500 square miles, laying the foundation for future outdoor fun. Today travelers can camp, bike and fish in summer and ski Powderhorn Mountain Resort in winter.

200 A.D.-1300

The valley’s first residents, the Fremonts, pave the way for future inhabitants.


The Utes move in, following migrating herds. Three hundred years later, Spanish and Mexican soldiers, priests and explorers visit. The U.S. gains control from Mexico in 1848. In 1881 the Utes are forced on a reservation.

Vineyard near Grand Junction, Colo.
Photo courtesy of Grand Junction Visitor and Convention


City founder George A. Crawford plants grapes on 60 acres near Palisade. Prohibition wipes out Colorado’s wine industry.

1970s to Today

Grapes are planted, giving rise to today’s vibrant wine scene. Go to Rapid Creek Cycles in Palisade to pick up a wine/orchard map and a cruiser bike with a basket large enough to fit your purchases. Or stop at the Grand Junction Visitor Center for a valley wine map and advice.