Ten miles north of Walsenburg, just off Highway 25, is Huerfano Butte, a conical-shaped circular plug that draws hundreds of visitors every year. It rises from the ground, contrasting the surrounding gently rolling hills of sagebrush and sparse grass, and gives the impression of being out of place.
The butte stands 300-foot high like a lone sentinel in the arid scrubland. It’s visible for miles from any direction and served as a landmark for early explorers, signaling the route to life-giving rivers that flowed from the nearby Rocky Mountains.
Huerfano Butte is so striking that noted land surveyor General John Fremont suggested that his stepfather, a wealthy railroad baron, construct his railroad track in the butte’s shadow so passengers could enjoy its uniqueness. The butte also attracted profiteers who built a fort and then a small settlement nearby.
When viewed from a distance, Huerfano Butte appears to be a volcanic neck, but there is no evidence that the magmas associated with Huerfano Butte vented to the surface. However, it is a plug of alkali basalt as it was cut by two subsequent intrusions of monzonite and alkali-lamprophyre.
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